No more special treatment for Scottish and Italians in Champions Cup race, says Lam

CONNACHT COACH PAT Lam has refused to rule out his team’s chances of qualifying for next season’s European Champions Cup but accepts that after defeat at Glasgow Warriors they are probably going to have to do it the hard way – via end-of-season play-offs against clubs from England and France.

In a match that saw Tim Swinson, the Glasgow lock, sent off for an apparent punch on Dave Heffernan, and what Lam described as “a bit of niggle”, the coach was still frustrated that his side had been dominant but come away without even the comfort of a losing bonus point while the Scots claimed four tries.

“It was probably an entertaining game for the neutral,” he said.

“We did some really good things but unfortunately all their points came from our errors or our indiscipline. Our yellow card [against Jack Carty for a high tackle] was a big turning point. I have to admire the effort but we blew a few scoring opportunities and gave away a few.

“I am disappointed, I don’t think the scoreline reflects the game. For us to get nothing out of it is frustrating. There were chances there, there were times we did not reload quickly enough, there were chances to go right and we went left and vice versa.

“It is what it is. Now we have a chance to go back, assess the injuries and get into our catch-up game against Zebre.”

Connacht’s grip on the Guinness Pro12 title is just about over – Ulster need only four points from four games to be mathematically out of range in the final play-off spot. Since the Scots and Italians are guaranteed two of the seven automatic Champions Cup spots, that leaves only five for the Irish and Welsh teams to share with Connacht 19 points off that battle.

“As far as Europe is concerned we are looking at the play-offs where it is all about us and Cardiff. This thing that means there has got to be one from every country is an area I think that needs to change – the top seven should go through,” said Lam.

“As far as the play-offs go there is a big gap between ourselves and Cardiff and the rest. All we have got to do is keep playing, keep getting as many points as we can. There are still five rounds for us, four rounds for everyone else, and then we will see where we are.”

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