Sunday 22 October 2017

Elwood eager for Connacht to bring home curtain down on high note

Elwood: Wants strong finish
Elwood: Wants strong finish
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

While their provincial rivals are targeting play-off places, Connacht's season is nearing a close with nothing tangible to chase.

They welcome fifth-placed Cardiff to the Sportsground for their final home game of the season and for some, it will be a farewell to the venue as Sean Cronin, Ian Keatley, Jamie Hagan and potentially Fionn Carr play their last match at home before moving to pastures new.

And coach Eric Elwood is hoping to preserve their unbeaten home run that stretches back to the turn of the year. A seventh placed finish looks to be the best the westerners can look for, but with trips to Belfast and Limerick to come after tonight's clash with Cardiff Blues, it will be tough to leapfrog the Scarlets.

It would represent their best finish to the league if they were to achieve it and Elwood is urging his players to give it one last push.

"There has been a good run since January and it would be great to give our supporters more to celebrate," he said. "We are unbeaten in the Sportsground in 2011 and while we know Cardiff will be difficult to break down, it's important we finish on a high."

Keatley has overcome an ankle injury to start and as a result the hosts are unchanged, with John Muldoon continuing his return to action off the bench.

Cardiff coach Dai Young has made two changes from the side which drew with Ospreys, with Chris Czekaj returning to full-back after a minor knee injury, while Welsh prop forward John Yapp is back after a calf injury.

"The lads have been playing with a lot of confidence. They have worked hard in games and a big effort is now required to bring the curtain down on a positive note on the home games," added Elwood.

The Blues are battling for a semi-final place and need to make up ground having won just one of their last four games.

Ulster and Leinster will be watching with interest.

Verdict: Connacht

Connacht -- G Duffy; B Tuohy, N Ta'auso, T Nathan, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy; R Loughney, S Cronin, J Hagan; M McCarthy, B Upton; A Browne, J O'Connor, R Ofisa. Replacements: A Flavin, B Wilkinson, R Ah You, M McComish, J Muldoon, M Dolan, K Matthews, E Griffin.

Cardiff Blues -- C Czekai; L Halfpenny, C Laulala, J Roberts, T James; D Parks, R Rees; J Yapp, G Williams, T Filise; B Davies, P Tito; A Pretorious, M Williams, X Rush. Replacements: R Williams, S Hobbs, S Andrews, M Paterson, M Molitika, L Williams, C Sweeney, D Hewitt.

Ref -- A McMenemy (SRU).

Connacht v Cardiff Blues,

Live, TG4, 7.45

Irish Independent

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