CONNACHT’S NEWEST RECRUIT Danie Poolman got his career off to the best possible start with a try in the western province’s hard-fought 18-3 win over Treviso at The Sportsground this evening.
The result puts Eric Elwood’s men back to winning ways after they fell to four defeats since the legendary fly-half announced he would step down as coach at the end of the season.
Typically freezing, windy and wet conditions in Galway made things difficult for both sets of players and the prospect of the hardy 4,112 spectators witnessing Connacht’s young backs in full flight grew as dim as the sky.
Instead, Dan Parks showed all of his experience to steer the ship in the first half.
After five minutes the veteran’s kick bounced unkindly for the visitors and the chasers ensured the Italians would cough up an early penalty for holding on in the ruck.
With the green pack taking the ball into contact, Treviso were soon pinged a second time within Parks’ range. He made the score 6-0 after the Italians strayed offside in the 15th minute.
Just before the half hour mark, Parks’ right boot would also provide the game’s opening try.
The number 10′s chip-through was collected by winger Tiernan O’Halloran who made good ground down the touchline before finding Poolman inside. The supporting South Africa was only too happy to show his strength and ground the finish. Parks added the extra two to give the home side a healthy 13-0 half time lead.
With hands and fingers slowly becoming numb in the stands, the second half proved an even more difficult task to overcome than the first for the players involved.
Parks maintained control throughout. A highlight coming with his one-handed pick-up before he kicked another ball in behind the scrambling defence. There seemed no way out for Treviso, and their task was made all the more difficult when replacement winger, Giulio Toniolatti, was sin-binned.
However, Benetton did manage to reduce the deficit to 10 points with 20 minutes still on the clock though an Alberto Di Bernardo penalty. After a long break for treatment to Manoa Vosawai, Di Bernardo then came within a whisker bringing the gap to just seven, but his kick rebounded back off the upright.
Connacht’s collective defence proved strong, and they held out a series of pick and drives from the visitors. At the other end, Parks missed a three-point chance after Treviso were again penalised for holding on.
From that miss, however, came the moment Connacht would seal their third victory of the season; the second against Italian opposition.
Di Bernardo’s 22 drop-out was collected by John Muldoon. He released his fellow back-row Andrew Browne into the 22 and the backs were given (and took) a rare chance to move the ball through their hands, with Gavin Duffy the willing final recipient in the corner.
The club captain had only just taken the field as a replacement after a spell out through injury and his scoring return gave the western province an unassailable 18-3 lead with just six minutes remaining.