Sport Connacht Rugby

Saturday 24 June 2017

Big win vital with Wasps in mind

Plenty of options for Lam and Co but Treviso will be no pushover

Pat Lam will expect to see off the challenge of Treviso ahead of Connacht's two big back-to-back European fixtures Photo: Sportsfile
Pat Lam will expect to see off the challenge of Treviso ahead of Connacht's two big back-to-back European fixtures Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht's Jack Carty will miss Craig Ronaldson who acts as his saving grace Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny O'Connor

Looking at the Cardiff game in the first half you were pretty sure that Connacht were on top but at the same time they just couldn't shake them off.

There were knock-ons and system errors that affected some of the promising play, which just kills the flow of the game for both teams. Players are working their way back up to speed for a big block of fixtures after the two-week break.

For some reason, when you have a break from competitive matches like that, teams tend to struggle. When you are picking up losses you notice it a bit more, but Connacht deserved that win.

Cardiff didn't offer much when the game was there for the taking in the second half and John Muldoon came in for some crucial turnovers. It was a big part of the game, which stopped any momentum that Cardiff gathered.

Defensively, Connacht got opened up on a few occasions but worked hard to track back and get shape in the defensive line. They weren't clean line-breaks but when Matthew Morgan came on he made a huge difference for Cardiff.

Saying all of that, Connacht won the game; it just wasn't a great game to watch. The game didn't flow but I'm sure the players and Pat Lam won't mind once they have the win.

It was disappointing to lose Craig Ronaldson again - every time he plays Connacht seem to win. To lose him so early on in the game it disrupted the movement of the backline; he is normally such a saving grace for Jack Carty too.

Having another playmaker beside your out-half, it helps the team function better and the Connacht back-line can be a totally different threat with Ronaldson. It was nice to see the other guys come back and Marnitz Boshoff finally make his first appearance in a Connacht jersey.

It looked like he wanted to make a statement - at one stage he took the ball into contact when he could have gone wide. It shows he is desperate to make an impression having come all the way from South Africa.

You would hope he will get some game-time this weekend, so he can have a fair crack of the whip going into that Wasps game where Connacht will need to have everyone firing.

Game-time

It's another home game this weekend, and it's nice to have the guys back in to give them some game-time ahead of the European games.

It won't be easy, and Treviso showed that in the two games last season, but if Connacht build a score and look comfortable, and the moment they have the result secured, they must empty their bench and get ready for the next two weeks.

Those two Wasps games will probably be the toughest in the history of Connacht Rugby. With the squad that Wasps have assembled, it is incredible, and they have got some serious talent. Connacht have faced the likes of Saracens in the past but this is a new level and will be the real litmus test for the team. The intensity will go up so much, but that's fine. Connacht won a Pro12 title last season - they are ready for Wasps and won't be far off.

But first Connacht need to take care of business in the Pro12 and it will be difficult even though Treviso got hockeyed last weekend by Munster.

This game needs to be taken on its merits and it's an opportunity to get guys game-time and put four or even five more points onto Connacht's tally in the league.

Connacht will be buoyed by the return of their international contingent in the coming weeks and it was great to see those guys put their hands up in an Irish jersey recently.

Kieran Marmion was put on the wing for two of the games, when he came on as a replacement, to adjust so well to a position that is far removed from what is usually asked of him was incredible.

The No 9 position is such a technical spot that it doesn't really allow time to devote yourself to much else in the week, such as learning to cover the outside backs.

It's crazy to see the international guys doing it against teams like New Zealand and Australia. It proves how much work they put in behind the scenes that they can just slot in like that.

Irish Independent

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