Connacht head to Edinburgh desperate to break losing run

Dave McSharry -back in action after a lenghty injury absence.

Dave McSharry -back in action after a lenghty injury absence.

Connacht Rugby are on the road again tomorrow evening, heading to Scotland to face an Edinburgh side that has lost only once at Murrayfield this season.

Although the Scottish outfit has grabbed only three wins to date this season, Connacht coach Pat Lam believes Edinburgh is a dangerous side, particularly on their home pitch, but he hopes his players can repeat last season’s performance at the venue when they came away with a well deserved 32-24 win.

Having lost their seventh RaboDirect Pro 12 game on the trot, there is increasing pressure for this side to get a win, but Lam says it is more about Connacht focusing on the job.

“Obviously there is a big focus to go over there and get a win, but it’s more on doing our jobs. We need to win, we know that.”

With the short turnaround from Saturday’s defeat to Scarlets, Lam is managing several of his players, particularly openside Jake Heenan and Craig Clarke. Prop Brett Wilkinson is also doubtfulwith a neck strain, while Dani Poolman is ruled out with a knee injury that could also rule him out of the Heineken Cup.

However John Muldoon and Andrew Browne returned to training this week, while Eoin McKeon is available this weekend.

It has been a frustrating few weeks for Connacht - and last week’s 24-21 loss to the Scarlets keeps them bottom of the league table - one point below Zebre - the Italian side which provided Connacht's only victory in the the opening round.

Once again Connacht had the opportunities to win this fixture against a side missing 10 internationals, in addition to losing three to the sin-bin, but unforced errors, and a lack of finishing prowess and composure at the end let them down, allowing Simon Easterby's Scarlets to maintain their push for a play-off position.

Pat Lam admits his frustration as Connacht recorded their third bonus-point loss.

"We are very close [to breaking this sequence of losses]. Everyone can see it. But it is frustrating for me and for everyone. Everyone is disappointed. There is a lot of effort and heart and that is what you want, but ultimately it has to be clinical.

"I would be worried if we were not creating opportunities, but we are not finishing them. We just have to keep working on it. Now we have a short turnaround and have to fight for a win in Edinburgh."

Missing Ireland squad member Robbie Henshaw, but with Eoin Griffin and Dave McSharry reforming their midfield partnership for the first time in 10 months, Connacht gave full rein to their youthful backline, while openside Jack Heenen was an influential link at the breakdown. It provided Connacht with three opening penalties, but rather than push on after the first yellow card when camped on the Scarlets' line, the home side lost their attacking momentum. Scarlets, however, took their opportunity from a penalty to touch and right wing Frazier Climo, in his first game since arriving from New Zealand's Taranaki cup side, grabbed the opening try to give his side an 11-9 half time lead.

While Ronaldson missed an opportunity to regain the lead after the break, Scarlets bullied their way over for two tries in quick succession - hooker Kirby Mihill grabbing the first from a maul and scrumhalf Gareth Davies diving in four minutes later for a 25-9 lead.

However a Matt Healy try from an intercept and 60m dash provided real hope and when replacement hooker Jason Harris Wright touched down from a well-worked drive after the second Scarlet's yellow card in the 67th minute, it left just three between the sides. In a prolonged period of extra time, Connacht desperately tried to keep the ball alive, but they could find no way through the Scarlets' defence.

Connacht: G Duffy, D Leader, E Griffin, D McSharry, M Healy, C Ronaldson, K Marmion B Wilkinson, S Henry, N White, M Swift, C Clarke, A Muldowney, J Heenan, E Masterson. Replacements, R Loughney for Wilkinson 33m, J Harris-Wright for Henry and R Ah You for White (54m ), D Parks for Ronaldson 57m, M Kearney for Swift and G Naoupu for Masterson 60m, F Carr for Duffy 64, F Murphy for Marmion 77m.

 

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