Connacht made a big statement on their return to the European Champions Cup last night with a thrilling 23-21 comeback win over Toulouse at the Sportsground.
Craig Ronaldson’s coolly-struck conversion of Bundee Aki’s 67th-minute try proved to be the decisive score, as Toulouse fell to a fifth successive away defeat in Europe for the first time in their history.
Connacht supporters reacted to the comeback with a pitch invasion at the final whistle, which Toulouse’s English replacement Toby Flood said was “almost over the top”.
“It is almost like it hasn’t dawned on the supporters how good Connacht are, what a force they are,” Flood said.
“They have won the PRO12. They are no longer that team I last played here nine or 10 years ago with the Newcastle Falcons when we were expected to come and win. It has completely changed.”
Flood replaced Toulouse captain Florian Fritz for the final 11 minutes, and added:
“It certainly wasn’t the result we wanted, but we were under no illusions coming here how difficult it would be.
“We certainly knew going in at half-time 21-11 ahead that it was going to be a tight one, that we still needed to keep our foot on the throat a bit. But their ability to hold the ball creates pressure, and over time if you keep the ball long enough, you are going to squeeze defences, and that is what happened.
“It leaves us in a situation where we have come to an away fixture and got a (losing) bonus point, so we need to go home and win next week’s game against Wasps who are the form team in the Premiership. It is no easy task, and then we will see how we are. It is disappointing because at half-time we were pretty positive.”
Flood believes Toulouse couldn’t handle the high-tempo game, adding:
“Tiredness to a point because the PRO12 and Premiership is very different to the Top 14. It’s more a slug-fest there, and the ball is in play a lot longer here, so teams will ask more questions.
“Connacht ask lots of questions in attack and they do it well, and that, with fatigue, slowly bears down on you. They are a team that will always squeeze you.” [Independent]