With 79 minutes and 40 seconds on the clock at the Sportsground, Harlequins’ desperate search for the winning score looked to be at an end, as a knock-on gave Connacht a scrum in front of the main stand. The home side’s heroic and disciplined defence seemed to have earned them a famous victory… or had it? There was still more drama to come. The visitors shoved Connacht back and scrum-half Danny Care pounced on the loose ball. With the tension in the ground near breaking point, the Aviva Premiership leaders attempted to drive their way into range for a clinching drop goal. The Connacht faithful would surely have feared at this stage that a heartbreaking fifteenth straight defeat might have been on the cards.
Heineken European Cup Pool 6
By Denis O’Connor
They need not have worried. As they had done all night, the men in green didn’t cede an inch. As ‘Quins’ crabbed across the field, they eventually lost their nerve, knocked the ball on, and referee Nigel Owens blew the final whistle to scenes of wild jubilation.
Taken in isolation, the fact that this was Connacht’s first ever Heineken Cup win made it a historic victory. Yet the result had massive consequences, which reverberated right round European rugby. It guaranteed that for the first time ever, there would be three Irish provinces in the last eight of the competition. It also saved the bacon of the aristocrats of European club rugby. If Harlequins had won, then Toulose’s shock defeat at Gloucester would have seen them exit the competition.
To read the full story see this week’s Leitrim Observer