Connacht stop rot but Elwood looks for more

It was anything but pretty at the Galway Sportsground but there was immense relief for the 4,189 home supporters when Connacht scraped a late draw on Saturday night.

Despite an uncharacteristically lacklustre display, a last-minute penalty from out-half Niall O’Connor ended Connacht’s 10-game losing run in the RaboDirect Pro 12.

“As bad in all as we played, we have two points in what was a poor game by anybody’s standards,” said coach Eric Elwood. “And we are just happy to get two points. We played poorly, but we got something out of the game going forward to next week. But there is a hell of a lot of work to do next week, because it will not be good enough to beat Edinburgh.”

Edinburgh’s visit to Galway marks former coach Michael Bradley’s first return to the Irish province, and with just three points separating the two teams, they will look for a win after losing to the Dragons on Saturday.

The game is unlikely to be as dogged as Glasgow served up in Galway, where both defences were unyielding. The key difference was the kicking statistic. Although the Warriors missed two poorly-struck drop goals — neither of which were attempted by their out-halves — they nailed every placed kick at goal, while Connacht missed two first-half efforts.

The Warriors had scored only one more try than Connacht going into this game, but, says Elwood, “they take their opportunities through goals and they pride themselves on defence.”

That defence, particularly at the breakdown, stymied Connacht’s ability to build momentum, particularly in the opening 15 minutes when the home side dominated territory. The visitors were helped by some poor handling from Connacht in what proved a scrappy opening half, with the only fizz coming from a clean break from a ruck by the Warriors’ prop John Welsh, who charged over after 26 minutes for a try which Ruaridh Jackson converted.

It took until the stroke of half-time before Niall O’Connor, who had missed two earlier efforts, finally posted a score for the home side after Glasgow were penalised in the maul.

“In a home game you have to take the initiative and take the game to the opposition,” noted Elwood.“Unfortunately, we didn’t do any of those things.”

Jackson was again on target after the break, and it was not until Connacht were handed a lifeline when right-wing Tom Seymour was yellow-carded for killing the ball after a break up field by Tiernan O’Halloran that the home side gathered any momentum.

Three minutes later the Connacht left-wing grabbed possession afterneither Glasgow full-back Peter Murchie nor his counterpart Gavin Duffy could control a chip, and O’Halloran darted in to score in the corner, with O’Connor nailing the conversion to level affairs.

But for a try-saving tackle from John Muldoon and Eoghan Grace, Murchie, would have sealed the deal for the visitors. Instead they retook the lead when Grace was penalised for obstruction, with replacement Duncan Weir slotting the penalty.

The same player then took the wrong option with his team camped inside the Connacht half, opting to chip through. Eoin Griffin grabbed possession and hacked through to lift the siege and when O’Connor was offered a last-minute penalty, he gratefully accepted the chance to level the scores.

Scorers for Connacht: Try: O’Halloran. Con: N O’Connor. Pens: N O’Connor 2.

Scorers for Glasgow Warriors: Try: Welsh. Con: Jackson. Pens: Jackson, Weir.

CONNACHT: G Duffy (capt); F Vainikolo, K Tonetti, H Fa’afili T O’Halloran; N O’Connor, P O’Donohoe; B Wilkinson, A Flavin, R Loughney, M Swift, M McCarthy, J Muldoon, E Grace, G Naoupu.

Replacements: D Moore for O’Donohoe (51), E Griffin for Tonetti (59), D Gannon for Grace (71).

GLASGOW WARRIORS: P Murchie, T Seymour, T Nathan, G Morrison (capt), D Lemi, R Jackson, H Pyrgos, R Grant, P MacArthur, J Welsh, R Verbakel, T Ryder, R Harley, C Fusaro, R Wilson.

Replacements: F Gillies for MacArthur, D Weir for Jackson and C Forrester for Wilson (all 63), G Reid for Grant and S Shaw for Lemi (both 66).

Referee: Peter Allan (SRU).

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