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In Pics: Newcastle 23 Connacht 3

In Pics: Newcastle 23 Connacht 3

Click here for photos of Connacht’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of Newcastle Falcons at Kingston Park.

Pictured above: Disappointed Connacht players applaud their travelling support after the defeat to the Falcons. Captain and lock Andrew Farley, shown in the centre to the left, paid tribute to the 500 plus fans who made their way across the Irish sea, saying: “The supporters were fantastic throughout the game and we are very grateful for their effort. They have followed us in great numbers this year from Montpellier to Catania and are among the most loyal in European rugby.”

The Australian added: “It’s a pity we couldn’t give them a victory to celebrate, but they can rest assured that we will be going all out to finish the season on a high and make a real push to qualify for the Heineken Cup.”

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David Gannon tries to claim a lineout for Connacht, but the province’s former flanker Mike McCarthy, whose 64th-minute try proved crucial at Kingston Park, goes highest. Falcons out-half Toby Flood, who scored 18 of his side’s points, addmited that Connacht were tough nuts to crack. The England Under-21 international said: “Connacht are a good, solid side. People tend to underestimate them, and we saw tonight just how committed they are and how hard their defence is to break down.”

On the subject of his breakway try in the first half, he added: “I just found myself with the ball in my hands somehow, whacked it downfield and started running.

“Luckily it was just forwards chasing me because I was absolutely knackered, and couldn’t wait to flop down on the ball to get a rest.”

Keith Matthews, who returned after an injury lay-off for Connacht, gets tackled by Newcastle and England centre Jamie Noon. Afterwards, Connacht supremo Michael Bradley spoke of his disappointment that players like Matthews did not get the chance to show more of their attacking ability.

“We had very little of the ball – we didn’t get to show what we’re capable of,” bemoaned the former Ireland scrum half.

“Sometimes it goes like that for you and we’re disappointed and frustrated. We just couldn’t attack them consistently. We did it in patches but we just didn’t have the possession to put them under pressure for any considerable period of time.

“We probably weren’t expecting that Newcastle performance. They’ve been poor in recent weeks and Rob (Andrew) must have given them a lot of stick during the week to push them to that level of performance. They were obviously under a lot of pressure to win that game and they were excellent in everything they did. They ran at us for the full 80 minutes.”

Connacht winger Conor McPhillips has his progress halted. The 5ft 8in flyer could not repeat his try heroics of the pool stages at Kingston Park. McPhillips, who turned 25 in February, scored four times in Connacht’s pool run – against Catania (2), Worcester (1) and Montpellier (1).

Jamie Noon comes under a good deal of pressure from the Connacht defence.

Connacht’s full-back for the night Mark McHugh is chased by his opposite number Matthew Burke, the former Australian international.

Bradley was quick to turn his attention to the Celtic League after Friday’s defeat, insisting: “We have five Celtic league matches left and four of them are at home. Our home form has been good and there’s the carrot of us getting into the Heineken Cup next year (through the play-off). That’s our target and it’s something that’s attainable.”

Newcastle replacement Andy Perry is challenged by Connacht’s Andrew Farley and Christian Short.

New Zealander Gavin Williams, who came on as a replacement for Connacht to earn his first taste of Challenge Cup rugby, is tackled by Newcastle replacement prop Robbie Morris.

**All photos by Lorraine O’Sullivan of Inpho Photography**