After the glory, the fall. Connacht rose to improbable heights 12 months ago, claiming an incredible Pro12 title with defeat of Leinster at Murrayfield.

They signed off their regular campaign with a Munster mauling last weekend, a 50-14 Thomond Park loss that left them eighth in the final standings.

Pat Lam's men will face Northampton or Gloucester in a Champions Cup play-off in two weeks' time desperate to salvage a place at Europe's top table for next season.

The Against The Head panel said a number of factors contributed to the Westerners' disappointing campaign, particularly the loss of the 'surprise factor' that stung so many rivals last year.

 "They got a very bad start," said Bernard Jackman. "Then they lost influential guys like (Robbie) Henshaw and (Aly) Muldowney. Bundee Aki has struggled to reach the same heights and I suppose other teams, everybody knows about them now, the surprise factor is gone.

"The fact that Pat announced in January he was leaving as well, there’s so many different issues but unfortunately for Connacht they're in a battle now to qualify for the Champions Cup."

Donal Lenihan echoed those sentiments, adding: "The rot started at the start of the year. I think they’d one warm-up game, they got off to a very start in the Pro12 and really they were playing catch-up all year."

Former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan also believes opponents figured them out, with a failure to adjust the game plan proving costly: "The surprise factor of the way they played (was gone). Everybody had their number this year and adapted around their game and let them play their shape but were smarter shutting them down, putting them under pressure in their own half where they still continued to take huge risks. Their defence has hurt them as well."