Clinical Connacht stun European champions in five-star displayOctober 2, 2012 - 7:00am
Friday saw a special night at the Sportsground, one of those nights that can often spring up out of nowhere for Connacht and one which will hopefully be a catalyst for more good things to come.
It would be easy to get carried away. In the past, Connacht have often failed to build on the barnstorming displays, but this was about a lot more than a bonus point win against their provincial rivals and the Heineken Cup champions. Friday saw a definite shift in direction.
Through injuries and wavering form, Elwood and his management team have been forced to shuffle the deck in the opening month of the season and on this night, the trump cards just kept coming up.
The four up-and-coming stars in the backline will be the source of much hope for Connacht. We know about Tiernan O’Halloran and Eoin Griffin; we know about Dave McSharry’s successful move West; and we now know about Maris College Athlone full-back Robbie Henshsaw.
The young full-back has made some impact on the professional scene since his introduction, underlining the rich and absolutely vital breeding ground of talent that the Athlone region provides the western province.
All of these players were guided by one force in Friday’s win – Dan Parks. The Scottish international made his bow at the Sportsground and while neutrals might have pointed to the odd mistake and played down his role, every Connacht supporter at the College Road venue were all too aware of the difference he made.
You’d have to be a Connacht follower to really appreciate the thundering impact he had, talking, cajoling, guiding, directing and barking at every player. He was a coach on the pitch – in many ways, it was as if Eric Elwood had jumped through a time warp and laced up the boots. Those who heralded his arrival out West felt he could be a guiding force, and the evidence is now clear.
Connacht scored three tries in the first half, yet for the first 20 minutes they were spending large chunks of time inside their own half defending some relentless Leinster attacks. The visitors were missing some key front liners – and had lost four more by half-time to injury – but were still expected to win at a canter, such is the depth of talent in the squad.
For more, read this week's Connacht Sentinel.