Parks the spark for Connacht
Dan Parks led Connacht to a famous victory with his kicking
Dan Parks was the driving force behind Connacht in their 22-14 victory as they claimed the scalp of French giants Biarritz in this evening's Heineken Cup clash at the Sportsground.
Parks kicked 17 points, including the conversion of Fetu'u Vainikolo's early try, to seal the province's second win in Pool Three.
Dimitri Yachvili kicked three penalties to leave the visitors 10-9 behind at the break, but Biarritz were decidedly brittle as Connacht's younger forwards outworked them. Although Imanol Harinordoquy came off the bench to score an injury-time try, Yachvili missed the conversion for a losing bonus point.
After Yachvili nudged Biarritz ahead, Vainikolo struck for a superbly-taken try that really lifted his team-mates and the vocal home crowd. David McSharry intercepted a pass from Charles Gimenez near halfway and offloaded for the Tongan winger to charge away for a score against the run of play.
Parks converted to put Connacht 7-3 ahead and the westerners missed out on a second try when Ireland lock Mike McCarthy failed to spot Robbie Henshaw looping around him in plenty of space. A series of penalties failed to budge the scoreline with the wind-backed Yachvili missing two shots at the posts, and Parks drifting a long-range attempt wide.
The Biarritz talisman was back on target at the midway point of the half, his second successful penalty following a decent bout of territory for the visitors.
But Connacht looked the more dangerous of the two sides off limited ball and Takudzwa Ngwenya had to concede a lineout as Tiernan O'Halloran chased hard. The hosts pressed and Parks took the drop-goal option, in front of the posts, to reopen the four-point gap.
However, the penalty count took its toll. Number eight Eoin McKeon was sin-binned for taking an airborne Iain Balshaw out and Yachvili snapped over a classy penalty to make it 10-9 at the interval. Biarritz failed to hammer home their numerical advantage, though, and Parks restarted the scoring in the second period with a penalty.
Biarritz introduced the fit-again Harinordoquy as they tried to reassert themselves, but strong carries from McSharry and Robbie Henshaw preceded another Parks three-pointer. Further chances came and in the final 10 minutes the former Scotland fly-half landed an inspirational drop goal and a third and final penalty.
Biarritz's game descended into niggly phases, with their questionable attitude and temperament resulting in a couple of scraps between the forwards. They did lift the tempo late on, powerhouse Harinordoquy piling over after O'Halloran was sin-binned during some desperate Connacht defence.
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