Gloucester head coach Johan Ackermann bemoaned the panic that set into their defence late on in their 27-24 Heineken Champions Cup defeat away to Connacht.
Leading by 11 points and with the try bonus point secured thanks to touchdowns from Gerbrandt Grobler, Mark Atkinson (two) and captain Lewis Ludlow, the Cherry and Whites were on course for a very fruitful afternoon’s work at the Sportsground.
However, a yellow card for Ludlow gave Connacht a route back into the match and late tries from replacements Shane Delahunt and Robin Copeland sealed a dramatic comeback victory.
Despite his issue with his defence becoming narrow under duress and the game management during the final few minutes, Ackermann was nonetheless proud of his side’s effort.
“First of all, I’m proud of the players and the effort they put in there,” said the South African, with Gloucester currently second in Pool Five on nine points, one ahead of fourth-round winners Connacht.
“Credit must go to Connacht for scoring the two tries when they needed them – especially the last one I felt was quite special, the way they held onto the ball.
“We probably panicked a bit. If you look at how good our defence was for the whole game and then suddenly we were tight in our defence. We missed a few tackles and they got the try they needed to win the game.
“Saying that we didn’t use the conditions as well as we could. Especially when we had the lead. It is a tough wind that goes into the corner and we played for a lot of time in our half and then there were three crucial (Connacht) penalties. Our discipline was obviously a big thing.”
Milner Skudder says he's "gutted" by his latest setback. https://t.co/rgGm14zPKe
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) December 14, 2019
Connacht head coach Andy Friend praised the attitude of his team as they manufactured a win despite trailing 24-13 with only six minutes remaining.
The westerners will have to target bonus point wins over Toulouse (home) and Montpellier (away) in their remaining pool games, but their quarter-final hopes are at least still alive heading into the New Year.
“We’re still in the competition which is the main thing,” admitted Friend.
“We could’ve done with one more point (with a fourth try) but that was still pretty special.
“The team never gives up, you know they’re not gonna give up. Once we got that try, the second-to-last try, we thought, ‘hang on, we have a shot here’.
“There were only two minutes to go and I thought that was a pretty special passage of play, the offload from Tom (Daly) that goes to Robin Copeland. Great reward for what was a really gutsy last two minutes of football.”
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