Saturday 21 April 2018

Connacht aim to finish pool stage with 'polished' win

Connacht's Matt Healy. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht's Matt Healy. Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Safe in the knowledge they will play their Challenge Cup quarter-final at the Sportsground, Connacht's next mission is to finish as high up the seedings as possible.

While the Westerners are guaranteed home comforts for their last-eight clash, any potential semi-final may well lie on the road, unless results go in their favour.

A bonus-point win this afternoon (2.30) against an Oyonnax side whose interest in the competition has long gone, should be on the cards and in truth, the biggest danger to Connacht's chances of finishing on 26 points is complacency.

Kieran Keane's side dug out an important draw last weekend against Worcester but felt like they should have maintained their winning streak.

As it is, they are still sitting pretty on top but that draw may cost them further down the road.

The Kiwi has again gone with a full-strength side. Naulia Dawai and Matt Healy, who will make his 100th appearance, are the only two changes.

"Any time Connacht have been a little bit complacent at the start, we have suffered on the scoreboard," backs coach Nigel Carolan warned.

"We are aware of the connotations, but if we go out there and believe we are going to be the Harlem Globetrotters, then I think we could be in for a tough day at the office."

Former Munster scrum-half Mike Prendergast is working as Oyonnax's attack coach but his side may be in for a long afternoon in Galway.

"We have a good record at home," Carolan added. "The last game (Ulster) ended positively, and before that Brive, which was a polished performance and we expect that again."

Verdict: Connacht

Connacht - T O'Halloran; N Adeolokun, E Griffin, B Aki, M Healy; C Ronaldson, K Marmion; P McCabe, D Heffernan, C Carey; U Dillane, Q Roux; E Masterson, N Dawai, J Muldoon (capt). Reps: S Delahunt, D Coulson, D Robertson-McCoy, G Thornbury, James Connolly, C Blade, T Farrell, C Kelleher.

Oyonnax - A Muller; D Ikpefan, U Seuteni, R Hansell-Pune, T Giresse; A Fuertes, J Hall; K Vartanov, Q MacDonald, T Laclayat; F Fabbri, S Christian Njewel; C Browning, B Taieb (capt), T Tauleigne. Reps: B Geledan, T Raynaud, I Mirtskhulava, S Kerry, J Audy, M Veau, J Lima, L Barba.

Ref - C Maxwell-Keys (England)

Irish Independent

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