Elwood hopes for a drop of luck with returning faces
Connacht 23 Edinburgh 24:Connacht coach Eric Elwood is keeping his fingers crossed for the return of key personnel ahead of Friday’s big game with Biarritz in the Heineken Cup.
Five front-line forwards were missing from action in Saturday’s Pro 12 one-point defeat to Edinburgh at the Galway Sportsground, and Elwood is counting down the days for their return.
“We will not know if they will be fully fit until this week, but we are just hoping that as every day goes by, we have a chance. Certainly we are going to need them because the type of opposition we are playing are very forward oriented and we need our heavyweights back.”
Missing against the Scottish outfit were Ireland’s Mike McCarthy and John Muldoon, prop Nathan White, No 8 George Naoupu, and veteran lock Michael Swift – five players who Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley identified as “the five players you would not want to play against you ”.
However Elwood says his youngsters were “magnificent” against an Edinburgh side boasting nine internationals, pushing them to the bitter end when Connacht’s outhalf Dan Parks missed a drop goal opportunity to seal a home win.
“We were under the pump all week with with a lot of injuries, but the lads were magnificent tonight. We don’t like losing at home and we had an opportunity to win a home game in the Rabo to push up the table and leapfrog a team or two. The young lads did well, but when you make errors and are not clinical, you will get punished.
“However they all stepped up to the plate, particularly in the forwards . . . If they have step up again next week, I have no doubt they will.”
In a game which could have gone either way, Edinburgh, however, always had their noses just in front and capitalised on Connacht errors.
The first try from Tim Visser came following a breakdown in the Connacht attack after just six minutes, but Connacht responded well when Parks’ chip gave Connacht an attacking line-out five metres out, and the pack drove over with hooker Jason Harris Wright claiming the touchdown. After both outhalves exchanged penalties, Edinburgh took a 17 -10 lead four minutes from half time when star man Greig Laidlaw chipped over the defence for the inrushing Matt Scott to score.
Laidlaw added the extras but two Parks’ penalties either side of the break reduced the deficit to a one-point game heading into the final 20 minutes. The visitors looked to have done enough when David Denton broke from his own half before Laidlaw supplied McInally for the touchdown on 65 minutes.
But with Robbie Henshaw leading the Connacht attack, aided by Fetu Vainikolo, Danie Poolman dived over in the left corner with Parks producing a super touchline conversion.
Connacht created further chances to take the points until Parks’ drop goal effort in the 79th minute sailed wide.
“Dan is obviously disappointed. He knows it’s part and parcel of his job to get those kicks. In the past he has won us games, and I have no doubt he will win us games later on in the year,” said Elwood.