Sunday 17 December 2017

Elwood targets Harlequins scalp to sign off on high

Connacht coach Eric Elwood believes his side can end their miserable losing run by beating Harlequins in Galway next Friday to finish their maiden season in the Heineken Cup on a high note.

Elwood's charges belied their losing run -- which now stands at 14 games -- with a fiery performance that forced Toulouse to dig deep before nailing a bonus point 10 minutes from the end.

Toulouse captain Thierry Dusautoir led the praise of Connacht's performance and said he was not surprised that they mounted such a challenge at Stade Ernest Wallon on Saturday.

"They are a good team. It is their first time in the Heineken Cup and they play great rugby. Except us no one had gotten a bonus point against Connacht so we knew it was going to be really difficult," he said.

Elwood said he was pleased with the display, especially after the abject performance away to Aironi the previous week, but he reckons that a win over Harlequins next week would give them momentum for the rest of the season.

"We went into the Heineken campaign to make sure we were competitive and we could play at home and away and be competitive. But ultimately the one thing we wanted out of that campaign was the win and we have one chance left," said Elwood.

"I felt a lot of our younger players did well. I wanted to give everyone a run to experience playing rugby against Toulouse in Toulouse and hopefully they'll learn and grow from that.

"I'm delighted as well that the fans got something to cheer about, even if we didn't win. It was important that we acknowledged the fans after the game, which we did.

"They supported us, they travelled and they came here in hope as well. I think they will be happy with the performance; I think they'll be happy with the boys. It would be great to reward them with a win next week."

A shock win was never on the cards but Connacht, despite their scrum being in all sorts of trouble, took the game to the French champions and deservedly hit the front when Niall O'Connor landed a penalty from 40 metres having earlier missed an easier one.

Toulouse only got into the Connacht 22 three times in the first half, but they scored two tries off these forays, with Fijian Sevens international Timoci Matanavou crossing before Maxime Medard got another to make it 10-3 at the break.

Toulouse pounded the Connacht line for several minutes after the restart and the pressure finally told, with No 8 Louis Picamoles getting their third try with a tap and go after another infringement by the visiting pack.

Connacht hit back with Tiernan O'Halloran superb on the left wing and they again took the game to Toulouse before the hosts broke 10 minutes from time for Matanavou to get in for his second try down the left to secure the bonus point.

Toulouse -- M Medard; V Clerc, Y David (C Poitrenaud 60), F Fritz (L Beauxis 40), T Matanavou; L McAlister, L Burgess (J-M Doussain 70); G Steenkamp (D Human 64), W Servat (C Tolofua 65), C Johnston; Y Maestri (G Lamboley 60), P Albacete; J Bouilhou (S Sowerby 67), T Dusautoir, L Picamoles.

Connacht -- G Duffy; F Vainikolo, K Tonetti, D McSharry (H Fa'afili, 61), T O'Halloran; N O'Connor (M Nikora 67), P O'Donohoe (D Moore 67); B Wilkinson (D Buckley 74), A Flavin (E Reynecke 61), D Rogers (S Maguire 48); M Swift, M McCarthy; J Muldoon, R Ofisa, G Naoupu (E McKeon 74).

REF -- W Barnes (England).

Irish Independent

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