Connacht need to transfer European form to Pro 12 on Saturday
After the highs of European rugby, Connacht are back in the Galway Sportsground on Saturday evening (5pm) fighting to lift themselves off the bottom of the Pro 12 table.
The Newport Gwent Dragons are the visitors and the task for Connacht is to transform their Heineken Cup form into a much-needed Pro 12 victory.
Connacht's only victory in the Pro 12 was 25-16 at home to Zebre in round one - a poor statistic for the province. And, after Connacht’s match-winning display over Toulouse, there can be no excuses for Pat Lam’s side now. The players’ belief in themselves was repaid in Toulouse; now they must continue in the Sportsground on Saturday.
Captain Craig Clarke, after last weekend’s loss to Toulouse, said: “ It’s back to the bread and butter and it’s a fact we are bottom in the Rabo. How we going about changing that is bottling what we did last week and some of the things we did tonight and putting it on the pitch. If we can do that the table will look after itself. If we don’t do that and have more of the Edinburgh style performances, then we’ll stay there.”
The Edinburgh defeat was hopefully Connacht’s nadir of the season and the response from Pat Lam, his management team, and the squad, was reflected in their performances over Toulouse.
Lam said the big lesson for Connacht was that when the squad applied heart to what it had trained, and everyone worked as a team, they showed what they can do.
“There is a real discipline there to make that happen. If we do that, as we showed last week, we can beat anyone. We just need to continue to do the work and be honest and be brutal during the week in training and continue to get the best out of our squad.
“We all talked in the changing room and the senior boys mentioned it. The question was asked ‘Do we belong at the bottom of the table?’ and there is a real commitment that we need to bring this not just next week but every week, and get ourselves and Connacht off the bottom of the table.”
Lam gave his players two days off this week to rest and recuperate after the two Heineken Cup fixtures and to ensure players had time to fully recover from the flu virus which rocked the camp last week. Craig Ronaldson was the only injury from that game, pulling up after a clearance kick with a hamstring.
However any team that goes out on Saturday has something to prove - that their performance in France was a not a one-off.
The Dragons arrive in Galway having made great strides this season and they are in a handy seventh place with 19 points. However their only victory in their last four Pro 12 fixtures was 23-8 away at Glasgow in round 8 - their only victory on the road since they beat Zebre in Parma in February.
Home support should play its part if the fans respond to Connacht’s improving form and attend Saturday’s game. The Dragons’ only previous victory in 10 previous visits was in 2004 - and that statistic should not change.