Stormers brewing for Connacht as class disparity emerges

Chastening defeat to Munster an indictment on chances of progression

Jack Crowley of Munster is tackled by Bundee Aki of Connacht during the United Rugby Championship match between Munster and Connacht at Thomond Park.

Jack Crowley of Munster is tackled by Bundee Aki of Connacht during the United Rugby Championship match between Munster and Connacht at Thomond Park.

Connacht are well and truly in must-win territory heading into the URC's penultimate round of fixtures. They will host the DHL Stormers in Dexcom Stadium this Saturday, following on from their recent hiding at the hands of Munster.

The full-time score in Thomond Park last weekend read 47-12 in favour of the hosts. Few expected the polarity to be quite so stark, yet it now seems that a palpable gap is materialising between the competition's top dogs and its chasing pack.

Connacht's visitors to Galway this Saturday will be licking their lips at the prospect of inflicting further damage on an already wounded beast. They will furthermore hope to reinvigorate their title challenge after an unconvincing win against the Dragons.

Connacht's outlook will be slightly different. They must now precipitate a performance capable of beating the inaugural URC winners. Saturday's game is however their best opportunity to clinch a scalp in these final trio of games.

To do so would remedy what has been a disappointing season for the westerners. They have consistently underwhelmed against high-calibre opposition, while in the same breath, fixtures against lower-quality teams have proven difficult to overcome.

Their prospective opposition have been shaky outside of South Africa this year, and Pete Wilkins' side will surely be look to put pressure on in the early exchanges to ensure this trend continues. Furthermore, the team from Cape town are only one victory ahead of Connacht in the table on 10 wins and 6 losses. Connacht are currently outside the top eight in ninth place, while the Stormers are in fifth.

Last year's beaten finalists were lucky to leave Rodney Parade with a win last Friday. The travelling party trailed 21-16 with 15 minutes to go, before a blazing finish left them 21-44 in the ascendency. And therein lies the strength of John Dobson's side - when they catch fire they are very hard to stop - as Leinster, Ulster and the Bulls will attest to this season.

Their free-flowing attack, complemented by a strong pack and fluid backline will provide a huge test for Connacht. Against Munster, the westerners missed 29 tackles, conceded 14 clean breaks and 19 offloads. In comparison, Connacht had seven clean breaks and four offloads in the game. If Connacht perform to that level again, the Stormers are sure to find gaps at will.

On the personnel front, Connacht will again have to do without the services of Mack Hansen, as it has been announced that he will not be available for the fixture.

Saturday's game is truly do-or-die for Connacht's post-season plight. The room for error is now non-existent, and a loss will ensure a mountain to climb the week after against Leinster.

Connacht will want to avenge last season's semi-final loss, thus ensuring that for the Stormers, lightning doesn't strike twice.

Kick-off in Dexcom Stadium is at 5.05pm on Saturday, May 18. The game will be shown live on RTE and Premier Sports.

 

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