Saturday 10 December 2016

Four points is not a bad way to start a season - let's keep it going

Player Diary: Denis Buckley

Published 11/09/2015 | 02:30

Denis Buckley in action against Dragons last week
Denis Buckley in action against Dragons last week
Denis Buckley

Picking up a win on the first day of the new season in front of your home crowd is a great way to launch our campaign. Bonus points are great when they arise, but the win was all that was important to get our Pro12 season off to a positive start.

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From my point of view, it seemed that we were the dominant team for the most part and therefore deserved to take the four points, but in reality we should have been a good bit more ahead than we were at the end.

Dragons will be delighted to take a losing bonus point from that game. Fair play to them, they didn't allow us to execute our game-plan at times and they frustrated us. They deserved their point.

We made hard work of it, we could have killed them off in the first half and they nearly caught us at the end, only for a big play from Bundee to dig us out of the hole we found ourselves in.

But still, the dressing room afterwards felt a bit like we'd lost the game. There was the realisation that we should have done better, some lads were not happy with their performances - myself included in that.

Personally, I felt I could have gotten more from the scrum. I thought I was dominant, but I didn't really use that as a proper weapon against my man. I felt I had him, but I didn't put him to the sword.

We ended up not getting too much change out of the scrum when we could have if were a bit more ruthless. But it goes like that sometimes and we can build on and improve that in the weeks ahead.

Frustrating

As a team we didn't exit as accurately as we'd like to and on a couple of occasions we handed them possession in attacking positions. We spend a lot of time working on that, so not to get it right was frustrating. One or two patterns were not as sharp as we've run in the last few weeks. For the first game of the year it wasn't too bad, errors will be expected, so we can back it up this weekend against Glasgow and put right the wrongs.

As you might expect, a lot of the lads were a bit nervous coming up to the selection of the first match-day 23 of the season. I'm sure it was tough for the coaches to pick the starting team after so many strong individual performances in pre-season, but once you see your name on the list it's a big relief.

Like we did last year for home games, the match-day squad went for lunch together on the day before the game, which is a great way to bond before going into battle. After the captain's practice on Thursday we went to The Chop House in town and they took great care of us, but just spending a couple of hours with the boys before the first game of the season was great.

As a loosehead prop, my main job is to do with scrummaging and when it doesn't go exactly how you like, it chews at you a bit. We've worked hard on our set-piece in the pre-season, but it's different in match conditions.

We hadn't scrummaged against that front-row unit before and it takes a little time to figure them out. The start of a match is like a game of chess really. The first couple of scrums you try to figure each other out, you try a couple of things, see what he does, try to figure out his weakness, but he's doing the same back to you. It's a tactical game for a while, but then you try and put them under some pressure and attack. I had a good battle with Shaun Knight; he used to play with Gloucester and he is highly regarded in the UK. We've never faced each other before and we had a good clash.

Their scrum is strong; I felt we had gotten our tactics spot on with how to deal with their techniques, but we didn't drive the nail home. All in all, we were the dominant scrum though and we are keen to retain our decent form of last season and be right at the top of the tree when it comes to the scrum and lineout.

Tonight will be an interesting test for us coming up against the champions on their own patch. Glasgow are an excellent team with a high-tempo, offloading game which means you have to be on your toes. We've always managed to score tries against them, but the problem can be stopping them scoring more.

This year there is the extra dimension of Dan McFarland being their forwards' coach and I know the lads are looking forward to taking on his team. Dan was such a huge influence on a lot of our pack, he knows our game inside out, but we also know how he likes players to defend and set up. I'm sure there will be a bit of double-bluffing going on from both sides, so it will be interesting to see what happens.

From my point of view, Dan was my scrum and forwards coach from the age of 19. He taught me nearly everything I know, so I'll be interested to see how the Glasgow tighthead plays tonight.

And while it will be great to meet up with him again, we are very keen to make sure we are the happier side when the final whistle goes.

This season with Jimmy Duffy as our forwards' coach things are evolving and we have gone well in pre-season and against Dragons. We've worked really hard on our scrum, maul and general pack play so another four points would be a great reward for his and our efforts.

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