Connacht need 10pts more per game to secure Top 8 in URC

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Connacht Rugby are eight games into the URC season. Only one game from the halfway point of the season which seems to have flown by.

We are enough games into the season now for the league table to really start to take shape. No surprises at the top of the table where you see Leinster with eights wins from eight games. Ulster sit eight points behind in second but with a game in hand, you expect them to close the gap to at least four points. In third and fourth are last year’s finalists, the Bulls and the Stormers, again, something you would expect.

So where are Connacht?

 Connacht currently sit in 13th place on 14 points. They have three wins from eight games after their loss to Munster last weekend. They sit only ahead of Ospreys, Scarlets and Zebre.

Connacht have scored the lowest points out of all the teams in the league.

They have scored 134 points in eight games. That works out to just under 17 points per game. Last season they averaged just over 22 points per game. Now obviously we are not even halfway through the season, but output is down by 5 points per game.

Defensively Connacht are conceding over 22 points per game this season. Last season they conceded just under 28 points per game so defensively they have moved in the right direction and that has been evident when watching them this year. They have tightened up on the defensive side and it has kept them in games late on, the Leinster game in Galway for example, only conceding 10 points to that team is impressive. So, it is clear which side of the ball is hurting them so far this season.

 

Early in the season the attack didn’t look sharp. Especially when it came to the opposition 22. Mistakes were made, passes were sloppy, and it just didn’t click. In the Munster game last weekend, Connacht never really looked to attack. They decided to go with a kick first approach and on another day it very well could have worked. They only lost by seven and there were so many turning points in the game that it could have gone either way. It didn’t strike me as a confident team with ball in hand, however. I feel like last year Connacht would have backed themselves more to break down Munster or beat them out wide with slick moves and passing. I know that the Connacht coaching staff have tweaked the attack from last year but so far it has not paid dividends.

 

This weekend Connacht have a must win game against Benetton at home.
I have spoken already about Connacht’s realistic hopes of reaching the top eight and I really do believe they can achieve that.

They are only five points behind that top eight spot currently, which is conveniently held by Benetton.

 

A win this weekend and you very much stay in that fight. A loss and you are staring down a really tough Christmas period with game against Ulster and Leinster. The less points you need from those games the better.

 

Benetton are a good team, but at home, Connacht should win this. This should be a marker put down to where Connacht see themselves. They need to make Galway a fortress. To do so, you cannot be losing games to Benetton, it just can’t happen. A big win this weekend where Connacht run in four tries and get some of that confidence back would go a long way to stealing a few points against Ulster and Leinster. For that to happen we will need to see the attack step up and find some of that flare we all loved last season. If they don’t, it could be an unhappy Christmas only the Grinch would enjoy.

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