European Champions Cup play-off semi-final sees Saints host Connacht
Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Despite winning the last regular game of the Aviva Premiership season against Harlequins at the Gardens two weeks ago, Saints find themselves in the European Champions Cup play-off semi-final this weekend.
Facing Irish side Connacht for the first time since 2009 for the chance to progress to next Friday night’s final and the chance to fight for the last European Champions Cup place, Saints enter this weekend having finished seventh in the Aviva Premiership table, on level points with sixth place Harlequins.
Last year's Pro12 champions finished their 2016/17 season in eighth place in the Pro12, winning nine of their 22 games this season, after a disappointing 50-14 final day loss to Munster at Thomond Park, the Munstermen securing a top Pro12 spot finish with the win.
Despite winning four of their six pool games in this season’s European Champions Cup, Connacht dropped out of the competition at the pool stages.
The Irish side finished the opening rounds in third place in their pool despite finishing on level points with quarter-final qualifiers Toulouse and with more wins in the bag, a tiny three-point point deficit in points difference costing them a place in this year’s quarter-final rounds.
Saints and Connacht have a 50/50 ratio when it comes to wins and losses when facing each other over the years. Having only played each other four times in total, with the first of those coming 1996, Saints and Connacht each have two wins to their name when the other is the opposition.
Most recently facing each other in 2009, Saints posted a 42-13 win over their Irish guests in that year’s European Challenge Cup quarter-final. Precision from the boot of Stephen Myler and tries from Neil Best, Bruce Reihana, Joe Ansbro and Chris Mayor sealed the deal for the men in black, green and gold nearly eight years ago when these sides last met.
In this winner-takes-all fixture on Saturday, Saints must secure a win over Connacht to progress to next weekend’s final play-off game and the chance to face either Cardiff Blues or Stade Francais (depending on the result of their play-off) for that final European Champions Cup spot.
Top-flight European rugby is two wins away for Saints so make your voice count and fill Franklin's Gardens with noise as the men in black, green and gold host Connacht (kick-off 4pm). When the Ticket Office opens for general tomorrow morning CLICK HERE to secure your spot at the Gardens on Saturday.