Connacht coach Eric Elwood is hoping the short turnaround between Saturday’s draw with Ulster and tonight’s away fixture with Cardiff will prove a motivating factor for his squad.
Although describing the scheduling of this Magners League fixture in Cadiff during the Ryder Cup as “ridiculous”, Elwood says Connacht have been in that position before and coped admirably.
“Last year we played Ulster and three days later we had to play Leinster and we won, so it has been done before and can be used as a positive.”
Elwood’s selection hand continues to be restricted, but he has made two changes to the starting XV. Sean Cronin, whose playing time needs monitoring as part of the Irish national team, is rested and Adrian Flavin slots in at hooker with youngster Dermot Murphy on the bench, while Andrew Browne comes in for Bernie Upton in the second row. Johnny O’Connor, who resumed contact training this week, is also named in the replacements.
Niva Ta’auso, Troy Nathan, Keith Matthews and Gavin Duffy, who was due to have scan on his back earlier this week, have recovered and are named in the starting line-up again.
“It is the same personnel again we are choosing from, but in fairness to the boys they ave done everything asked of them - they are fronting up great.”
“We have asked the lads to go to the well four weeks in a row and we are asking the bulk of the team to go again, and it’s a huge ask, but I’d like to think that, after game five, wouldn’t it be nice for Connacht to be in the top four going into two games in Europe.”
Elwood believes Cardiff will pose a different challenge tonight from the physical battles with Glasgow and Ulster.
“Cardiff loke to play a very expansive high-tempo game, but hopefully that will allow us time to express ourselves and play a little bit more of a footballing game.”
And, having posted their first win away from home in two years when they overcame Glasgow, Elwood is looking for another good performance away from home.
“If we are in the game and competitive and get something out of it, we would be happy. Ultimately we have to be competitive and show that fighting spirit in attack and defence. Yes, we are looking to get something out of this game.”
Elwood was a “little disappointed” with Connacht’s attacking performance against Ulster, despite achieving their first result against them since 2003.
“We had to defend too much, but when we did attack, we looked dangerous, and I am just hoping the opportunity will arise soon when we are clinical in attack and don’t have to defend so much.”
Connacht’s strong defence ensured no side forged ahead by more than three points in the 15 - 15 Sportsground derby. In perfect conditions with a crowd of nearly 4,000 at the Galway Sportsground, both sides produced an uncompromising physical derby. Level 6 - 6 at half time, it was left to the kickers to decide this battle. Connacht's Ian Keatley struck five from six; Ulster's Paddy Wallace kicked four from five; and Ulster's replacement kicker Niall O'Connor added one from two efforts. And with visitors attacking two minutes from full time, O'Connor also had the opportunity to sneak the win, but his drop goal effort was well wide.
Connacht did try to open up play more often than their counterparts, but hopes that scoring ace Fionn Carr could grab a game-winning try also failed - his first foray up the left wing resulted in Ulster's Paul Emerick yellow-carded for a clumsy shoulder charge when Carr was chasing up his own kick. Andrew Trimble also saw yellow in the second half after a reckless tackle in the air on Mike McComish, while Connacht's Ray Ofisa was the first to be sidelined when referee Alain Rolland deemed the flanker had tripped Trimble.
The error count was high from both sides, but Ulster’s kicking game did let them down. Scrumhalf Paul Marshall was guilty of three successive kicks directly into touch, while Ulster continued to launch futile missiles to Connacht fullback Gavin Duffy, who was assured as usual under the high ball.
Connacht XV v Cardiff: G Duffy, T Nathan, N Ta’auso, K Matthews, F Carr, I Keatley, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, A Flavin, J Hagan, M Swift, A Browne, M McCarthy, R Ofisa, M McComish. Replacements, D Murphy, R Loughney, R Sweeney, B Upton, J O’Connor, C Willis, M Nikora, D Fanning.