Connacht brace themselves for Bradley’s Gunners

Man of the match George Naoupu makes inroads in the Scarlets’ defence as Connacht claim a second scalp in the RaboDirect Pro 12.

Man of the match George Naoupu makes inroads in the Scarlets’ defence as Connacht claim a second scalp in the RaboDirect Pro 12.

An interesting challenge awaits Connacht tomorrow evening when they come up against Michael Bradley’s Edinburgh at Murrayfield (7.30pm ).

Connacht travel to the Scottish capital with the momentum of two wins on the trot, but they will come up against an Edinburgh outfit determined to get their first points in this season’s RaboDirect Pro 12.

Connacht have never beaten Edinburgh at home, and coach Eric Elwood knows Bradley has the advantage in this encounter.

“There is no doubt Michael knows us so so well, we do not know them as well. He knows the lads inside out as he knows me. He knows what we are capable of and he knows our weaknesses and will try to exploit those. I think he might have a couple of surprises up his sleeves, but we would like to think we might have a couple of our own,” Elwood says.

“At the end of the day it’s four points available. They will be under pressure, but we have never won in Murrayfield and we go there trying to rectify that.”

Several players were rested earlier in the week after suffering knocks and bruises, but Elwood is unlikely to make changes to a winning side if all are available. Johnny O’Connor, who missed last week’s match due to injury, will return to the squad, while Frank Murphy is recovering from a groin strain from last weekend’s match against the Scarlets.

It has been the perfect start for Connacht this season - the first time the province has won the opening two rounds - but tomorrow they face a different challenge against a team that enjoys utilising the space of Murrayfield, is strong on the counter-attack, and will be keen to get their first win under Bradley’s stewardship.

“The key for us is to get amongst them at the breakdown because they compete very well there, and certainly when we have the ball we will need to hold onto it. The style they play means we must improve defensively from last week, because if you give Edinburgh time and space, they will punish you.”

Last Saturday Connacht did just enough to win their opening home fixture, but they will not find Edinburgh at Murrayfield as accommodating. While Connacht’s set piece struggled in the first half, they upped the tempo in the second half to take the lead.

"It was big day for Connacht Rugby,” said Elwood. “ We knew we were under pressure because it was a big occasion with the opening of the new terrace - there was a lot at stake.

" Maybe the pressure got to us. We lacked a bit of fluency in defence, we slipped off tackles, and didn't play with the usual buzz. But at half time we were still in the game, and thankfully key personnel got their hands on the ball, started to carry and give us go forward ball, and once we got field position, thankfully we got the penalty.

Despite ruling first phase possession, the Scarlets only led by 6 - 3 with outhalf Dan Newton posting two penalties. Connacht, having struggled to gain a foothold in the opening half, trailed by only three points with Matthew Jarvis converting one of three penalty attempts.

However the visitors pulled away in the second half with a converted try from lock Adam Shingler in the 47th minute before Connacht, led by influential No 8 George Naoupu, secured a foothold in the last 30 minutes. Centre Henry Fa'afili, who looked strong in attack throughout, carved the space before offloading to a supporting Mark McCrea who crossed for a 54th minute try, which Jarvis converted.

When replacement Niall O'Connor potted a 67th minute penalty, Connacht grabbed the lead for the first time and held out for another two-point win in this season's RaboDirect Pro 12.

Connacht v Scarlets: G Duffy (cpt ), M McCrea, H Fa'afili, E Griffin, T O'Halloran, M Jarvis, F Murphy, R Loughney, A Flavin, R Ah You, M McCarthy, M Swift, J Muldoon, R Ofisa, G Naoupu. Replacements, E Reynecke for Flavin (52m ), B Wilkinson for Loughney, N O'Connor for Jarvis (both 61m ), TJ Anderson for Muldoon, P O'Donohoe for Murphy (both 68m ).


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