Connacht gather momentum after four-try bonus win

Connacht duo Ultan Dillane and John Porch in action from the Guinness PRO14 game at the Sportsground on Saturday.Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Connacht duo Ultan Dillane and John Porch in action from the Guinness PRO14 game at the Sportsground on Saturday.Photo:-Mike Shaughnessy

Connacht will not be taking their foot off the pedal after their bonus-point win over Cardiff as they head to Treviso to face Benetton tomorrow evening (5.30pm )..

Although the Italian outfit sits bottom of Conference B without a win, Connacht are wary of a potential pitfall in expecting to win this round 13 game. And defence coach Pete Wlkins says Connacht are taking nothing for granted.

"There is awareness of its potential as a banana skin, " he says. "We have come off the back of a tough game with a short-turnaround, so that has immediately focused the mind."

Although this is a game Connacht should win, they recognise Benetton as an attacking threat, particularly, he says, if the game gets loose. "They can punish you, and although the wins haven't been great for Benetton, statistically speaking, they have done enough to win."

That said, it would be "criminal" not to build on the momentum generated from the Cardiff result, which was the start of a block of five in this series.

Although there are no fresh injuries from Saturday's win, Wilkins expects some changes "without compromising the momentum and form" against Cardiff.

Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane and Dave Heffernan are unavailable due to Ireland duty, and Wilkins says Aki's absence has been a challenge for Connacht, not just for his ability on the field, but for his energy.

As a result Aki was muzzled in training to monitor the response from other players, and Wilkins says the energy levels dropped considerably.

"As the season has progressed, there has been a realisation that, firstly a lot of people do need to pick up the slack if he's there or not, and that you can still celebrate the good moments and generate that energy we need to gain momentum, but without necessarily being heard three suburbs away."

There were other ways to create that energy, he said. Jack Carty is direct and demanding of himself and others, while against Cardiff, captain Jarrad Butler "got the boys together, had a quiet word and just refocused and regrouped".

"You get energy from that, a positivity and a momentum surge - it doesn't necessarily have to be about the decibel levels."

Those energy levels will be tested in Treviso as they look for their third successive win after a superb 32-17 victory Cardiff on Saturday evening in the Sportsground.

Connacht secured the bonus point win, thanks to four well-taken tries - two from man of the match Alex Wootton in seven minutes before the half-time, and two in the second from captain Butler and Abraham Papali'i.

Cardiff had possessed all the energy and physicality in the opening 25 minutes, bagging a 12th minute try from prop Rhys Carre, with outhalf Jason Tovey adding the extras. However, Connacht outhalf Carty struck two well-taken penalties to close the gap before the visitors added a 26th minute penalty to edge in front. It was then Connacht produced two scintillating tries - the first from an initial burst from Paul Boyle, but when Blade switched direction, Healy fed Wootton who had no problem evading hooker Liam Belcher to race up the wing for a superb try, with Carty adding the extras. Minutes later Wootton bagged his second and ninth of this season's campaign. Going through the phases, lock Ultan Dillane made an important surge, but it was Carty's swift tip-on pass to Wootton that did the damage as the right wing secured his eighth of this season's campaign for a 10-point lead at the break.

Although the Blues visitors came within three points in the second half, Connacht finished with a two-try flourish to seal a notable victory.

Connacht: J Porch, A Wootton, T Daly, B Aki, M Healy, J Carty, C Blade, J Duggan, D Heffernan, F Bealham, U Dillane, G Thornbury, E Masterson, J Butler ©, P Boyle. Replacements, O Dowling for Thornbury and D Buckley for Duggan (both 47 ), S Delahunt for Heffernan and J Aungier for Bealham (both 57 ), K Marmion for Blade (59 ), T O'Halloran for Porch (64 ), S O'Brien for Daly 77 ).


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