CONNACHT COACH ERIC ELWOOD expressed his delight that his side are still in the Heineken Cup quarter-final mix after a 22-14 win over Biarritz.
“The young guys were just magnificent,” he declared.
Asked if he would try to keep a lid on the euphoria of a well-deserved win over the two-time Heineken Cup finalists, Elwood edged towards the opposite reaction.
“Things are bad enough around here,” he commented. “The lads worked extremely hard. Let them have a few beers, what do I care? I’ll see them on Monday at training.
“They’re young lads, very level-headed, but beating Biarritz at home doesn’t happen every day. Let them enjoy it.”
On the button
They were only on Sky Sport’s red button but it mattered not a jot to the 6,583 supporters that watched the action unfold at the Sportsground.
Connacht were clearly the better side but no-one was breathing easy until Dan Parks landed his fourth penalty with seven minutes remaining.
Connacht had Biarritz rattled early and it showed. (©INPHO/James Crombie)
Biarritz would not have arrived in Ireland thinking of losing bonus points but it was their only crumb in the closing stages and, with the game’s final drive, they bulled over for a try.
Dimitri Yachvili had a kick out on the left touchline to pull his side within the seven-point margin and secure a solitary point.
It drifted right and wide meaning the French side left with nothing but a series of chastening memories.
Sky Sports declared Mike McCarthy as their man-of-the-match and arguing for Dan Parks, Willie Falloon, or Brett Wilkinson would be moot as the team will share the victory as a collective before contemplating a repeat in France next weekend.
The penalty count, Elwood pointed out, was 8-2 in favour of Biarritz at the break and Eoin McKeon was still five minutes away from rejoining the action after a yellow card.
Controversial decisions were merely mentioned, rather than focused on and agonised over.
It made a refreshing change for the westerners who have experienced that close but not close enough feeling too many times in recent years.
Following up on success
McCarthy, who was immense for his team, spoke about retaining focus ahead of the return tie and securing the side’s first away win of the Heineken Cup.
When it was pointed out to the second-row that Connacht had defeated Zebre away in Europe this season, he replied, “Oh. Yes. How embarrassing.”
As he left, McCarthy reasoned, “That’s what happens when you interview a second-row.”
Perhaps Elwood had allowed the Connacht lads to crack open the beers in the post-match dressing room.