Elwood ready to give youngsters their chance

Connacht coach Eric Elwood has promised to give more young players a chance next weekend after his experimental side beat 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,” said Elwood.

A Fetu’u Vainikolo try in the second half was the decisive score on Saturday.

The Tongan international showed impressive pace to cruise past the Chiefs cover and touch down for Connacht.

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.

Scorers for Exeter Chiefs. Pens: G Steenson (2).

Scorers for Connacht. Pens: M Nikora. Try: F Vainikolo.

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.

Replacements: 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).

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