Connacht coach Eric Elwood faces another injury conundrum ahead of Saturday’s visit of Edinburgh to the Galway Sportsground (5pm ).
Having welcomed the return of Andrew Browne and captain Gavin Duffy in recent weeks, Elwood is now concerned with a new batch of injuries that include Ireland’s recent man of the match Mike McCarthy, who is struggling with a back injury, props Ronan Loughney (knee ), Rodney Ah You and Nathan White, and hooker Ethienne Reynecke (calf ). Add in the longer term injuries to Eoin Griffin, John Muldoon and George Naoupu, and Elwood describes his latest injury woes as “not a pretty picture”.
“We have a lot of injuries, and when you take into consideration the injuries we had - on top of Griffin, Muldoon, and Naoupu, we are struggling on the injury front,” he says.
As a result Elwood will not name his squad until today’s final training session with hopes some will have recovered sufficiently for Edinburgh’s visit.
Michael Bradley’s side, having lost five in a row, found their form against Ospreys last weekend with a 23-13 win that saw them leapfrog Connacht in the RaboDirect Pro 12 league standings. And with the return of their internationals, Edinburgh will come gunning for Connacht, particularly having lost at the Sportsground in February by 26 - 13.
They possess serious artillery, but Elwood says although Connacht recognise Edinburgh is a good team, this week’s focus has been on themselves.
“It is important to make sure we get our own stuff correct to give ourselves a chance this weekend. We have an extra sesson Thursday [today] and it’s about what we can do the best of our ability and with attention to detail.
“After the disappointment of last Friday night, the key is to get ourselves right and the way we want to play.”
Elwood says primary possession and maintaining structure in attack will be essential to a victory.
“We know when we can exert pressure on any opposition, we have shown that, but it’s the consistency. To exert pressure we have to get the set piece right, and once we get the ball in play, we have to hold our structure and work hard to keep our shape in phased attack.”
Despite last weekend’s disappointing result to the Dragons at Rodney Parade, Elwood says Connacht have bounced back well in the past from defeats, and must do so again on Saturday.
However he will not expect his side to come out on the wrong side of the referee as they did last week. Two sinbinnings, which Elwood believes were unwarranted, proved costly, giving the home side the impetus to grab a rare win.
“I will be honest. I got frustrated with the official. When we were controlling the game. Jason Harris-Wright got a yellow and then Andrew Browne - did they warrant it - in my opinion no. So the whole momentum and the whole game swung on two decisions. Yes, we are accountable for not taking our opportunities, but there were decisions that I felt were harsh and inconsistent.”
The home outfit, without a win in seven games, capitalised on a raft of penalties to score the game's only try.
Connacht, with a 3 - 0 lead after Dan Parks potted a fourth minute penalty, were in the driving seat for the opening 20 minutes. They should have added to that score when a couple of dainty chips provided a real attacking chance five minutes later. Although Tiernan O'Halloran's pass went astray with an overlap out wide, Connacht continued to look the superior side.
Dragons' only threats came via two penalties when Connacht were pinged twice for not releasing, but on the third occasion hooker Jason Harris-Wright was sent to the bin and Dragons' fullback Tom Prydie kicked the resulting 35m penalty to level the scores after 27 minutes. When Connacht blindside Andrew Browne followed soon after, it provided the home side with real impetus. Prydie was well wide with the ensuing penalty, but Connacht, from a position of dominance, found themselves under the cosh in what became a traditional dogfight between these two sides. Eventually the loss of two players took its toll and centre Patrick Leach crossed in the left corner for a 8-3 half-time lead.
The lopsided penalty count continued in the second half and as a result Connacht struggled to make headway. Prydie added 46th and 52nd minute efforts, and although Connacht created several late opportunities after Dragons ' captain Lewis Evans was yellow carded, they could not break through.
Dragons: T Prydie, W Harries, P Leach, A Smith, T Chavhanga, D Evans, W Evans, P Price, H Gustafson, D Way, A Jones, R Sidolo, L Evans (cpt ), N Cudd, T Brown.Replacements: J Dixon for Smyth (HT ), N Buck for Way (55m ), S Jones for Gustafson and J Evans for W Evans (both 58m ),I Nimmo for Sidoli (75m ), I Jones for Evans (78m ), O Evans for Price (79m ).
Connacht: R Henshaw, T O'Halloran, D Poolman, D McSharry, G Duffy (cpt ), D Parks, K Marmion, D Buckley, J Harris-Wright, N White, M Swift, M Kearney, A Browne, W Faloon, E McKeon. Replacements, R Ah You for Buckley (65m ), R Loughney for White (66m ), D Moore for Marmion (75m ).