Connacht need to find cup form to take Treviso scalp
By Linley Mackenzie
Connacht face a tricky assignment against Benetton Treviso on Saturday (5pm) at the Galway Sportsground, but one they are expected to win.
Coach Eric Elwood knows both sides will be targeting this latest Pro 12 fixture which, he says, will ensure Connacht need to be at their best if they want to grab a third victory.
“We know it’s a game they will be targeting and we will certainly have to take the game to them. We need to be physical and work hard to grind out a win.
“They beat us here last year so we know it will be difficult but this is all about getting the job done and getting the four points on offer,” Elwood says.
Preparations have been disrupted this week with Mike McCarthy, John Muldoon and Tiernan O’Halloran still in training with the Irish squad. As a result Elwood will delay naming his side until the players return to the Sportsground on Friday to assess their fitness levels, while George Naoupu remains a doubt after injuring his ankle last weekend, while Eoin Griffin remains sidelined.
The good news is that captain Gavin Duffy, Andrew Browne, Mark McCrea, and Paul O’Donoghoe are now fully fit, giving Elwood extra options.
Duffy will return to the fullback position, and it is expected Danie Poolman will partner Dave McSharry in the centre. In the pack Mick Kearney and Andrew Browne are likely to be brought into the squad in the absence of the Irish squad members.
Elwood says after last weekend’s disappointing display, Connacht need to finish this series of games with a win.
“Last weekend we were up against a quality side that was near full strength, but we were disappointed with the performance. We remained in contention throughout, but we need to learn how to grind out results.
“We are certainly putting pressure on ourselves to take the four points against Treviso. This is our last in a series of 10 games on the bounce and we want to finish it on a high. Although we have not had the ideal preparations this week, it’s a game we would have targeted.”
After the high of Heineken Cup rugby, Connacht failed to leave Liberty Stadium with any points from their Pro 12 joust with champions Ospreys.
It was always going to be a tough ask, but Connacht were well in contention until midway through the second half when the home side grabbed their bonus win.
There was little between the sides in the opening period although it was the Ospreys who grabbed the lead after 15 minutes when Richard Fussell provided the scoring pass for Eli Walker to score out wide. Dan Biggar added the conversion, but Connacht replied with two Dan Parks penalties to reduce the deficit to a single point.
However a defensive lapse allowed Fussell to step around two defenders before finding flanker Justin Tipuric who grabbed the second try, which went unconverted, for a 12 - 6 half time lead.
Worse followed soon after the restart when Jonathon Thomas intercepted a Parks’ pass in midfield to score, and although Connacht stayed in tough with a third penalty, the outhalf missed a fourth chance that would have brought the province within a converted try and bonus-point territory.
Any hopes of Connacht grabbing a much-needed point were dispelled when Samoan scrum-half Kahn Fotuali’i barrelled over from a quick tap penalty to grab the bonus-point try for the Welsh outfit.
Ospreys: R Fussell; H Dirksen, A Bishop, A Beck, E Walker; D Biggar, K Fotuali’i; R Bevington, R Hibbard, A Jones; A Wyn Jones (c), I Evans; J Bearman, J Tipuric, J Thomas. Replacements: D Jones for Bevington 50; J King for Evans 70; R Webb for Fotuali’i 78; M Morgan for Fussell 78.
Connacht: D Leader; T O’Halloran, R Henshaw, M Fifita, F Vainikolo; D Parks, K Marmion; B Wilkinson, J Harris-Wright, N White (c); M Swift, G Naoupu; J Muldoon, W Faloon, E McKeon. Replacements: D Poolman for Fifita 31; D Gannon for Naoupu 38; J O’Connor for Faloon 50; D Moore for Marmion 50; R Ah You for Wilkinson 57; A Flavin for Harris-Wright 62; R Loughney for White 67; M Nikora for Parks 75.