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Connacht edged past Narbonne once again, as Paul Warwick gave a scintillating 32 point man of the match display as the Westerners triumphed 40-21.

Two seasons ago, Connacht overcame a 14 point deficit to progress at the expense of Narbonne. This time they needed to win by one point more. And somehow, you just knew they would.

It was a close run thing, though, even if Connacht threatened to take it easy on their supporters. They actually led 26-0 after just over half an hour, but Narbonne have shown themselves to be a nuggety lot through their encounters with Connacht over the past three seasons, and they came back to keep the tie in the boiling pot until the final minutes.

Former Australian sevens specialist Warwick scored two tries, two conversions, five penalties and a drop goal to claim the full set of scores. And he was pretty handy in general play to boot!

Warwick availed of Connacht's early dominance to notch four penalties in the first quarter as the Narbonne pack struggled to get to grips with their well-drilled opponents.

The visitors' cause wasn't helped when their hooker Fabien Rofes was binned for a punch at the breakdown. Warwick took advantage to bag his first try on 27 minutes.

It got even better when Conor McPhillips capitalised on a fine Darren Yapp break to send Connacht into an 11-point aggregate lead.

But winger Frederic Lartigue was the danger-man last week and once again, he popped up to finish a break by centre Davide Douy off his quick tap penalty.

Warwick's drop goal restored the aggregate lead to seven points at halftime. Things were looking just tickety-boo when Warwick scored a brilliant effort from halfway, beating the tackles of Lartigue and Viard en route.

But sure where's the fun in winning comfortably? Connacht conceded two tries in five minutes as Narbonne stormed back into the match courtesy of that man Lartigue again, and replacement flanker Laurent Baluc-Rittner.

The home crowd were getting more value for their money than they would have wished for at that point as Narbonne reclaimed a one-point aggregate lead.

Michael Bradley made a host of substitutions amongst the backs, introducing Conor O'Loughlin, Eric Elwood and Ted Robinson. The ship steadied and Warwick nailed the crucial penalty to regain the lead in the tie, before Elwood bagged a late penalty to see them over the line with a four point aggregate margin.

No sweat.

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19 June 2018
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