Elwood pleased as gutsy Connacht get job done
Connacht 18 Treviso 3:A victory over Benetton Treviso, a clean bill of health, and a week’s rest ensures Eric Elwood’s Connacht are in a better place at the conclusion of this latest round of RaboDirect Pro 12 fixtures.
The 18-3 victory over the Italians at the Galway Sportsground has propelled Connacht into eighth place in the Pro 12 league after leapfrogging their opponents to grab a third win of the campaign before the break for the autumn internationals.
And, coming at the end of 10 games on the bounce, including the opening two Heineken Cup rounds, Elwood was “chuffed” to finish with a much-needed victory.
“At the start of the game, with the weather that was in it, if someone had said we would win by two tries to nil, 18-3, would we take it? Absolutely. At the corresponding fixture last year it was also bad conditions and we came out the wrong end, so there was a big focus on winning this must-win game,” said Elwood.
“We are very happy to get the win, we have given the lads a week off, which is well deserved, and hopefully they will be energised coming back for the next block of nine games. And, if we can get a few more guys back in the next week or so, it will be terrific,” he said.
The return of several injured players made a difference against the Italians. Former South African Stormer Danie Poolman grabbed his first try in his first start during the opening half, while replacement Gavin Duffy, just seconds on the pitch, sealed the victory with a 72nd minute try. And Elwood singled out returning flanker Andrew Browne and Michael Swift for praise.
“I thought Andrew Browne was terrific – for a guy who was out all last season, to come back at the start of the year and then suffer a hamstring injury and to have now played a full 80 minutes, he was terrific. Michael Swift was also immense in defence, and a lot of credit goes to those two guys in particular.”
The driving rain played its part in a stodgy affair, although Treviso carved out a number of scoring chances, looking strong with ball in hand.
However Connacht outhalf Dan Parks made use of the wind to establish territorial control, while the pack, and McCarthy in particular, disrupted the Treviso lineouts and stymied the Italian big men in the maul.
Parks put the home side 6-0 in front with two penalties in the opening 15 minutes, but it was Poolman’s 29th minute try that turned the game.
Parks was instrumental with his chip, fullback Robbie Henshaw kicked on and Poolman pounced. Parks converted to ensure a 13-0 interval lead.
“The lineout went well in the first half, but it was difficult in the conditions. Treviso have a very good scrum, but we showed a lot of stability there. We deprived them of set-piece ball in our own half and nullified their maul and that was encouraging.
“It wasn’t a night for playing too much rugby – it was about field position and territory. So we played some decent rugby, but not in our own half, so it was important to rectify that in the second half by playing a bit more possession, but we didn’t get that many opportunities,” Elwood said.
Defensively, Connacht needed to be on their toes after the break as a series of penalties gave Treviso the attacking platform. However, all they could muster in the opening 20 minutes was a penalty from outhalf Alberto di Bernardo.
Parks, however, continued to direct operations, while a super break from John Muldoon established vital field position before replacement Duffy crossed out wide to seal the victory.