Elwood asks for big home push

Connacht host their penultimate home match of the season needing to atone for another poor away performance.

Edinburgh are the visitors to the Galway Sportsground tomorrow (7.45pm ) and anything but a win could see Connacht, having lost to Aironi in Italy on Saturday, slide back down the Magners League table.

“These next two home games are very important to us because our final two games will be particularly difficult, away to both Ulster and Munster. As a result we need to get something from these fixtures,” Elwood says.

Last Saturday’s game against Aironi was one Connacht would have expected to win, and Elwood says his side now needs to make amends.

“Last week was very disappointing. We knew it was an important game, but we made far too many errors that cost us. You cannot afford to give a team like that opportunities. It gave them hope and they capitalised.

“ This week is all about redemption. In the past we have bounced back and tomorrow we need a good performance and a win,” he says.

Elwood has lost veteran Michael Swift with a fractured hand, joining Miah Nikora and Niva Ta’auso with injuries. Keith Matthews can be expected to return, joining Troy Nathan in the centre, while up front Bernie Upton is likely to join Mike McCarthy in the second row. Elwood may also look to rest some players, and Ronan Loughney is a possible starter in the front row.

The last two fixtures between the sides have been close. Edinburgh took the honours earlier in the season by 24 - 19, while Connacht scraped a win in the 2009/10 home fixture by 22 - 21. This season, however, Edinburgh are sitting in an uncustomary position one point below Connacht in a congested bottom half of the table.

Always a threat, particularly out wide and on the counter-attack, Connacht will need to have a well organised defence.

“We need to handle them in attack,” says Elwood, “and cover the whole field because they are adept at finding gaps in defence. Conversely we need to ensure we have time in attack. Last weekend we made a lot of mistakes in attack, so we will be looking to keep the ball, maintain our shape and structures, and exert pressure on them.”

A host of errors against Aironi helped the Italians celebrate their first Magners League victory.

The first mistake paved the way for Aironi's opening try when winger Kaine Robertson intercepted to cross, while midway through the half Connacht failed to deal with Danwel Demas' grubber kick and South African Gareth Krause pounced for Aironi's second. Connacht had kept pace in the opening 40 minutes with an Ian Keatley penalty, and the Connacht outhalf's incisive break led to a Ray Ofisa try, closing the gap to 14 -10, but Connacht, struggling to get a foothold, also spurned other try scoring chances.

Instead it was the home side that regained the initiative after the break. They edged ahead with a Teto Tibaldi penalty and drop goal from outhalf James Marshall, while Keatley converted one of two penalty attempts in a bid to narrow the gap. However the momentum was with the home side and they finished with a third try from Demas.

Connacht v Aironi: G Duffy, B Tuohy, N Ta'auso, T Nathan, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, S Cronin, J Hagan, M Swift, M McCarthy, A Browne, J O'Connor, R Ofisa. Replacements, R Ah You for Hagan and B Upton for Browne (60m ), K Matthews for Ta'auso (63m ), R Loughney for Wilkinson and J Muldoon for O'Connor (71m ), C Willis for Murphy (73m ).

 

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