John Mulvihill wants his side to back up their opening day Guinness PRO14 victory against Zebre as they host Connacht at their temporary home, Rodney Parade, on Saturday evening (KO 7.35pm).
Despite being reduced to 14 men in the early stages of the second half, following Josh Turnbull’s red card, Wales’ Capital Region dug in to grind out a victory in Parma thanks to Josh Adams’ try and points from the boots of Jason Tovey and Guinness Man of the Match, Jarrod Evans.
Connacht travel to Wales having picked up a win of their own in the opening round of action, as a Bundee Aki-inspired performance saw them come out on top in a thrilling 28-24 victory over Glasgow Warriors.
Mulvihill hopes the win over Zebre will give his side confidence but expects a free-flowing affair on Saturday.
“It was certainly a tough one to grind out for almost 40 minutes with 14 men, especially against such a dangerous team at home,” said the head coach.
“That’s given us a lot of confidence going forward. We defended really well and had limited opportunities to attack.
“But we can take that confidence into our attacking game this week and having a repeat performance in our defence would put us in good stead.
“The boys have already said that last week would mean nothing if we can’t back it up this week.
“We’ll certainly be looking at the first 20 minutes in each performance this year to make sure that we get our detail and process right.
“We led in the first 20 against Zebre, so if we can have something similar that would be good. Our starts let us down last year.
“Connacht are a good team who are well coached and well drilled. It’s a little bit like playing against Cardiff Blues in green jerseys.
“They play a very similar style and they move the ball a hell of a lot, so defensively we’ve had to try and shut ourselves down this week. It’s been a good week of training.”
In Parma, there were also stand-out performances from young back row duo Shane Lewis-Hughes and James Botham, while Willis Halaholo made a long-awaited return to action following a serious knee injury suffered last November.
Mulvihill has emphasised the importance for his youngsters to build consistency in their performances and welcomes the return of Halaholo, who could come up against close friend Aki on Saturday.
The Australian added: “Shane and Jim need to be patient, and keep putting back-to-back performances week-in, week-out.
“That’s the story of someone like Josh MacLeod who has been strong for Scarlets over the last couple of seasons.
“He’s put the performances together, and if our boys can put in back-to-back performances this year, it will put them in good stead going forward.
“Shane was probably a little but unlucky not to be picked for Wales. He wasn’t far away, and if he keeps proving himself at a regional level then he can definitely take the next step.
“When old mates play against each other, it certainly brings out the best in both of them. But Willis will need a run of games.
“He got through 60 minutes last week, which is fantastic, and that’s the first game he’s had since Christmas time.
“It was really good to see him getting that done, and he’ll be better for it this week.”