Wednesday 20 September 2017

Elwood grounded after Connacht get off to flying start

Connacht 40
Dragons 17

Ian Keatley (right) is congratulated by Fionn Carr after scoring a try. Photo: Ray Ryan / Sportsfile
Ian Keatley (right) is congratulated by Fionn Carr after scoring a try. Photo: Ray Ryan / Sportsfile

John Fallon

Eric Elwood could not have hoped for a better start to his career as Connacht coach, but he has warned his charges there will be tougher days ahead.

A bonus point win at the Sportsground -- their seventh successive home victory over the Dragons -- was the perfect start to his reign as the side that has finished bottom for the past three seasons took top spot after the opening round of games in this season's Magners League.

Ian Keatley led the show, scoring the fourth try in addition to tacking on 20 points with the boot in the sort of performance that Elwood himself delivered many times in the No 10 shirt for Connacht.

But with away assignments against the Scarlets and Glasgow to come in the next two weeks -- Connacht have not won an away match in the competition since April 2008 -- Elwood knows this was a crucial win.

"We are not getting carried away with ourselves. We also said if the result didn't go our way that we wouldn't get carried away with ourselves.

"It is a long journey we are on; we are chuffed with the bonus point," said Elwood.

"We have a massive challenge in the next two away matches because our away form is well documented and the challenge for us going forward is to be competitive away from home and earn that respect away from home."

It was Connacht's seventh successive win over the Dragons at home and the fact that it was achieved without the likes of injured skipper John Muldoon and former Irish flanker Johnny O'Connor was a further cause for optimism.

"It is a nice bonus to get the extra point. Our key focus was to win this game, especially as it was a home game for us and we have a proud record against the Dragons," said Elwood.

"And with two away games to come it was a confidence booster we needed to go out on the road, so we are very pleased.

"We want to try and play the game with a little bit of tempo and I think that is when we are at our best. When we tried to contrive situations and make the ball slow, it just doesn't suit us and the lads went into their shell a bit," he added.

Connacht led 20-9 at the break after a great start in which Niva Ta'auso put Ray Ofisa over after just three minutes, with hooker Sean Cronin crossing to make it 20-3 after 32 minutes before Matthew Jones added a brace of penalties to leave it 20-9 at the interval.


The Dragons got on top in the third quarter, but Connacht defended well before Keatley broke from deep and forced a penalty right in front of the posts, from which he made no mistake to make it 23-12 after 54 minutes.

That knocked the fire out of the Dragons and when Keatley added another penalty after 59 minutes, the attention of the paltry crowd of 1,371 turned to the prospect of a bonus point.

They were not to be disappointed as Connacht's dominance in the pack led to a penalty try 15 minutes from the end before Keatley made a break from halfway to run in a try and make it a perfect day for Connacht and Elwood.

Connacht -- G Duffy (T O'Halloran, 68); T Nathan, N Ta'auso, K Matthews, F Carr; I Keatley (M Nikora, 68), F Murphy (C Willis, 63); B Wilkinson (R Loughney, 56), S Cronin (A Flavin, 56), J Hagan (R Sweeney, 68); M Swift, B Upton; M McCarthy (M McComish, 56), R Ofisa, E Taylor (D Nolan, 59).

Yellow cards: Taylor (18); Duffy (48).

Dragons -- J Tovey; W Harries, R Gomer-Davies, T Riley, A Brew; M Jones, D Lee; H Gustafson (A McKenzie, 76), S Jones, B Castle (P Palmer, 31); L Charteris (R Sidoli, 52), S Morgan; J Bearman, R Sowden-Taylor (G Thomas; H Ellis (D Lydiate, 40). Yellow card: Charteris (22).

Ref -- J Jones (WRU).

Irish Independent

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