Wednesday 7 December 2016

No need to panic after slow start

High error count can't be repeated at home to Ospreys tomorrow

Johnny O'Connor

Published 09/09/2016 | 02:30

Pat Lam issues instructions to his team during training this week. SPORTSFILE
Pat Lam issues instructions to his team during training this week. SPORTSFILE

Connacht didn't get the prep that Glasgow Warriors got in pre-season, and you feel it hurt them last weekend.

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Glasgow were sharp but weren't incredible by any means either. It was more to do with the mistakes that Connacht made. The stats will tell you it's rare you win when you turn over possession 14 time in a game.

Danny Qualter in action. SPORTSFILE
Danny Qualter in action. SPORTSFILE

People will be disappointed because there is an expectation. Connacht were champions last year. But that's exactly it: last year, and sport is a very good at keeping you in the present. The past and future don't matter. Where one week you're on top of the world, the next week you get hammered.

The players said they moved on from the glory of last year. And they're right. You win the trophy and then move on, you are the holders for the year but other teams are going to fight to get that back from you.

Maybe as fans sometimes we get a bit carried away with our expectations, and you start to believe the hype. Personally, I fell for that against Glasgow and sometimes the result just doesn't go your way on the day.

But everything is fixable, and there's no need for the players and fans to worry about this. It's just a little slump and you would think the guys will bounce back - but whether Ospreys are coming a week too soon it's hard to know.

But there's nothing like a result like that to really put guys on their toes. They will be so hungry all week to go out and get back to winning ways. And it can only get better than what transpired in the Sportsground last weekend, you would hope.

Any time you play with a successful team, everyone thinks it's much easier to play in a winning side. But the reality of it is, when you play in a team that wins trophies the target goes onto your back.

The champions will never be taken lightly. Every team wants to gun you down. Opponents will play above themselves. You become a big scalp.

It's the same thing as when Connacht were on the other end. Wins over Harlequins, Biarritz and Toulouse. Those were huge victories for Connacht and came off the back of a determination to take down the big guns.

EXPANSIVE

Against Glasgow, Connacht looked really good for about 20 minutes, they were playing a good bit of ball, and were expansive. But they just turned over the ball too many times and you are not going to win a game when the handling errors build and the players are having to defend.

It was those few minutes after half-time that really killed off Connacht, and it was always going to be difficult when the tries flowed for Glasgow. You cannot afford to give a top side momentum, and that was what Connacht did.

I spoke about Aly Muldowney being replaced last week, and how that will be possible. But it was evident that the players do need time to adapt. With the significant injury list in the second-row at the moment, that makes everything more difficult. Danny Qualter stepped in there, and although he had a good game, it was difficult in the first one back.

People talk about the high number of handling errors but in fairness Glasgow were getting off the line and they were putting pressure on Caolin Blade and Kieran Marmion when he came on.

It's easy to say Connacht should play that free-flowing rugby that we saw throughout last season, but that becomes way more difficult when guys are in your face every time. But again, that will come with game-time and you would expect the players to improve.

Tomorrow is an interesting game. Ospreys are a really dogged side but they showed their ruthlessness when they hammered Zebre last weekend.

Connacht will be much improved, their shape was already good in the last game in periods.

If they get there breakdown back to that of last season, and cut out the basic errors, you are looking at a much more positive platform to play from.

There were setbacks along the way last year and the players stuck to the systems that ultimately took them to a Pro12 final and a historic win over Leinster. They won't hold back this weekend.

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