Elwood hopes Connacht can bring same flair to 'Quins
Connacht 30 Dragons 11
Published 07/01/2013 | 05:00
Connacht made a positive start to a year of change at the Sportsground and outgoing coach Eric Elwood is hopeful that the flair they displayed in brushing aside the Dragons sets out a template for the remainder of the campaign.
And with Pat Lam the hot favourite to be named as his successor, with Alex King and Sean Holley falling off the radar, Connacht will now turn their attention to their remaining pool games in the Heineken Cup.
Elwood said this win will send them to London to face Harlequins at the weekend in positive form, while he was also pleased that it puts some daylight between them and the Dragons at the foot of the table.
"It sends us going over to 'Quins with confidence next weekend. We will go over there trying to play the same sort of rugby. But we are under no illusions. They are the English champions, it is a huge challenge, it is the Heineken Cup, but I know the lads are looking forward to it and will relish it."
Once again the displays of Dave McSharry in the centre and 19-year-old full-back Robbie Henshaw gave Connacht a touch of class that the Dragons could not match.
"We are pleased to get back to winning ways. It was a good night for rugby, very conductive to playing to how we want to play," said Elwood. "We made a terrific start, two good tries and the sort of start we wanted."
Connacht's power up front yielded a penalty try, while Dragons struggled to contain the strong running of Henshaw, McSharry and winger Fetu'u Vainikolo.
McSharry set up No 8 George Naoupu for a second try, while the trusty boot of Dan Parks kept the scoreboard ticking over, although there was a disruption when Naoupu was stretchered off after a blow to the head – the injury was not as serious as initially feared – just after the half-hour mark.
"The injury to George came at a bad time for us. There was a momentum swing after the delay and we got a bit sloppy and they got three points," added Elwood.
"They got another three after the restart, but I thought we responded very well and got a good try in the corner. That was a very good response after they threatened and that attitude pleased us.
"We thought we would push on from there and thought we would get the bonus point, but it didn't happen for us. But we were just happy to get the win."
Penalties either side of the break by Tom Prydie suggested a Dragons revival, but Henshaw and McSharry sliced the visitors' defence to send winger Danie Poolman over in the right corner after 45 minutes.
Connacht should have pushed on from there and secured a second try bonus point of the campaign, but Dragons – playing their third game in 12 days and due to play away to Bayonne on Thursday night – somehow found enough in reserve to produce a solid closing half hour.
"Dragons are a bit like us, a workmanlike team who battle away and we knew they were not going to lie down because they are competing with us down at the bottom of the table for positions.
"It is important for us to put a bit of daylight between us and we are now getting closer to the likes of Edinburgh and Cardiff," added Elwood.
Dragons coach Darren Edwards said that their hectic schedule is taking a big toll, but he was pleased with the way they finished and nabbed a late try from Jonathan Evans.
"But all credit to Connacht, they really put us to the sword in the opening 30 minutes and by the time we came to life they were well out of sight," said Edwards.
Connacht – R Henshaw; D Poolman, E Griffin (T O'Halloran 62), D McSharry, F Vainikolo; D Parks (M Jarvis 70), K Marmion (P O'Donohoe 45); D Buckley (B Wilkinson 53), J Harris-Wright (E Reynecke 62), N White (R Loughney 53); M Swift (M Kearney 62), M McCarthy; A Browne, E McKeon, G Naoupu (E Grace 31).
Dragons – H Amos; T Prydie, A Hughes, A Tuilagi, T Chavhanga (J Dixon 56); L Robling (A Smith 69), W Evans; P Price (O Evans 59), S Parry (H Gustafson 59), N Buck (D Way 59); A Coombs; R Sidoli (A Jones 59); L Evans (T Brown 53; J Evans 71), N Cudd, T Faletau.
Ref – A MacMenemy (SRU)