Tuesday 20 March 2018

Elwood 'gutted' at last-gasp loss

Scarlets 35
Connacht 33

Eric Elwood has experienced enough contrasting emotions in his first week in charge of Connacht to last a lifetime in coaching.

Top of the table after starting the season with a bonus-point win, Connacht seemed poised for their first away win since April 2008 in a thriller at Parc y Scarlets on Saturday.

The flowing rugby produced a hat-trick of tries for Fionn Carr -- but just as victory was about to hailed, along came the flying Scotsman Sean Lamont to nail them in the final play at the end of seven minutes of stoppage-time. Wave after wave of Scarlets attacks were repelled before the hosts regrouped for a final onslaught.

It's not the first time Elwood has seen a Connacht side hit with a sucker punch in the dying embers of a game, but it's the first time he's seen it as head coach and it hurt even more.

"We are absolutely gutted, to think you would lose a game after that amount of effort and endeavour in the seventh minute of injury-time.

"We should have cleared our lines. We needed to get the ball out of there," said Elwood.


"But the game is about doing the simple things well. We had four or five opportunities to clear our lines and if you kick loose ball at the Scarlets they are going to come back at you and punish you."

Connacht looked to have done enough to secure the win but Lamont dived over for the match-winner. It was a devastating finish to a match where Connacht seemed poised to make it two wins out of two but the sin-binning of Frank Murphy and Ronan Loughney -- the second week in a row they have lost two -- made it difficult.

With Ian Keatley landing seven kicks from as many attempts, Elwood's men looked to have done enough after winger Carr went on a try-scoring spree.

It is only the second time a Connacht player has scored a hat-trick in the Magners League -- another winger, Wayne Munn, did it against Caerphilly nine years ago at the Sportsground.

Connacht settled with two Keatley penalties but the Scarlets fought back to lead by 20-13 at half-time. After the restart, Carr intercepted on his '22' to nab his second try, and his third pushed Connacht 30-23 in front after 68 minutes as Keatley again converted.

Keatley pushed Connacht in front five minutes from time after Davies levelled with his second try and that should have been enough, but the westerners couldn't hang on.

Scarlets -- A Fenby; G North, R King, J Davies, S Lamont; S Jones, M Roberts (T Knoyle 57); P John (I Thomas 57), M Rees (K Ownes 76), R Thomas (P Edwards 76); L Reed, J Fa'amatuainu (D Day 80); J Turnbull, J Edwards, R McCusker.

Connacht -- G Duffy; T Nathan, N Ta'auso (M Nikora 61), K Matthews, F Carr; I Keatley, F Murphy (C Willis 57); B Wilkinson (R Loughney 61), S Cronin (A Flavin 80), J Hagan; M Swift, B Upton; M McCarthy, R Ofisa, M McComish.

Ref -- N Paterson (Scotland).

Irish Independent

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