Saturday 22 October 2016

Repetition of errors proves very costly

Scarlets defeat will hurt but Brive tie offers chance to make amends

Published 15/01/2016 | 02:30

Dejected Connacht players after their narrow defeat to Scarlets in the Pro12 last
weekend (SPORTSFILE)
Dejected Connacht players after their narrow defeat to Scarlets in the Pro12 last weekend (SPORTSFILE)

Connacht were 10-0 up and were very dominant but couldn't pull it out of the bag against Scarlets, and it's disappointing looking back on it.

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Matt Healy missed a try chance and Connacht could have been out of sight. Eoghan Masterson also had an opportunity and I don't know how Connacht let them back in.

Connacht had a lot of chances and all they had to do at the very end was to close out the game.

They went through this process already this year - why not just kick the ball down field and force their hand?

Unfortunately, a mistake in their own 22 cost them. But Connacht needed to get out of there and create their own kicking opportunity for Jack Carty.

Maybe Kieran Marmion's experience was missed at that stage; they needed to make that call. It wasn't a time to be holding on to the ball in those conditions.

We should have kicked down-field. If Scarlets worked their way up from there to get the points, well then fair play to them.

But with how Connacht were defending at that stage they would have chopped and probably forced a turnover which would have won them the game at the end of the day.

It's disappointing that Connacht have not improved and learned from their previous mistakes in these situations. Because you certainly can't blame Ronan Loughney for giving away the penalty - these things happen. And if the first man at the breakdown executed his job there would have been no need. But Ronan had to deal with that threat himself.

I don't think it was utter madness either, and his team-mates should have put that game away a long, long time before he even came onto the field.

One thing that was encouraging was the fact that Connacht managed to come back and go ahead again.

I was thinking at that stage that this is great stuff, but you would have been nervous how they were going to close out this game.

With just over two minutes on the clock, they had to have some strategy to close out the game. But from looking at it, either it wasn't there at all, or Connacht simply didn't go with the right one on the day.


That wasn't a game where Connacht should be happy with a point either. They dominated in every area from start to finish really - the scrum, the maul, the lineout. But the breakdown was another old failing that came back to haunt them.

Fine, Connacht are accurate in that area but they need to be aggressive too. If someone is disrupting their ball, and preventing the scrum-half from getting it away quickly they need to get punished.

And I don't mean trying to injury someone - I just want to see the players let the opposition know that they're on the wrong side.

You must protect your own possession. And then make them pay when they are on the attack, get in over their ball - but don't get pinged stupidly either.

Against Scarlets, the ref was a little shaky, but the one thing he was, was consistent and that's all you can ask for when you don't close out the game.

It won't be easy in that area this weekend either as they travel to take on a big physical pack at Brive. They are just a different side in France.

Connacht need to go hard this weekend and if they want to get a result they need to have a big pack available. Brive have the players to hurt Connacht otherwise.

If Connacht send out the big guns and get a win in France it also opens up the opportunity for rotation when Enisei-STM come to the Sportsground next time out.

Realistically, Connacht will have far too much for the Russians but a lot will depend on how this weekend goes. For the first time in a long time, it might give Pat Lam the opportunity to give a few players a rest.

The squad is starting to fill up nicely now again, with players returning from injury, and it isn't all doom and gloom with the team beginning to playing quality stuff and when it clicks they will beat anyone in the league.

A win in Brive would give Connacht a timely boost but it certainly won't be easily got.

A great chance to get season back on track

The European break has come around at the perfect time for Connacht and hopefully the change of emphasis will help to revitalise their season.

They are going to France to play a tough and physical Brive outfit, but another win down there would be massive for the confidence levels.

It’s never easy to win in France and Connacht did it twice last season, so another victory would show the continued maturity of this side and how they can perform in the big matches.

After that it would leave them with a relatively easy home game against the Russians, and two wins on the trot in the Challenge Cup will put the pep back in their step. They lost it in the Pro12 – they have come close to some good results but ended up losing to Cardiff, Ulster, Leinster and Scarlets.

They need to figure out how to close out these matches before they face Scarlets at home again. It would be ideal to come into that match with the players full of confidence again.

And they have the opportunity to get back to back victories now and re-alter the course of their season.

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