Greenwood's try beats brave Connacht effort

Connacht 23 Harlequins 18 Harlequins win 49-45 on agg
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The Independent Online

If this Parker Pen Challenge Cup semi-final second leg tie did not quite match the drama provided by Munster and Wasps later in the afternoon, it was a cracking contest in its own right.

Connacht, nine points adrift after the first leg, found themselves 16 points behind midway through the first half. To the delight of the 6,000 fans in attendance they then took complete control to establish a 23-10 advantage. The prize of a place in the final against Montferrand, and possible entry into next season's Heineken Cup, looked well within their grasp.

Had a Mark McHugh penalty kick stayed straight they may have made it. But it was the Zurich Premiership side that came good, England centre Will Greenwood getting the crucial try which put Harlequins back in front on aggregate.

Connacht started without their injured full-back, Matt Mostyn, lost his replacement Dave Hewitt in the first half, and then saw Wayne Munn, moved from the wing to full-back, retire in the second half. They finished with the other wing, Conor McPhillips, in the full-back spot, and the replacement scrum-half Conor O'Loughlin playing on the wing. But still they could have made the final if they had made more use of their opportunities.

Harlequins were hardly in the game from the opening 18 minutes until the last quarter. That they eventually made it was down mainly to the undoubted extra class of their back division and some added resilience in that final quarter.

Just as was the case in the first leg, yesterday's contest saw the advantage swing one way and then the other. Harlequins made the early running with Paul Burke very much the key figure. The No 10, who leaves for Munster next season, contributed a penalty, a try and a conversion in the opening 18 minutes. His try, which saw him sell a dummy to John O'Sullivan, was a well taken effort.

Up to that point, Connacht could only manage a penalty from McHugh. But they then took command through their pack. A reverse pass from Eric Elwood sent centre Darren Yapp over at the posts. McHugh's conversion made it 10-10.

The home side began to pull clear in the second period. A drop goal from Elwood and a penalty by McHugh meant Connacht were 16-10 clear. Then prop Dan McFarland set things up for Elwood to crash over for a try which McHugh converted to make it 23-10.

But the visitors managed a final effort. Connacht lost a line-out on their own throw and the Harlequins pack drove on, and there was Greenwood to stretch over for a try, just as he had done in the first leg. Right on full time, Burke added his penalty. Connacht regained the initiative to put the visitors under pressure. But as hard as they tried, they could not break through.

Connacht: Tries Yapp, Elwood; Conversions Elwood 2; Penalties McHugh 2; Drop-goal Elwood.

Harlequins: Tries Burke, Greenwood; Conversion Burke; Penalties Burke 2

Connacht: D Hewitt (T Robinson, 27); C McPhillips, D Yapp, M McHugh, W Munn (C O'Loughlin, 57); E Elwood, M Walls; D McFarland, B Jackman (capt), P Bracken (A Clarke, 72), D Browne (M McCarthy, 75), A Farley, M Swift (P Neville, 54), J O'Sullivan, M Lacey.

Harlequins: G Duffy; G Harder, W Greenwood, M Deane, U Monye; P Burke, S Keogh; C Jones (M Worsley, 50), J Hayter, J Dawson, K Rudzki (B Davison, 50), S Miall, P Sanderson, T Diprose, A Vos (capt).

Referee: N Whitehouse (Wales).