WITH JUST 15 tries recorded in 12 league games, Connacht’s wastefulness with scoring opportunities in recent weeks has cost them dearly.
Dan Parks, with 12 points, is the only Connacht player to move the scorer’s pen into the green column in recent weeks as Eric Elwood’s men have been held to ’0′ twice in three games.
Their defeats to Munster and Leinster were compounded with errors within sight of the tryline.
Fetu’u Vainikolo, enjoying an otherwise excellent season, started the malaise by cradling the ball in his right arm as he raced clear against Munster. Ian Keatley, miraculously, caught him and the Tongan could not offhand him with a strong right arm.
George Naoupu missed the game’s best chance when he slid over in the left corner but chose to celebrate before touching the ball down.
It all happened so quickly but, still, five points were squandered and Connacht lost 16-12.
Brett Wilkinson, knocking on within a yard of an unguarded tryline, could not get his side back into their RDS clash against Leinster and sealed a miserable festive campaign for Connacht.
Speaking to TheScore.ie after the 17-0 loss to Leinster, Connacht coach Eric Elwood acknowledged that the home side had benefited from targeting two areas his side had dominated in September when they won 34-6 – the collision and the breakdown.
However, Elwood reserved the bulk of his ruefulness when he referred to the scoring opportunities his side passed up.
He said, “To have nothing after 30 minutes of dominating the game was disappointing. They came up the field and, after a couple of ricochets, they got a quick recycle and [Ian] Madigan got over for the try.
“That’s the difference. They took their chance when they got it and we didn’t take the three or four that we got.”
The positives Elwood can take ahead of this evening’s home tie against Newport Gwent Dragons are the return of Mike McCarthy and Vainikolo to the starting XV and a scrum that is testing sides in the Pro12 and in Europe.
“That’s one area against [Dragons] where we should be in the ascendency,” said Elwood.
The two sides met at Rodney Parade in November and Dragons could only break down the Irish side when they were reduced to 13 men.
If Connacht can keep 15 players on the pitch and take the chances they are presented with, Pro12 win number four should not be a stretch.