Player Diary: Tiernan O’Halloran - Missed opportunity hurt us but we want to right that tomorrow
Published 22/01/2016 | 02:30
We didn't get back into Galway until late Sunday night, and the delayed journey home didn't help the feeling around the place after that defeat in Brive.
Two weeks in a row we have lost against teams in the last minute, and what made it worse was we knew going into that game that if we won we would have qualified.
Enisei-STM's win over Newcastle opened the door for us, but we couldn't pull it off. And Brive were every bit as good as their home record suggested - they have only lost once at home this season, and that was against Clermont. Brive are sixth in the Top 14 too, but we know we left that game behind us.
The most disappointing thing was our display. We all know it was probably our worst performance of the year. Even despite the early try we couldn't get going, and we had no consistency in our play.
Any time we seemed to be getting into the game, we gave away an unforced error or penalty. We were just very poor all round and Brive had a very good kicker too - he kicked seven from eight.
At half-time we were annoyed and disappointed but we had to settle down and listen to Pat. He had some good points for us, and we started the second half well.
We got the lead again, but unfortunately we made too many mistakes and they slotted their kicks. Scoring three tries away from home - you have to win those games. But we need to get over that now, and at the end of the day, after a few really tough defeats over the Christmas period, we just have to keep going.
We have had some very close losses in the last few games - we have conceded last-minute tries and kicks. So it has been tough to take. But you just have to keep fighting on.
It's certainly not as if there is any lack of confidence there. We are just beating ourselves, rather than other teams beating us. We definitely have the potential to be winning those games, we are just not closing them out.
That can be tough mentally for the lads, but we had a really good meeting on Monday. We came in and it wasn't a normal talk. We sat around in a circle, and we had to be a bit honest with ourselves, which was refreshing.
The Scarlets game was tough to take, against a very good side. But the Brive result was disappointing from a different perspective, our performance. It wasn't good enough and we know that, we have to take ownership there.
That's nothing to do with the coaches in the last few games. It's crucial times in games where our discipline is letting us down. You just have to stick with it and not get too bogged down.
If you start over-thinking or over-analysing your play, you won't improve, it's about striking a balance. At the end of the day we are still creating opportunities, we just need to be a bit more clinical and disciplined and we will get out on the right side of those results.
But it still hurt this week, knowing that all we had to do was win against Brive. We would have been looking at finishing top of the pool with a home game to come - we are always confident at home.
So unfortunately Brive are ahead of us now and the final outcome is out of our hands. Tomorrow we have to aim for five points against Enisei-STM. We will try for the bonus-point win, and see where that leaves us at the end of the pool.
Obviously it is not ideal because we are relying on other teams to do us a few favours. But unfortunately that's how it is, and it's out of our hands. The main priority now is to get five points tomorrow and see where that leaves us.
Regardless of how the Brive game goes, we still have to stick to our job and what we need to do. If you start thinking about their match too much, and listening for updates, you'll start forcing things. Then you start going out of your normal patterns and the style of play that the team plans with and is used to.
The main thing we need to do is focus on our basics. We need to win the game and try and get four tries, and if we get that and it leaves us in first place then brilliant.
If we do get through, we are likely to be travelling away for a quarter-final and that's disappointing for us and our supporters. We would have loved to have secured a home quarter-final at the Sportsground. But we have a chance to make amends tomorrow in terms of a performance and that's what we plan to do.
Enisei-STM are a good side, they have really stepped up in recent rounds against Brive and Newcastle. We will have to give them the respect they deserve. They are well capable of causing upsets and we will have to be on top of our game from the outset.
At the end of the day, this is an important competition for us. The big focus for everyone at Connacht Rugby is to qualify for next season's Champions Cup. The fact that winning this Challenge Cup would achieve that as well as silverware for the first time is a huge incentive.
We are not giving up on that, we still think if we can get the five points on Saturday we can get through to the quarter-finals. And whether it's home or away we back or ourselves to beat any team on our day.