Friday 2 December 2016

Player diary: A lot of us have to look at ourselves, but we're not suddenly a bad team

Denis Buckley

Published 09/09/2016 | 02:30

Connacht players show their disappointment during the defeat to Glasgow. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Connacht players show their disappointment during the defeat to Glasgow. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

There is not much that can be said about last weekend's defeat to Glasgow Warriors, only that it was a really disappointing result for all of us.

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It's always an incredibly tough fixture against Glasgow Warriors no matter when you meet them, but we had looked at it as a chance for us to get our season off to a bright start.

In hindsight you can look back and say it was a tough fixture, but that wasn't the way we approached it. We were excited ahead of the game and it just didn't work out for us on the day.

After half-time especially, we just weren't good enough; I thought Glasgow were very good throughout. There were no real weaknesses in their game and they made the most of our mistakes in the second half.

A lot of us had to go and have a look at ourselves after that result. But at the end of the day we haven't suddenly gone from a good team to a bad team overnight.

I can't remember losing by that margin at home before. But I'm confident we can take it as a big learning. With any defeat - especially a defeat like that - there is so much you can take from it.

We have to ensure we learn as much as we can from the game, and it can be a good lesson for us going forward, starting against Ospreys tomorrow.

CREATED

We were a few points down at half-time, but we felt that we had played some pretty good rugby in the first half, and we definitely managed to open them up at stages.

We created a good few opportunities to score points and we knew we could well have been level or even ahead at the break.

That was into the wind too, and if you are playing in the right areas with the conditions in your favour it is a real advantage. And with the way we play and the players we have, we'd always back ourselves. But it just didn't work out the way we'd planned.

Overall, there are a good few small things for us to get right, and if we had them nailed down last weekend it might have been a different outcome.

We didn't look after the ball as well as we normally do.

A lot of that came from the breakdown, where we weren't at the high level it was at last season. We let ourselves down a little bit there. Glasgow were very hard on our ball and that was a contributing factor to the result.

On top of that, our handling skills were off the mark. It was good at times, but we coughed up a lot of soft ball and if we want to play our game and be expansive, we have to have the skills to do that.

When you cough up ball at key moments and in vital areas of the pitch, you are just handing possession straight back to them.

Looking at the scrum, we felt that we were quite dominant in the first half, but one big learning for us is that we need to drive home that dominance when we're on top.

We had a turnover from one of their put-ins and also earned a penalty from another, but we didn't really use our scrum as the weapon it should have been.

It could have been a way for us to win that game: we should have squeezed out one or two more penalties, which then translates into territory and possession. A lot of the time that leads to points, but we didn't drive it home and be ruthless.

You have to earn that right against any team, but once you gain the upper hand it should be transformed into yards.

From my own point of view, it was good to get some more game-time under my belt after a summer recovering from my ankle injury.

It was tough to watch on from the sidelines at the end of last season, but once I recovered from the surgery I was back in training at the start of August.

I came into pre-season a few weeks after the surgery, and I probably could have been back a bit sooner. But given the time of year, we decided that I should take a bit more time to have a comfortable return.

That approach meant a good bit of rehab for me over the summer - I had to cancel a holiday with a few of the lads to Thailand, but it was a good time for me to put in some extra work to be back in time.

I was able to catch up on some of the gym work that I missed out on at the end of the season - I had a fractured sternum around then too so I had a bit of catching up to do - so to have that extra time to do it was nice. Hopefully it will stand to me in the weeks and months ahead.

Following that loss last weekend everyone is very keen to get back into the action and this game with Ospreys is an exciting one to prepare for.

Ospreys are a very strong team, and they didn't have a season that was up to their usual standards last year, but they will be out to prove a real point. That's what their performance against Zebre did last weekend.

They have a great team with some excellent individuals in there, but this is an opportunity for us to put right what happened last weekend. There has been some hard learnings for all of us and we've had to look at our game, but this is an immediate chance to right some wrongs.

We're looking to put in a big performance at home too. That result is not the high standard that we strive for at the Sportsground and we aim to start making up for that immediately.

Irish Independent

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