Tuesday 19 November 2019

Elwood braced for 'must-win' clash with Zebre

Connacht 9
Cardiff Blues 13

Coach Eric Elwood believes that next weekend's tricky trip to Italy to play newcomers Zebre has become a 'must-win' match after Connacht let a glorious chance of an opening day victory slip from their grasp at the Showgrounds.

Connacht had enough possession to see off an understrength Cardiff side with ease, but they lacked penetration and guile and paid the price in the end.

The constant wind and rain made conditions difficult for both sides but Cardiff still managed to strike for scores in the opening half and then defend their lead after that.

"We had plenty of possession but we had 11 turnovers in the opening half and that put us under pressure. We just could not hold on to the ball," said Elwood.

The Connacht scrum was on top in the opening half and with the likes of debutant scrum-half Kieran Marmion and promising loosehead Denis Buckley impressing, Elwood's men had a platform for victory but never really looked like carving out the win.

"It's disappointing -- a home game -- dominating a lot of the territory and plenty of possession and to come away with a losing bonus is not really acceptable in a game which we would have targeted.

"It's three points lost but in fairness to Cardiff, they dug it out and took their chances," said Elwood.

Ceri Sweeney, who kicked well from the hand, landed two penalties with the elements at his back before disaster struck for Connacht on the half hour.

Connacht failed to secure possession from their own lineout on their 22 and in the ensuing chaos, 19-year-old debutant scrum-half Lewis Jones pounced to score in the right corner. Sweeney rubbed salt in the wound by landing the touchline conversion.

In contrast, Miah Nikora earlier missed a close-range penalty after a great Connacht scrum, while he was also short with the last kick of the half, a penalty from 40 metres.

Nikora got Connacht off the mark six minutes after the restart but handling errors saw the turnover count rise as Cardiff were penned back in their own half.

Two more penalties from Nikora gave Connacht real hope going into the final quarter but they could not crack a good Cardiff defence.

Connacht -- G Duffy; T O'Halloran, E Griffin ( M Jarvis 62), M Fifita, F Vainikolo (R Henshaw 62); M Nikora, K Marmion; D Buckley, E Reynecke (A Flavin 62), R Loughney R Ah You (62); M Swift, M McCarthy (D Gannon 54); J Muldoon, J O'Connor (W Faloon 51), G Naoupu.

Cardiff Blues -- D Fish; H Robinson, G Evans, G Davies, T James; C Sweeney, L Jones (L Williams 67) ; T Davies (B Bourrust 47), A Kyriacou, T Filise (N Trevett 75); R Copeland (L Reed 47), J Down; R Watts-Jones (L Hamilton 70), J Navidi, A Pretorius.

Ref -- A McMenemy (SRU).

Irish Independent

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