Connacht’s European Challenge Cup hopes suffered an early setback at a frosty Parc Municipal des Sports on Friday as they fell to a 15-6 defeat at the hands of Olivier Magne’s Brive side.
EUROPEAN CHALLENGE CUP: POOL 3: Friday, November 9
BRIVE 15 CONNACHT 6, Parc Municipal des Sports (Att: 4,850)
Scorers: Brive: Pens: Luciano Orquera 4; Drop: Maxime Petitjean
Connacht: Pens: Tim Donnelly, Peter Durcan
This was a match Connacht could so easily have won and to come away with just the losing bonus point will be of little consolation for the westerners. Four missed penalties in total cost the visitors dearly as Australian out-half Tim Donnelly again struggled with the boot.
He missed three very kickable penalties, two of which came during Connacht’s best spell of the contest either side of half time. To make matters worse for Michael Bradley’s side, Donnelly’s opposite number, Brive’s Italian international Luciano Orquera was in fine form with the boot, converting all three of his first half kicks to give his side a 9-3 lead at the break, which hardly reflect the balance of play.
Connacht struggled to break the gain line with any sort of consistency throughout the game and they were punished ruthlessly by the economical Orquera who stretched the hosts’ lead to 12-3 early in the second half before replacement Peter Durcan, making his third Challenge Cup appearance, replied for the visitors.
However, Brive again responded well and from their most potent spell of attacking, replacement full-back Maxime Petitjean struck a drop goal from 30 metres to restore the two-score lead with twenty minutes remaining.
Connacht rarely threatened after that score but Durcan had an opportunity to snatch a bonus point only for his effort from near the touchline to shave the upright on the left. The sin-binning of Brive scrum half Gregory Mahe with 15 minutes remaining also went unpunished by Connacht on a forgettable night for Bradley’s charges.
The game started slowly with a long delay in the opening quarter due an injury to Mel Deane. Connacht had first sight of the posts upon the resumption but Donnelly missed badly from the ten-metre line and within two minutes, Orquera slotted a penalty from a similar range with ominous ease.
Donnelly was again wayward five minutes later after Connacht had worked another penalty out of an unimpressive Brive defence and to add further insult Orquera added his second kick to stretch the lead to six.
The second quarter was dominated by the visitors who had a golden opportunity to score with Conor McPhillips capitalising on an Orquera mistake in his own half, grubber kicking ahead only for his second kick to rebound off the post when a try seemed an absolute certainty.
Donnelly at least gave his side some solace with a penalty six minutes later but for the second week running Connacht were left struggling to turn their superiority into points.
As the half drew to close Brive started to improve and after a tremendous break involving Fijian international Norman Ligairi, Orquera kicked his third penalty to leave Connacht trailing at the break.
BRIVE: Barry Davies; Filimino Boleavucu, Ronnie Cooke, Ben Johnston, Norman Ligairi; Luciano Orquera, Gregory Mahe; Pierre Capdevielle, Jawad Djoudi, Andres Bordoy, Johan van Zyl, Fabien Domingo (capt), Vincent Forgues, Jerome Bonvoisin, Ryno Van der Merwe.
Replacements used: Steve Thompson for Bonvoisin, Suka Hufanga for Boleavucu (both 20 mins), Jean-Philippe Bonrepaux for Forgues (39), Maxime Petitjean for Davies (49), Luke Harbut for Bordoy (66). Not used: Scott Franklin, Jean-Baptiste Pejoine.
CONNACHT: Gavin Duffy; Ofisa Treviranus, Mel Deane, Keith Matthews, Aidan Wynne; Tim Donnelly, Conor McPhillips; Brett Wilkinson, John Fogarty, Robbie Morris, Michael Swift, Andrew Farley (capt), Michael McCarthy, Johnny O’Connor, John Muldoon.
Replacements used: Darren Yapp for Deane (4 mins), Adrian Flavin for Fogarty (49), Colm Rigney for McCarthy (55), Peter Durcan for Donnelly (50), Ray Ofisa for Swift (70), Conor O’Loughlin for McPhillips (73). Not used: Brian McGovern.
Referee: Andrew Small (England)