11:00am Wednesday 18th December 2013
CONNACHT captain Craig Clarke calls on his side to recapture the form that saw them down mighty Toulouse in time for Newport Gwent Dragons’ visit, writes Iwan Gabe Davies.
The Irish province pulled off one of the greatest Heineken Cup upsets of all time when they beat the record four-time competition champions away 16-14.
But they failed to follow up that magnificent feat in the Stade Ernest Wallon, going down 37-9 in the return fixture at home at the Sportsground on Saturday night.
The Dragons are also looking to bounce back from a heavy defeat, a 32-13 reverse away at Bordeaux-Bègles last Thursday in the Amlin Challenge Cup, for the clash in Galway on Saturday (kick-off 5pm).
Pat Lam’s men are currently bottom of the table, one point below Italian strugglers Zebre.
Looking ahead to the game New Zealaner Clarke, a 30-year-old lock, who joined Connacht this season after captaining the Waikato Chiefs to two successive Super XV titles, has praised his side’s fans and urged his team to get just their second win of the season in the RaboDirect PRO12.
He believes the Sportsground faithful might be able to influence the result this weekend.
“Even when we haven’t got the result, the supporters are so loud in cheering us off the field,” their skipper said.
“This is so new to me, I’ve never experienced anything like it. And the first time I really experienced it was after the Saracens game (the English side edged their Heineken Cup tie 23-17), and it made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.
“It’s somewhat alien to me but I really appreciate it. It makes us want to play better and perform for this group of supporters who are so passionate and loyal.”
On facing the Gwent region on Saturday, Clarke added: “It’s back to the bread and butter of the Rabo this week and we need to get off the bottom of that table.
“We have to bottle some of what we brought to Europe and ensure we get the same accuracy as well as the heart in our next game against the Dragons.”
© Copyright 2001-2014 Newsquest Media Group