Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Elwood relieved with narrow win

Connacht head coach Eric Elwood felt his side deserved the win over Zebre

Connacht head coach Eric Elwood was relieved to see his team finish on the right side of a tight result at the Sportsground as they beat Zebre 25-20.

A second-half penalty try seemingly put the westerners in full control of their final Heineken Cup Pool 3 match, leading Zebre 19-6. But the Italians dug deep to rattle off 14 unanswered points, including a try from winger Ruggero Trevisan and a fifth successful penalty from Daniel Halangahu.

Decisively, though, Dan Parks pulled victory from the jaws of defeat as his penalty and late drop goal completed his match-winning 20-point tally. Elwood said: "We got the victory which was important, but when we got the (big) lead we took the foot off the pedal and by doing so we gave them the opportunity to get back into the game and we let them run at us."

He added: "However, the pleasing thing was that when they took the lead, we showed a lot of character in coming back to win the game. It's nice to say we won the game, winning ugly, but we finished the campaign on a high, and I will take that."

The Connacht supremo, who is being replaced by Pat Lam at the end of the season, felt that his players were a little too eager in running the ball wide at times.

"When you want to score, we have to earn the right to go wide," he said. "We went wide too early. If we have to win games, we have to earn them - it goes to the wire no matter who we are playing and we have no right to think we are that much better than anyone else."

Parks, whose drop goal in the 74th minute sealed the victory, once again was an influential figure for the Irish province.

"In the first half Dan controlled the game, and in the second he made some uncharacteristic errors, but it's important to have someone who can guide you around the park," added Elwood. "More importantly, when he can hit those drop goals and long-range penalties - that's what he is here for, and that's what he did to close out a tight game."

Zebre may have missed out on gaining their first win of their debut season, but 15-point out-half Halangahu believes it will happen for the improving outfit.

"We can keep saying we are unlucky, but the reality is it keeps happening and you can only put that down to luck so many times," said the Australian. "We are technically improving, but our mentality has to catch up so we can put teams away when we are in that position."

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