Young guns impress for Connacht
Exeter 6 Connacht 8:CONNACHT COACH Eric Elwood has promised to give more young players a chance next weekend after his experimental side ousted Exeter at Sandy Park on Saturday.
Connacht travel to play Harlequins next weekend – they will meet later in the season in the Heineken Cup – and Elwood intends to blood some more youngsters.
He said the key to a successful season for Connacht will lie in the depth of their squad and Elwood was thrilled with the way players stepped up to the mark on Saturday.
“You can only read so much into pre-season games but there was a lot to be pleased about this one.
“I was particularly impressed with the way some of the young lads took their chance, guys like JP Cooney and Peter Reilly who hadn’t played at this level before but looked right at home.
“Exeter were close to full strength, they are playing in the Heineken Cup for the first time this season, so it was very encouraging to see the way our boys stood up to them,” said Elwood.
With props Brett Wilkinson and Ronan Loughney unavailable due to international obligations, Elwood knows he needs options available in the front row during the season.
“It’s a long campaign and you need that strength in-depth. We will be playing in the British and Irish Cup this season as well for the first time and we need players for that. That’s what was encouraging about Saturday, you throw lads out there and they respond and we will be looking for more of that next weekend,” added Elwood.
A Fetu’u Vainikolo try in the second-half was the decisive score at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The Tongan international showed impressive pace to cruise past the Chiefs’ cover and touch down.
Miah Nikora had edged Connacht in front in the opening half but Exeter, with Ian Whitten making his debut in the centre after joining from Ulster, hit back.
Another former Ulster player, Gareth Steenson, landed a couple of penalties to leave it 6-3 at the break before Vainokolo produced the decisive score.
EXETER CHIEFS:P Dolman; J Tatupu, S Naqelevuki, I Whitten, M Jess; G Steenson, K Barrett; B Moon, C Whitehead, H Tui; T Hayes, J Hanks; B White, J Scaysbrook, R Baxter. Replacements: S Alcott, J Yeandle, A Brown, M Foster, S Hill, J Nowell, N Sestaret.
CONNACHT:T O’Halloran; J Loxton, K Tonetti, B Murphy, F Vainikolo; M Nikora, D Moore; F Belham, A Flavin, P Reilly; M Swift, D Gannon; A Browne, E Grace, G Naoupu. Repalcements: J Harris Wright, D Buckley, JP Cooney, M Kearney, TJ Anderson, W Faloon, E McKeon, K Marmion, J Carty, M McCrea, M Fifita, R Henshaw, M Jarvis.
Referee:A Small (England).