Connacht coach Michael Bradley knows how near his side were to earning a place in the Amlin Challenge Cup final, after running Toulon close at the Galway Sportsground.
Bradley's braves needed to scalp the superstars from France to progress to their first final in 15 season's competing in the Amlin Challenge Cup, but were unable to break down the resolute French defence. And that was key for Bradley as he assessed his side's performance. He said: "In cup matches we need to learn at this level to take our chances, and I think we had three or four chances in the second half in particular, five yards from their line, and got nothing out of any of them. That was the game really. From our point of view, I think the Toulon try right on half-time was avoidable. If we could have thought our way out of that one a little bit better. "It was a magnificent effort by the forwards, in particular, to sustain the volume of pressure in that corner and then to cough up. A slight of hand and a bit of footwork by Kefu was disappointing. We lost the game by seven points, and there were plenty of opportunities there." However disappointed he may have been, Bradley was also able to enjoy the day and occasion. He continued: "I think first of all it was a great day for Connacht. The ground and the place and the people - everything was set up for a famous day. The quality of the opposition shone through in the end. Toulon were well able to sustain the carries that we were attempting on the park. Their defence was strong and they were good in the collisions. Toulon director of rugby Philippe Saint-Andre was pleased to qualify for the final, saying: "It was tough. We created three or four opportunities which we didn't finish, but I think our defence was good and the commitment of the team was fantastic," he admitted. "I am very pleased for the guys, but we should have scored two or three tries in the first 20 minutes, as we created so many opportunities. We just didn't finish them. In the end it was very tough, but we have won 11 games consecutively and this is very good for the confidence and trust of my team."
Finals Edition: Listen to the best guide to the European Rugby Cup Finals weekend in Dublin, which sees Leinster Rugby take on Stade Francais Paris at the RDS on Friday night in the Amlin Challenge Cup Final and then ASM Clermont Auvergne tackle Toulon in an all-French affair at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday.