No positives for frustrated Elwood

CONNACHT boss Eric Elwood admitted it was “difficult to find positives” after his side were edged out by Gloucester on Saturday and remain without a win in the Heineken Cup.

Now he bids to rally his troops as they head to Kingsholm for the return fixture at the weekend. Elwood reasoned: “We know we are capable of mixing with this opposition but they will be a different proposition at home, and that’s the challenge for us. It’s difficult to find positives.

We all want the same thing, we want that win. But you have to earn it.”

Elwood must plan without openside flanker Ray Ofisa, who suffered a knee injury on Saturday, while the game comes too soon for Johnny O’Connor, who is “making good progress” from a calf injury.

Elwood’s squad, which on Saturday boasted a total of 20 international caps, will now head to Gloucester, who had 169 capped players on the park in Galway.

It told in the strength of the Gloucester pack which came to the fore in the second half. However, Connacht carved out opportunities, mainly through their aerial prowess and a dogged pack performance at the breakdown, led by Mike McCarthy. Having fallen 11-0 behind, Connacht stormed back in the second half but ran out of steam against the English side.

“We struggled in the second half to get field position, but I would have thought when it was a one-point ball game, we would have pushed on because we had a bit of momentum, and that was disappointing,” said Elwood.

“We should have taken the initiative to push on and go for the jugular, and take that game, but we were on the back foot all the time. We were giving penalties away in the set piece because their scrum was good, then they kicked to the corner so it was difficult to get the ball off them. That’s the problem, if you are facing a dominant set piece, then you are under the pump.”

Despite a positive start with a turnover ball and break from David Gannon, the visitors opened the scoring on seven minutes with a penalty from outhalf Freddie Burns.

The number 10 then punished the hosts who were pinged at the breakdown for Gloucester to go 6-0 up before left wing Daniel Simpson-Daniels touched down to put 11 points between them.

Critically, Connacht replied almost immediately — although it came from a somewhat hesitant Garryowen from Niall O’Connor and Ray Ofisa did well to reclaim possession.

The pass bounced into the hands of a chasing Gavin Duffy, who had enough power and pace to finish near the posts for O’Connor to convert.

That score provided the impetus both Connacht and the 5,115 supporters needed and when O’Connor posted a 43rd minute penalty to close the gap to a point, the hosts looked poised to grab their first Heineken Cup win. However, Gloucester reverted to their power pack and a 71st minute penalty ended hopes of a home victory.

CONNACHT: G Duffy (c); M McCrea, K Tonetti, D McSharry, T O’Halloran; N O’Connor, F Murphy; B Wilkinson, E Reynecke, R Loughney; M McCarthy, G Naoupu; D Gannon, J Muldoon, R Ofisa.

Replacements: E McKeown for Ofisa (37), R Ah You for Loughney (ht), F Vainikolo for O’Halloran and P O’Donohoe for Murphy (59), A Flavin for Reynecke (65), M Kearney for M McCarthy (73).

GLOUCESTER: O Morgan; C Sharples, H Trinder, E Fuimaono-Sapolu, J Simpson-Daniel; F Burns, R Lawson; N Wood, S Lawson, D Chistolini; P Buxton, J Hamilton; B Deacon, A Hazell, L Narraway (c).

Replacements: A Qera for Hazell (56), R Harden for Chistolini (61), J May for Trinder (66), M Cortese for Lawson (72), W James for Buxton (72).

Referee: N Patterson (SRFU).

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