Sunday 23 October 2016

Player Diary: We've never had anything to play for on the last day of the season before

Tiernan O'Halloran

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

Tiernan O'Halloran in action during training ahead of the final round of Pro 12 games tomorrow (SPORTSFILE)
Tiernan O'Halloran in action during training ahead of the final round of Pro 12 games tomorrow (SPORTSFILE)

Last weekend was tough to take, our loss in Italy was made all the worse when Leinster lost away to Ulster. But as Pat Lam said on Monday morning, we're going into this Glasgow game with the right attitude now, we know we need to win to secure the home semi-final.

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Had we won at Treviso, it would have been a case of just getting the losing bonus point tomorrow, but that's a defeatist mindset to be going into any game with. And either way we still have our destiny in our own hands.

It's something that no-one here is really used to. This is the first time ever for myself, but also for the history of Connacht, that there is something to play for going into the last game of the season.

In the past we were in the middle to the bottom of the table. And it was just about getting that last game played, and maybe giving a few runs to lads who wouldn't have played throughout the season. But at this stage, to be going into a game knowing that if you beat Glasgow you can guarantee yourself a home semi-final, there's a lot at stake.


We got ourselves a losing bonus point against Treviso, and that guaranteed us a top four finish.

It took the gloss off it by not winning the game, but if we had been told at the start of the season we would have qualified for the semi-final, without having to play the last game, we would have been thrilled.

Everyone around the club knows how big an opportunity this is for us, and the fans know that too. So it's going to be an amazing atmosphere and a great game to play in.

From a personal point of view it was good to be back available for selection and getting my chance against Treviso last weekend. It was disappointing coming away with a loss. But we needed the bonus point win to really nail down the chance of getting a home semi-final anyway.

Going into the last play, we obviously didn't want to lose but we wanted to get another try. That's why a lot of people were saying, why didn't we just set the maul and kick the ball out.

But we still needed another try. That was just the way it turned out, the scrum went against us and the ref gave a penalty.

So there's no change, it's still all eyes on this weekend and we are back home in front of a sell-out crowd so it's going to be a huge.

This is a big week, there are going to be 15 lucky lads getting selected and they are going to have to put on a performance against arguably the form team in the league.

Glasgow are the reigning champions and they are back at the top of the table now. We are under no illusions how tough it is going to be. At the same time we could make history and get a home semi-final, which would be massive for us.

But I don't think we are reading into their game against Zebre too much. Nothing against Zebre but they have shipped 50 to 60 points in their last four or five games anyway.

Regardless, we know how dangerous Glasgow can be. They always have 15 internationals on the field at any stage. They have got attacking ability from all positions around the pitch. And we can't afford to give away soft tries.

It's just going to be one of those days, with the anticipation of the game, the crowd, the way it has been built up, it is just going to be a game when lads are just going to be putting their bodies on the line.

There will have to be a huge effort in both attack and defence. I don't think we are going to put too much emphasis on any particular facet of our game. Because, they might have scored 70 points last weekend, but we are going to have to score tries as well against a good defensive side.

At this stage of the season it becomes cliché a lot of the time, but in all honesty, we saw the Sportsground in the Munster and Leinster games, we were defending our line at the end and all we could hear were the cheers from the thousands of Connacht fans, packed into the stadium.

It gives you a massive lift when the place is rocking, nearly 8,000 people going crazy and getting behind you, you are able to up your game those few notches to help beat teams in big matches.

We need every one getting behind us this weekend again, and creating a good atmosphere. Because it makes it really tough for opposing teams.

I spoke to Andrew Conway after the Munster game, and he said it was incredible, the sound that less than 8,000 people can make, because it's not a massive crowd for Munster to have at their home games.

They just said it's tough to play against, it encourages the home side, it gives you a massive lift. It's something that has just got better and better as the season has gone on, and hopefully we can finish with a good one from the crowd again.

But not only that, we know we have to repay that faith too. This game has been a sell-out for a while now, and we are looking forward to putting on a performance for the fans.

There's so much on the line here and we certainly don't want to disappoint, ourselves, our fans or Connacht Rugby.

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