Friday 13 December 2019

Connacht vow to win as time is right to take out champs

With three big signings - including Mils Muliaina (pictured), Bundee Aki and Tom McCartney - to bolster the squad in November, every point Connacht can pick up between now and then will be vital as they bid for a high finish and to qualify for the premier European competition off their own steam for the first time (Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE)
With three big signings - including Mils Muliaina (pictured), Bundee Aki and Tom McCartney - to bolster the squad in November, every point Connacht can pick up between now and then will be vital as they bid for a high finish and to qualify for the premier European competition off their own steam for the first time (Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE)
South African Steph Nel was in charge of Connacht during their 2002-03 season when they started with five straight victories - including a dramatic win over Leinster in the third round of games (Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE)
Connacht made it five victories in succession when carving out a 24-23 victory at the Brewery Field in Bridgend in a match where current Connacht team manager Tim Allnutt suffered a serious head injury which curtailed his career (Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE)

John Fallon

Connacht will tonight bid to win their third game in a row at the outset of a season for only the second time ever and remain on course to match their best ever start to a league campaign.

That came in the 2002-03 season when they started with five straight victories - including a dramatic win over Leinster in the third round of games.

South African Steph Nel was in charge of Connacht at that time and the victories could not have been more dramatic - three of them by a point, one by three points and the other by six.

Former Leinster player Mark McHugh was the hero in several of the games, none more so than at Donnybrook where he landed a last-gasp drop-goal to snatch what remains Connacht's only win in Dublin in the professional era.

Connacht's run started with a late winner away to the Borders on a 28-27 scoreline before pipping Cardiff 23-22 at the Sportsground in the first home game of the season.

The 26-23 win over Leinster really gave the campaign momentum and Newport were dispatched 18-12 at the Sportsground next time out.

Connacht made it five victories in succession when carving out a 24-23 victory at the Brewery Field in Bridgend in a match where current Connacht team manager Tim Allnutt suffered a serious injury which curtailed his career.

The great run came to an end in the next home match when an unfancied Pontypridd side romped to a 40-0 win on a day when nothing went right for Connacht.

Connacht, of course, will not be looking beyond this evening's game against the reigning champions when they will bid to repeat their win of two years ago.

That was one of Connacht's finest wins in recent years when they emerged 34-6 victors. But that was only Connacht's fifth win in 23 league clashes against Leinster.

And with the three big signings - Mils Muliaina, Bundee Aki and Tom McCartney - to bolster the squad in November, every point Connacht can pick up between now and then will be vital as they bid for a high finish and to qualify for the premier European competition off their own steam for the first time.

But it promises to be another special evening at the Sportsground and wouldn't it be superb for the winning start to be maintained?

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