Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 31 July 2014

Tyrone Howe: The bragging rights are hard to come by at Connacht's Sportsground

Had Connacht benefited from a little bit of luck in the last fortnight, it is more than likely that Ulster would be facing the leaders of the Magners League this Saturday.

With two wins under their belt, Connacht were in a leading position against the Scarlets and just faded in the last few minutes with the team reduced to 14 men. As it is, they currently and deservedly occupy fourth position and are good value for it.

One thing about the men from the West is that they are no pushovers and rarely gift you anything.

The positive start they have made to the season means that they are even less likely to give up that approach now. The Sportsground is far from flashy and a notoriously difficult venue, particularly for French teams, who struggle to deal with the culture shock.

So, Connacht is a team that should be fully respected and this season, under Eric Elwood, they seem to have been taken up another gear.

The Ireland legend has continued the good work of his predecessor, Michael Bradley, and beneath his composed, quietly-spoken exterior lies a cold and ruthless competitive streak which seems to relish and perform best in the role of the underdog.

This made him a perfect fit for Connacht as a player, and now as head coach.

Winning away in Glasgow is no mean feat but the hat-trick of tries from winger, Fionn Carr, against the Scarlets shows where the biggest threat lies.

So, it is up to Ulster to overcome a combative pack and deny young flyhalf Ian Keatley space and time to get his backline moving.

Ulster have the star names and players but a positive and disciplined mental attitude will be the key to securing the first bragging rights of the interprovincials.

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