Elwood warns Connacht to be on their toes for a full 80 minutes

Connacht captain Gavin Duffy, with support from Tiernan O’Halloran, breaks through Ashley Smith’s tackle to score a winning try against the Dragons, making it three wins from four for Eric Elwood’s men.

Connacht captain Gavin Duffy, with support from Tiernan O’Halloran, breaks through Ashley Smith’s tackle to score a winning try against the Dragons, making it three wins from four for Eric Elwood’s men.

Connacht, with 13 points on the RaboDirect Pro 12 table from four outings, face a different and more difficult challenge tomorrow evening in Wales.

They head to Liberty Stadium knowing the Ospreys are one the strongest and most expensively assembled outfits outside Ireland at a venue where even achieving a bonus point is always difficult.

Still smarting from their bonus-point loss to Edinburgh, which was a missed opportunity, Elwood says there are now bigger challenges ahead.

“We have two big games with Ospreys and Leinster away - two very good outfits with big squads so we are under no illusion. We have a tough two weeks before the break.

“The Ospreys are a great side, a quality side - to me they are the best team in the league to date - the manner in which they play, their physicality, quality of personnel, the way they play the game defensively - and we are going to be well tested in the Liberty. They put it to Ulster and Leinster and they are extremely difficult to beat at home.”

Elwood is concerned with Connacht’s poor start in their two home matches, particularly last weekend’s lacklustre first half. As a result he is looking for an 80 minute effort tomorrow.

“We know and recognise we cannot to dig ourselves out of big holes every time. When you come up against the Ospreys and you give them 10 points, then you are in for a long night. It is something we need to get to get to grips with quickly because there is no tougher team than the Ospreys.

“History would say it going to be extremely diffiucult but it’s improtant to get something out it. We will be be looking for minute one-to-minute eighty because they will not stop. They beat Edinburgh in the 82nd minute so you know they are coming at you for the whole eighty minutes. We have to be on show our mettle because we cannot expect favours from anyone - it’s going to be tough.”

Elwood has no new injury worries, and is expected to welcome back Michael Swift who was unavailable last week due to illness. Elsewhere it is possible Elwood might give some of his subs a start at this juncture in the campaign. TJ Anderson has done well on his introductions which could merit a starting berth, but if so, that could result in a backrow shuffle with John Muldoon making a switch.

In the backs neither outhalf has nailed down this position. Niall O’Connor started last week and will probably get the nod again, but Matthew Jarvis, the former Ospreys youngster, will to be looking to get some game time against his former clubmates.

Last weekend Connacht found themselves 13 - 3 behind after an insipid first-half display, but they took over after the break, played all the rugby, and deservedly took their third win of this season's RaboDirect Pro 12.

“We are very good at home, we are a difficult yeam to beat and even though we went behind in both home games, we showed character to come back,” said Elwood. “I would just like us to start well, kick on from that, and show people what we can do in attack because we work too hard in defence,” he said.

The visitors had started brightly with a Jason Tovey penalty in the third minute, but Connacht, through their scrum and line-out, secured sufficient possession to take control territorially.The reward was three penalties, one of which outhalf Niall O'Connor successfully kicked, while the third penalty Connacht attempted to drive for the line. In opting to go wide, the move broke down just yards from the line, while right wing Brian Tuohy was also hauled down by a disciplined Dragons' defence.

The visitors took advantage of Connacht's lacklustre defence as holes started to appear. A break from Matthew Pewtner provided the home side with momentum, and prop Nathan Williams finished off, driving through in the 31st minute for a try. With their tails up Dragons continued to stymie Connacht at the breakdown and Tovey edged them further in front with a 33rd minute penalty for a deserved 13 - 3 lead.

However Connacht's urgency increased in the second half as the forwards started to gain the ascendancy, and with Mike McCarthy secure in the line-out, Connacht found their feet. The reward came in the 56th minute when centre Eoin Griffin finished off in the left corner and replacement outhalf Matthew Jarvis converted, closing the gap to three points. Nine minutes later, still pressuring the Dragons' line, Gavin Duffy crossed out wide after the forwards, led by John Muldoon, had made the hard yards. With the Dragons denied possession, Connacht continued to dominate and, although they could not add to their score, they did enough to regain their winning momentum in front of 3700 at the Sportsground.

Connacht v Dragons: G Duffy (c ), T O'Halloran, E Griffin, JH Fa'afili, B Tuohy, N O'Connor, F Murphy, B Wilkinson, E Reynecke, R Ah You, D Gannon, M McCarthy, J Muldoon, J O'Connor, R Ofisa. Replacements, R Loughney for Wilkinson and A Flavin for Reynecke (48m ), M Jarvis for O'Connor (55m ), O'Donohoe for Murphy (56m ), D Roges for Ah You (56m ), TJ Anderson for Ofisa (62m ).


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