21-15

Commentary

  • 80

    Time is up and a massive hit from forces the knock on to end the game!

  • 79

    Picamoles puts in a huge hit to slow the Connacht progress with ten seconds to go. Connacht are still battling on the 22.

  • 79

    One minute to go and Connacht are at the 22. Saints are working hard in defence here.

  • 78

    Mikey Haywood comes on for Saints with Ahsee Tuala making way.

  • 78

    Jamie Gibson heads for the bin and Connacht send the penalty into the corner.

  • 77

    Connacht have made it well into Saints half and earned themselves a penalty to boot.

  • 76

    A messy lineout and a messy aftermath for Connacht. Saints pressure and the guests are trying everything here to break through Saints line.

  • 74

    A scrum becomes a free kick, and the ball is sent high up the middle. The kick comes back, Tuala has time and clears to halfway. This isn't won yet!

  • 72

    Saints win the kick off and the clearance goes into Row Z. Connacht win the throw but fumble while setting up the attack and Saints have a scrum 12m inside their own half

  • 70

    No mistake from Harry

    A crucial 6-point lead for Saints

  • 69

    Dawai comes off the base, but then holds on as Saints challenge. Penalty to the hosts and Mallinder's going for goal. Best case, three points, worst case a minute off the clock and a 22m dropout

  • 68

    Cooney puts the ball in a-squiff, Saints turn the free kick into a scrum and while it looks like Connacht bring this down play goes on. Foden comes off his wing, Saints come through the middle of the ruck, but just as it looks like they're building up a head of steam Wood fumbles to give the visitors a scrum

  • 67

    Changes for both teams

    Lee Dickson and John Cooney come on as scrum-halves and Conor Carey is on at tighthead for Connacht

  • 66

    Ratuniyarawa makes a lovely burst through a ruck, and Picamoles uses himself as a dummy to suck in a couple of defenders to create space for Denman and Ma'afu. Tuala makes an offload to Foden, but it's forward (no matter what the Church's Stand faithful shouted!) and Connacht have a scrum

  • 65

    Connacht kick, Saints return, and then Mallinder comes up with a crucial catch of a Ronaldson chip. Hutchinson puts in a great grubber to push Connacht back to close to their own line. They win the lineout, but the clearance only makes 30m for a Saints throw

  • 63

    Api Ratuniyarawa for Day

    Not a good couple of minutes for Saints, who follow up the Connacht try with Mallinder kicking long at the restart. Connacht scrum on halfway

  • 62

    Ronaldson misses the conversion...

    ...but nerves are still fluttering at the Gardens

  • 61

    David Heffernan is driven over

    The pack does some good work with an organised, powerful maul, and there's precious little Saints can do

  • 61

    Campese Ma'afu and Gareth Denman for Alex Waller and Kieran Brookes

    Some big work for the new props to do

  • 60

    Connacht get an advantage, North coming off his feet at a breakdown, and after Ronaldson makes a nice break they get another advantage for a high tackle 10m out from the home line. Needing a big score they go for touch on the near side

  • 58

    Tom Wood for Harrison

    The club captain is on the field, and joining his team mates in having to defend against Connacht, who are working their way upfield towards the home 22

  • 57

    Mallinder misses the conversion

    A great finish from Groom to carry a man over after Tuala had run powerfully into the left half of the field. A crucial score for Saints who are now two scores in front going into the fourth quarter

  • 56

    Groom over!

    After a bit of a delay for a quick TMO referral

  • 55

    Naulia Dawai for Jake Heenan

    Connacht are defending manfully, but they slow down Saints' attack and make a fumble in the process for a home scrum, smack bang in front of the sticks 15m out

  • 54

    Gibson catches, Hutchinson spins out of a tackle and Saints are in the 22

  • 52

    Connacht throw, but Gibson disrupts the set piece to slow things down for the visitors. They in turn have a great exit, Ronaldson chasing the box kick to win the ball back, beating Groom to the catch. But it's Saints who get the applause after an attack that features a superb run by Tuitavake, whose footwork and acceleration puts Saints onto the front foot. And they stay there after being awarded a lineout 30m out from the Irish line

  • 51

    Lovely play from Saints. The ball goes back to Groom, who dummies past an onrushing defender to feed North on the blindside. He makes 50m upfield before cutting back inside. The ball comes right and Hutchinson fires out a 20m pass to put Tuala away. He in turn sucks in the man to feed Foden, who is eventually tackled into touch on the Irish 22

  • 50

    John Muldoon comes off the back and feeds Kieran Marmion, who sends a nice grubber some 40m upfield to the far touchline for a Saints lineout midway inside their own half

  • 50

    Scrum re-sets. Great noise in the Gardens as well this afternoon. Connacht's travellers are belying their relatively small numbers to get behind their team, with the Saints Nation replying in kind, too

  • 48

    Ultar Dillane for James Cannon

    Saints come quickly off the top of the lineout, Gibson delaying his pass to Picamoles nicely. But the attack is ended with a fumble and Connacht will have a scrum 30m out from their own line

  • 48

    A break for Saints. Connacht's pack obstruct at the throw, Saints get the penalty and Mallinder puts in a superb kick that sails all the way to midway inside the Irish half

  • 46

    Connacht win the ball and kick, with the return giving them another lineout on the home 10m line. Saints win against the throw and Mallinder kicks deep. But it's caught easily and Adeolokun makes some metres up the far side. Connacht win a penalty on halfway and Ronaldson sends a great kick to inside the home 22, far side

  • 45

    The scrum is solid, Foden comes off his wing and the ball goes to the deeper Mallinder. Hutchinson finds Tuala, whose attempted pass out of the tackle is missed by North and goes into touch

  • 44

    Connacht look to stretch Saints again, going wide right and then left, before a fumble gives Saints a scrum on halfway

  • 42

    No changes of team personnel, but Pascal Gauzere has taken over as referee. Meanwhile the teams exchange possession, with Connacht eventually getting a lineout 10m inside Saints' half

  • 42

    Saints steal the lineout and are back in possession but a knock on from Picamoles sees Connacht back on the attack.

  • 41

    Penalty to Connacht straight after the restart and they send it into touch for a lineout on half way.

  • 40

    Mallinder kicks off, Saints now playing down the hill

  • HT

    No changes to either team at half-time

  • HT

    However, both teams will be ruing the missed opportunities from their visits to the opposition 22. Saints in particular had a couple of lineouts 5m out they they just weren't able to convert, and Connacht will take heart from the way they stopped the hosts from scoring

  • HT

    Plenty for both teams to take from the first 40

    This is great knockout rugby. Both teams have threatened, both have had to make early substitutions, there's been a lot of physicality and competition in all areas of the game

  • 40

    The ball is won, the kick goes into touch and that's that for an entertaining and enthralling first half

  • 39

    Day wins the throw but is tackled immediately. Connacht compete on the floor and win a penalty, which is kicked up to nearly halfway, far side

  • 38

    Good work there from Saints, forcing the Irish back 10m and then winning a penalty on the floor. Mallinder kicks to the 22, far side

  • 37

    Connacht compete and win it back, go through some phases and put boot to ball. Foden calls a mark and his clearance goes to the 10m line, Connacht throw

  • 36

    Some imaginative play from Connacht there. They come quickly off the top, spreading the defence and sending a kick off the inside of the boot to the home 22. Tuala's clearance stays infield and Connacht come again. There's a player hugging the touchline, but the cross-field kick takes a nasty bounce and it's a Saints throw instead.

  • 34

    Connacht look strong in the defence, but Saints stay patient and come through the middle. The Irish slow the ball down at a ruck and Mallinder goes to the corner again. But this time Connacht force Saints to hold on and earn themselves a penalty. Could that be a crucial moment?

  • 33

    The ball gets stuck in the middle of the scrum for a little bit, and as the power comes on Connacht take it down. Mallinder kicks to the corner

  • 32

    Connacht try to run from deep, spinning the ball wide, but there's a fumble and Saints have a scrum in a great position

  • 30

    Lawes stood out with his power then, and it's unfortunate that the otherwise excellent Tuala fumbles. Connacht scrum, 15m out from their own line

  • 29

    Connacht fumble the kick off under pressure and Saints start to impose themselves in the visitors' 22

  • 28

    35m out, straight in front, no mistake from the centre

  • 28

    Ronaldson goes for goal...

  • 27

    What a shame for Saints. They win the lineout and both Tuitavake and Teimana Harrison look to get into space. An overlap is created on the far side, but just as Courtney Lawes looks to use those men up comes a defender to make a crucial interception. Connacht get themselves a penalty, and there's a bit of a stop while referee Matthieu Teynal gets a bit of treatment for a hamstring

  • 26

    The ball goes long, Connacht kick back, and North sends a clearance way upfield. Possession changes a couple more times before Saints have a lineout on halfway on the far side

  • 25

    Saints look to get some play going, Ahsee Tuala making a great catch under pressure, but the ball goes forward, Connacht kick ahead and it's a 22

  • 23

    No mistake from Harry

    Saints are doing what they need to, getting into the danger zone and then getting points. That's three visits to the Irish 22 or thereabouts, and three scores. Meanwhile Connacht have had some good position but only had the one try. Is that going to be the difference?

  • 22

    Rory Hutchinson for Burrell

    It's a change in midfield, but it's the forwards who get the grunt going, winning a shot for Mallinder to go for goal again

  • 21

    And just like that, in comes Ben Foden to make a steal. Christian Day makes some metres and with Connacht slowing the ball down Mallinder kicks a penalty to the visitors' 22, far side

  • 20

    Both teams are looking dangerous with ball in hand, and at the moment it's Connacht's turn to work themselves upfield, retaining possession effectively and efficiently through repeated phases

  • 19

    Louis PIcamoles comes off the base to make a few metres, giving Mallinder the space to send a clearance up to halfway. The tactical kicking from both teams today has been top drawer

  • 17

    Connacht's defence holds firm, and then when a clean-out at a ruck comes in from the side the visitors kick themselves into a dangerous position once again. The throw is off line once again, but there's poetic justice as Saints hold the drive up to earn themselves a scrum just inside their own 22

  • 16

    Saints win the ball cleanly, and after Nic Groom shapes to kick he instead attempts a pass to George North on the blind side. The Connacht defender knocks on and it's a penalty to Saints which Mallinder kicks into Irish territory

  • 15

    In off the upright, but they all count

    Saints back in the lead

  • 14

    The ball comes off the top and Saints start to get onto the front foot, showing nice handling skills despite the greasy ball. Connacht infringe at a breakdown 30m out from their own line, 15m in from the far touchline and Mallinder goes for goal

  • 13

    Connacht take a knee, penalty to Saints and Mallinder sends the ball 50m upfield for the throw. Good nudge from the fly half

  • 11

    Connacht come quickly off the top, and while they're making metres Saints are looking speedy in defence. Unfortunately a couple of things that need to stick don't - Tuitavake slipping off a tackle and Jamie Gibson coming close to a crucial interception. Eventually Connacht drop the ball around 30m out from the home line and Saints have the scrum

  • 10

    Early engagement from Connacht, free kick to Saints and Mallinder kicks almost to halfway. It's a throw-in to the visitors though

  • 8

    The pack sets up a maul, which Saints hold, and then when the ball goes wide the rushing defence forces a fumble. It goes backwards, and if we're being picky then Luther Burrell and Nafi Tuitavake could have competed a bit better on the floor. The visitors retain possession, but in the next phase on the far side the ball goes forward for a Saints scrum, 15m out from their own line

  • 7

    Another penalty for Connacht in midfield and another throw-in on the 22.

  • 5

    The perfect reply from Connacht

    Just as Saints looked to have been settling they conceded a penalty on halfway. Connacht kicked to the home 22, and while the throw-in was a little off-centre play went on. A grubber went through the rushing defence and Adeolokun scooped up the ball to slide in, making the most of the slippy turf to go over

  • 6

    Connacht clear from the restart and Tuala sends it back. Tuala's clearance finds touch and Connacht are pushed back inside their own half for the lineout.

  • 5

    Ronaldson...

    ... duly sends the conversion over.

  • 4

    Try confirmed

    And Craig Ronaldson nailed the conversion

  • 4

    The referee awards the visitors the score. Conversion to come.

  • 4

    Connacht fly back at Saints and think they're over after a gushing attack. It's Niyi Adeolokun if it's down. TMO time.

  • 4

    Has Niyi Adeolokun scored for Connacht?

  • 4

    Connacht bring on Matt Healy for Cian Kelleher.

  • 3

    That was the best possible start for the Saints, which was made out of what seemed to be nothing. A miss of the kick off and a relatively poor pass by Mallinder were in the middle of the move, but it's the score that matters in a knockout game

  • 3

    Penalty to Connacht just after the restart and Craig Donaldson sends it into the corner. Lineout Connacht on Saints' 22.

  • 2

    Mallinder...

    ... converts his own score too!

  • 1

    TRYYYYYY HARRY MALLINDERRRR

    A beautiful piece of skill from the backs sees the ball whipped wide and a clever offload from Foden finds Mallinder for the score!

  • 1

    Saints are in possession from the kick-off and are racing up to the Connacht line. Nafi Tuitavake slinks through the Connacht defence and the ball comes wide to Ben Foden...

  • 👟💥🏉

    HERE WE GO!!

    The European Champions Cup play-off semi-final is underway!

  • PM

    For the Saints it's a chance to build on the win against Harlequins a fortnight ago, as well as the outstanding attack we saw against both Wasps and Saracens, where we out-scored both teams in terms of tries. The weather has been changeable to say the least, but if the rain holds off then we could be in for a cracker at 4pm

  • PM

    Connacht will be a tough challenge today. They've brought in a trio of Ireland internationals into their match day 23 and are the reigning Pro 12 champions. They'll also be wanting to give Pat Lam the perfect send-off before he moves on to take up the boss's role at Bristol

  • PM

    Welcome to the Gardens!

    So you thought the season was over.... Not quite yet, it isn't! But as with any semi-final it's do or die for the Saints this afternoon - win and we play Stade Francais next Friday for the right to play in the Champions Cup next season, but lose and it's the summer holiday. Everyone at the Gardens wants to be among Europe's best in 2017/18 and that is motivation enough.