Saturday 19 August 2017

Connacht need to finish title defence with real bang - Swift

Zebre 25-22 Connacht

Connacht's Stacey Ili runs in to score his side's first try Photo: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile
Connacht's Stacey Ili runs in to score his side's first try Photo: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Ex-Connacht star Michael Swift says it vital that his former team-mates can rally for the final weeks of the season and clinch a Champions Cup slot.

Connacht are now in a fight to claim a play-off spot that will see them take on a French or English side at the end of the campaign, and Swift says it's crucial for Pat Lam's side to finish the season with a bang after Saturday's defeat to Zebre.

Craig Ronaldson goes over to score Connacht's second try Photo: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile
Craig Ronaldson goes over to score Connacht's second try Photo: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile

Tries from Stacey Ili and Craig Ronaldson in the opening 16 minutes looked to have given Connacht the start to kick on to victory, but they were dominated by the Italians thereafter and tries from Derick Minnie, Tommaso Boni and Edoardo Padovani clinched the win.

And Swift, who missed out on last year's Grand Final win after 16 years with the province, says it is important that they send Lam off to Bristol on a high, and secure a positive start for their new coach Kieran Keane.

"Definitely they want to finish on a high," said Swift.

"I was looking at the fixtures there. They've got two inter-pros, a tough trip away to Edinburgh and a home game against Scarlets.

James Cannon of Connacht tries to bypass Derick Minnie (left) and Andrea De Marchi of Zebre Photo: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile
James Cannon of Connacht tries to bypass Derick Minnie (left) and Andrea De Marchi of Zebre Photo: Roberto Bregani/Sportsfile

"Obviously Pat has transformed Connacht rugby and he's leaving us in a much better place than when he took it on. The lads will, as well as wanting to do it for themselves, they'll want to do it for Pat."

After four wins in a row during the Six Nations, Connacht slim hopes of reaching the top six faltered last week with a spirited defeat at the hands of Glasgow.

But the loss to Zebre in Italy was Connacht's first at the hands of the league's last-placed team, and Swift says it's vital that they can regain confidence in time for next week's clash with Edinburgh in Myreside.

"It's really disappointing to lose against Zebre, but it was going to happen sooner or later. There's nothing that focuses the mind than a couple of inter-pros coming up.

"There's four games left. Cardiff are only two points behind now but it's still in their own hands and it looks like the play-offs now but a lot to play for.

"There's going to be a change in the personnel. These times of the season are always kind of strange. Back in the day there wasn't much to play for but with potentially a two game play-off they need to put performances together."

Zebre - D Berryman (G Palazzani, 76); K van Zyl (E Padovani, 65), G Bisegni (M Pratichetti, 68), T Boni, L Greeff; C Canna, M Violi; A Lovotti (A De Marchi, 68), T D'Apice (S Tobias, 57), D Chistolini (P Ceccarelli, h-t); G Koegelenberg (V Bernabò, 79), G Biagi; J Furno (O Fabiani, 57), D Minnie, F Ruzza.

Connacht - J Rowland; D Poolman, T Farrell (E Griffin, 68), B Aki, S Ili (C Ronaldson, 15); J Carty, J Cooney (C Blade, 48); D Buckley (I Soroka, 76), T McCartney (D Heffernan, 55), F Bealham (D Robertson-McCoy, 70); Q Roux (J Cannon, 69), A Browne; S O'Brien (E Masterson, 57), E McKeon, J Muldoon.

Ref - M Adamson (SRU)

Irish Independent

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