Thursday 23 November 2017

Connacht flops warned to justify place in squadafter 'unacceptable' display

Aironi 20 Connacht 6

Ian Bransfield At Stadio luigi Zaffanella

Positives were few and far between for Connacht assistant coach Billy Millard after a performance he described as "totally unacceptable."

Eric Elwood's men failed to pick up so much as a losing bonus point in the Italian backwater as they slumped to their 13th consecutive defeat, a losing sequence that stretches all the way back to last September.

Saturday's performance was by some way the most unsatisfactory, as the Westerners registered just two converted penalties -- from Matthew Jarvis and Niall O'Connor -- over the course of the 80 minutes and looked a completely different side to the one which outplayed Leinster just one week before.

"Personally speaking, there is nothing positive we can take from this," bemoaned Millard when it was all done and dusted. "Tonight was the most disappointing of all; the performance was totally unacceptable, right across the field.

"I've always been of the belief that if you lose games in that fashion you either don't care or you're careless, and I think tonight was a bit of both.

"You'd like to think you come with the right attitude, after all, this was a chance to break our losing streak. But we never showed the same level of desire as against Leinster, and our execution just wasn't on the money."

Aironi, by contrast, took just about every chance that came their way, with Samoan winger Sinoti Sinoti scoring the game-breaking try in the second half to augment 15 points from the boot of Luciano Orquera.

Connacht eventually came on strong in the final quarter, and the outcome might have been different had Fetu'u Vainikolo stretched an extra inch with one desperate lunge for the line. Michael Swift and George Naoupu also came close during the frenetic late stages, but by that time their fate was already sealed.

The result sees Connacht drop to second last in the table, with their hopes of catching Ulster to claim a place in next season's Heineken Cup now beginning to look a bit forlorn.

And with a trip to Toulouse next week, as well as upcoming fixtures against both Harlequins and Cardiff, it's not easy to see where their next win will come from.

Millard was adamant, however, that the players who wear the green shirt on any given match-day need to start justifying their selection, and sooner rather than later.

"The players have to aim higher," he said. "They are getting a lot of money to do this.

"A few of them haven't got the experience, but they can still show the right attitude and come out to perform consistently well every week.

"If these guys cannot do it, then we have to find people who can. It's as simple as that."

Millard added: "It's a ruthless market out there in terms of recruiting.

"We lost some good players last season and we need to make sure that we have the right guys on the field, both in terms of the short term and also next year.

"We have a lot of quality players here, but it's getting them to do it consistently."

Aironi -- A Masi; G Toniolatti, R Quartaroli (Benettin 75), G Pizarro, S Sinoti; L Orquera (N Olivier 65), T Keats (T Tebaldi 61); A de Marchi , R Santamaria (T d'Apice 46), F Staibano; J Furno (Q Geldenhuys 41), M Bortolami; N Cattina, S Favaro (Romano 62-66, M Bergamasco 70), J Sole.

Connacht -- G Duffy; F Vainikolo, K Tonetti, D McSharry (H Fa'afili 59), T O'Halloran; M Jarvis (N O'Connor 50), F Murphy (P O'Donohoe 70); B Wilkinson (D Buckley 59), A Flavin (E Reynecke 41), D Rogers (S Maguire 68); M Swift, M McCarthy; M Kearney (S Maguire 43-50, R Ofisa 55), J Muldoon (E McKeon 70), G Naoupu.

Ref -- A McMenemy (SRU)

Irish Independent

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