Friday 30 September 2016

Johnny O'Connor: There'll be no slip-ups from Lam's troops

Spot in semi-final is a certainty if players stick to tried and trusted

Johnny O'Connor

Published 29/04/2016 | 02:30

'Connacht will just keep attacking and playing the game their way.' Photo: Sportsfile
'Connacht will just keep attacking and playing the game their way.' Photo: Sportsfile

Every single Connacht fan might be looking forward to their upcoming meeting with Glasgow at the Sportsground, but for the moment there will be only one match in the mind of Pat Lam and his squad.

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The game against Treviso is of paramount importance, as Connacht look to build for a potential winner-takes-all clash with Glasgow in the final round, and Connacht cannot afford to take their eye off the ball in Italy tonight.

I don't think they will; in fact Connacht are going to win this one, in my opinion. But still, it's crucial they get the simple things right, as they have been doing all season and then they can start throwing the ball around.

Against an Italian side, that's the way to win. Keep the ball in hand, tire them out, switch it across the pitch and the gaps will eventually open.

The one area where Treviso will try to attack Connacht is in the lineout. Treviso always pride themselves on their lineout and it's essential Connacht cut that out early on.

If Connacht can dismantle Treviso's most dangerous weapon, then it will not only dishearten the Italians, but it will fill Connacht with confidence, and give them a better platform to work with.

Once again, I expect the Connacht scrum to perform admirably, as they have done all season. Italians are notoriously good scrummagers, but Connacht have taken better units apart in recent months, and they will do so again here.

I'm excited to see what the backs will do this evening; it should be the perfect conditions for rugby, with the perfect kick-off time and the Italian backdrop to go with it.

You would expect Connacht to have the ideal setting to showcase their full bag of tricks, and get a few tries. The bonus point is achievable, but that will only come as long as the team are patient.

Saying all that Connacht haven't been patient in too many games this year. Their exuberance has shone through, and they seem to go at it from the off, all helter skelter.

Critics

Connacht aren't the type of team that are going to listen to the critics, who say it's crucial they learn to close out games by playing it safe. Connacht will just keep attacking and playing the game their way.

Every winning team has a philosophy, and Connacht have theirs, it's one that has got them to astonishing heights in 2015-'16, and I'm sure there won't be a single player in the dressing room doubting it now.

Pat Lam has done some amazing things at the Sportsground during his tenure. Some fantastic players have been brought in, with not that much money going in the opposite direction.

Connacht's confidence in youth has worked out well alongside the fresh new faces, and gradually the team has come from nowhere to being on the brink of a semi-final in the Pro12.

I fully expect that to be sealed this weekend, and then Connacht move on to one of the biggest games in their history when they host reigning champions Glasgow.

But that won't overawe this group of players. The confidence they have created throughout this season, has brought morale levels to an all-time high and everyone plays for each other.

They only think from minute to minute, play to play and collision to collision. They won't be fretting at the magnitude of what's ahead. I expect them to embrace it, and do the province proud again in Stadio Monigo this evening.

If they haven't already achieved greatness this season, they seemed destined for it and nobody could begrudge them a home semi-final. But it doesn't matter what you deserve, at the end of this season everything will come down to points. Connacht will want to be in the top two so they can put on another show for their wonderful home fans; this battle with Treviso is just another step along the way.

Players are coming back to fitness now, and these are guys who are prepared for battle. They don't turn up needing game-time to get them ready.

Connacht have a strong squad for the final few weeks. Let's hope they get through tonight with all of their numbers intact. It's going to be a tough few games ahead.

Irish Independent

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