Friday night sees 6th take on 8th as Connacht welcome Edinburgh to the Sportsground in round 13 of the Guinness Pro 12. The mid-table clash looks set to be an entertaining one, as both teams will be buoyed by recent high-profile scalps in the previous round of matches writes Ross Cannon.
The Western province’s exemplary start to the 2014/15 Guinness Pro 12 season has been reflected no more so, than in their home form. Connacht have reaped the rewards of some stellar home performances, which has resulted in some big scalps and the province boasting an unbeaten record from eight games at the Sportsground. In contrast, wins on the road have not been so easy to come by.
Pat Lam and co. go into Friday night’s clash coming off the back of a historic win over Munster on New Year’s day. In horrendous weather conditions in Galway City, Connacht roared back from 13-0 down to win the tie 24-16.
It was Connacht’s second ever win over the red of Munster in 42 previous meetings and one Pat Lam was reluctant to speculate upon, but the Kiwi did acknowledge his players, saying it was “Probably our best team performance” of the season so far.
Connacht also have the added boost that the South African, Quinn Roux, is set to remain on loan from Leinster for the remainder of the season. The lock has impressed during his brief stint with the club and has played 13 times for the Westerners this season, making 12 starts.
Not only does form favour the men based in the City of the Tribes, but history too adds it weight to a home win. Connacht have won three of their last four encounters between the sides and a win at the Sportsground on Friday night would see Connacht claim a first ever double over the Scottish outfit.
The Connacht team shows just one change from the team that triumphed over Munster, Miah Nikora comes in for Craig Ronaldson who picked up a concussion on New Year’s day.
Connacht Team to face Edinburgh
Mils Muliaina, Darragh Leader, Robbie Henshaw, Bundee Aki, Danie Poolman, Miah Nikora, Kieran Marmion, Denis Buckley, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You, Quinn Roux, Aly Muldowney, John Muldoon (captain),Willie Faloon, Eoin McKeon.
Dave Heffernan, Ronan Loughney, Finlay Bealham, Ultan Dillane, George Naoupu, John Cooney, Jack Carty, Dave McSharry
Similarly, Edinburgh recorded their own bit of history over a local rival, beating the much fancied Glasgow Warriors in the last round of the Guinness Pro 12 to clinch the 1872 Cup with an aggregate score of 26-24 over the two games. It is Edinburgh’s first piece of silverware since 2009.
Away from the momentous win over Glasgow, it has been a mixed bag of results so far this season for the Scotsmen. 5 wins, 6 losses and one draw leaves Edinburgh hovering precariously over the bottom of the league table. Edinburgh’s mixed form can be exemplified by looking at their last five games, WLWLW. A string of wins could see the Scottish team shoot up the Pro 12 table.
If Alan Solomons’ men cannot find motivation in the form book, the manner in which they lost last time out to Connacht should offer as big a motivation as any. The Scotsmen were narrowly edged out 14-13 at home to Connacht, way back in September.
“The memory of that last game still hurts, if I’m being honest. If we had won that game we would have been unbeaten at home this season,” recalls Edinburgh forwards coach, Stevie Scott.
“We didn’t play well at all that day, so we know we need to do better this time round.” If the feeling of revenge is translated from the coaching staff to the players the drive to win will certainly be there for Scottish side.
Edinburgh make three changes to side that beat Glasgow last-time out and all changes come up front as Williem Nel replaces John Andress at tighthead. Roddy Grant moves on to the blindside and Hamish Watson makes the starting XV on the openside.
Edinburgh team to face Connacht
Jack Cuthbert, Dougie Fife, Matt Scott, Phil Burleigh Tim Visser Greig Tonks, Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (captain), Willem Nel, Anton Bresler, Ben Toolis, Roddy Grant, Hamish Watson, David Denton.
Neil Cochrane, Rory Sutherland, John Andress, Fraser McKenzie, Tomas Leonardi, Sean Kennedy, Jade Te Rure, Andries Strauss
By Ross Cannon
Image via Wikipedia