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There are still Rainbow cup fixtures this season, but Connacht once again failed to win a knock-out game, this time against a second-string Leicester team.
Connacht has not won a knock-out game since their victory in the Pro14 final in 2016 and Andy Friend has yet to taste success outside Champions Cup qualification.
The game for Connacht was lost in the first half when they conceded 2 tries when Leicester was only playing with 14 players. They battled in the second half and had a kick to go ahead but Jack Carthy missed the shot. But every time Connacht looked like they might lead their defense crumbled.
|European Challenge Cup|
|Leicester (24) 48|
|Tries: Clare 2, Porter, Moroni, Henry, Wells, Wiese Cons: Henry 2 McPhillips 3 Pens: McPhillips|
|Connacht (11) 32|
|Tries: Marmion, Masterson, Wootton, Boyle Cons: Carty 2, Fitzgerald Pens: Carty 2|
Leicester ran in seven tries and withstood a gutsy Connacht response to edge a captivating game and reach the last eight of the Challenge Cup.
Tigers trailed to Kieran Marmion’s try but Tigers hit back, Charlie Clare bundling over and Guy Porter crossing.
Clare was sin-binned but Matias Moroni raced away after an interception and Zack Henry jinked in for a 24-11 lead.
Eoghan Masterson, Alex Wootton and Paul Boyle scored but Clare, Harry Wells and Jasper Wiese tries saw Tigers through.
Leicester will face Newcastle at Mattioli Woods Welford Road in the quarter-finals, the Falcons having recovered from a 14-point deficit to defeat Ospreys.
The home side’s progress looked like being relatively straightforward after a blistering first-half display saw them outplay, outmuscle and out-think an experienced Connacht side to run in four tries in a breathless 20-minute spell.
Irish led when Marmion raced in on the left after some neat handling and a fine break from near halfway, but two tries in four minutes changed the game.
Clare touched down from the first of a series of well-worked mauls for his second try in two matches and Porter’s first Tigers score in his 15th appearance helped build a 12-5 lead.
A daft late challenge by Clare saw him sin-binned soon after, but the hosts withstood some heavy pressure and their superior physicality, mixed with some intelligent kicking, saw them cross for two more tries.
Sloppy handling by the Irish province allowed Porter to gather a misplaced pass, speed away and send in Moroni and the fourth score followed when a high Johnny McPhillips kick caused panic and Harry Potter’s deft pass found Henry, who weaved through.
Carty’s second penalty reduced the deficit to 24-11 at the break and the gap was soon within a score when Masterson broke away, dummied Henry and dived over.
Masterson went over after a classy dummy and Wootton’s 11th try of the season from a glorious pass by Caolin Blade got the visitors to within a score as a familiar lack of discipline and heavy penalty count threatened to ruin Leicester’s chances
But Tigers responded once again, winning good field position to enable Clare to power over.
And although Boyle’s stylish score put the result in doubt, Wells added the sixth Tigers try and the exceptional Wiese bulldozed over to ease the hosts over the finishing line.
Leicester: Henry; Potter, Moroni, Scott, Porte; McPhillips, B Youngs (capt); De Bruin, Clare, Heyes, Henderson, Lavanini, Martin, Wallace, Wiese.
Replacements: Dolly, Whitcombe, Hurd, Wells, Reffell, White, Kelly, Steward.
Sin bin: Clare 27
Connacht: Porch; Wootton, O’Brien, Daly, Healy; Carty, Marmion; Buckley, Heffernan, Bealham, Dillane, Thornbury, Masterson, Oliver, Boyle.
Replacements: Delahunt, Duggan, Robertson-McCoy, Dowling, Papali’i, Blade, Fitzgerald, Sullivan.