Connacht Rugby must grab a golden opportunity to move further up the Magners League ladder when they host Italian side Treviso at the Galway Sportsground tomorrow (7.05pm ).
Having leapfrogged Glasgow with a five-try winning display two weeks ago, Connacht now have the chance to repeat that feat over tomorrow’s visitors Treviso. The Italians, with seven wins this season, are just two points above Connacht, and coach Eric Elwood says his side must make it count when the two sides meet.
“We have an opportunity and hopefully we will take it. Last weekend against the Ospreys we didn’t, but now we must bounce back,” he says.
Elwood is expected to make only one change to his side with hooker Sean Cronin back from international duty. Although Niva Ta’auso, Mike McComish, and Jamie Hagan have been nursing injuries this week, they are expected to be fit for this encounter.
Although Connacht suffered a dip in form when they lost to Ospreys 33 - 18, Elwood believes his players deserve another chance, particularly have posted four previous wins on the trot.
Treviso, however, will be no pushovers, and they have troubled several sides this season - albeit mostly on home soil, including their 24-17 win against Connacht at the Stadio Monigo earlier in the season.
Elwood says knowing the opposition coach Franco Smith as he does, Treviso will have done their homework on Connacht, and will have targeted this match as a second possible away win.
“Treviso will be difficult. Although they have not done as well away from home, they will be very competitive so we are under no illusions about tomorrow’s task.
“We know exactly what is ahead of us, and if we want to move forward and upwards, we need to win.”
Elwood was disappointed with last weekend’s result and the team performance, particularly missing out on a losing bonus point. With the game poised at 26 - 18, Connacht had the opportunity to come within seven points, but missed a penalty and instead conceded a try deep in injury time to give the Ospreys a bonus-point victory.
“We thought we would gain a bonus point at least, but unfortunately we missed a kick. However we are not making excuses, our accuracy and execution, for whatever reason, was not 100 per cent and I was disappointed with aspects of both our defence and attack. It was an opportunity and we didn’t take it but hopefully we will bounce back this week. It’s a home game and another big opportunity.”
Connacht started well against the Ospreys and led twice in the opening half after
Keatley potted an early penalty before Dan Biggar, the league's top points scorer this season, replied with a 19th minute drop goal.
Connacht, with a solid lineout, replied soon. Keatley initiated the attack before winger Brian Tuohy found the supporting O'Connor, who crossed in the right corner for an unconverted try.
Connacht’s defence kept the Ospreys out until Biggar capitalised with a penalty to cut the deficit to 8-6, and they took the lead when fullback Richard Fussell hit the line at pace and raced in under the posts with Biggar adding the conversion. When he added a penalty on the stroke of half time, the initiative was with the home side.
Connacht, however, did create several chances, but could not break through the Ospreys’ defence. Instead the home side turned defence into attack and were rewarded when young right wing Tom Prydie finished off for a second try.
At the other end Keatley converted one of two penalty attempts, reducing the arrears to 21-11, but just four minutes later Parker scored his side's third try.
Although Keatley missed another penalty, Connacht continued to attack.
Number 8 Ray Ofisa knocked on with the try-line in his sights, while the pack had the Ospreys under all sorts of pressure with them after two five-metre scrums. However they were rewarded when Mike Swift crashed over and replacement outhalf Miah Nikora added the conversion to cut the gap to eight points.
OSPREYS: R Fussell; T Prydie, S Parker, A Beck, H Dirksen; D Biggar, R Webb; D Jones, H Bennett, C Griffiths, I Gough, I Evans, T Smith, J Tipuric (capt ), J Collins. Replacements: R Bevington for Jones (50m ), M Davies for Bennett (53m ), A Bishop for Beck (67m ), C Cross for Griffith (68m ), J King for Evans (74m )
CONNACHT: G Duffy; B Tuohy, N Ta’auso, T Nathan, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, A Flavin, J Hagan, M Swift, M McCarthy, A Browne, J O’Connor (capt ), R Ofisa Treviranus. Replacements: C Willis for Murphy (49m ), K Matthews for Nathan, R Ah You for Hagan (both 53 mins ), B Upton for McCarthy (62m ), M Nikora for Keatley (65m ), R Loughney for Wilkinson (68m ).