Sport Connacht Rugby

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Tiernan O'Halloran: Dragons clash is vital as we can't afford to drop points at this stage

Player Diary

Tiernan O’Halloran (L) and Niyi Adeolokun during training at the Kingfisher Gym in Galway DIARMUID GREENE/SPORTSFILE
Tiernan O’Halloran (L) and Niyi Adeolokun during training at the Kingfisher Gym in Galway DIARMUID GREENE/SPORTSFILE

Tiernan O'Halloran

After we bagged our first away win of the season in the league, we are back at home this weekend for the first time in five weeks. Like last week, we will be targeting this game for an important victory.

Getting the win last weekend over Cardiff Blues was hugely satisfying, and I was delighted to get the winning drop-goal. But in fairness the work was done around me, and I was just in the right place at the right time to slot the kick. It was more of a spur-of-the-moment thing. It wasn't planned, going for it from a two-pass play, but I wasn't complaining.

The last drop-goal I got was for Ireland U-19s against Australia about six or seven years ago. I have gone for three or four since and missed all of them. I don't know if I will be lining up many more again after this.

But the important thing was we got the victory, and to come back from 13-0 down, while not letting them score again, was a huge shot in the arm for us.

We knew it was going to be very tough in the first half, against an extremely strong wind. We had some very positive play in the first five or ten minutes, but our attack struggled once they got ahead.

We were under a lot of pressure and couldn't string too many phases together, but thankfully in the second half our defence stepped up and that gave us confidence going into our attacking game.

Decisions

The last two or three times I have been over at Cardiff Arms Park, it has always gone down to the last few minutes. And we felt we had been unlucky on the back of some of the refereeing decisions that were made too.

But it was fantastic to get over the line in the end and get that win to give us a much-needed kick after the disappointment of Toulouse a few weeks ago.

It's great to get back into the Pro12 championship now again, and with the Six Nations on, it means there are a couple of key fixtures coming up where we need to get maximum points if we want to keep pushing to get near the top six again.

We have a pretty good record against the Dragons at home, but we know they can be a tough opposition. We are looking forward to being back in front of our home fans and hopefully we can put on a show for them. We haven't played at the Sportsground since Zebre visited in the Champions Cup last month and we love our home games.

If it is a dry day we will look to score tries, but first things first, we need to get the win and build momentum in this crucial block of games.

Looking at this period last year, this is where we made up a lot of ground with some teams more disrupted due to the Six Nations than others. We were only missing one or two of our players at that time and it made a huge difference come the end of the season, so this is a crucial time for us to pick up some vital points.

If you look at the table we have a bit of a mountain to climb, and if we want to reach our goals and get into the Champions Cup, we need points.

But it's the belief that we can do it that will get us through to the end of this season, and all we can focus on is ourselves and every game as they come. We can't afford to be dropping points at this stage of the season. There is little room for error and we know that.

It's great to see the injuries clearing up now too. There are more and more guys coming back into the frame now so it leads to everyone pushing harder and harder for their places. That's what you need when it comes to the business end of the season and we got that last year too.

You need guys pushing and creating competition all the time whether in training or on game day. Hopefully, we will get that now with lads getting back fit. It was a rough patch there around Christmas time with injuries, but the increasing numbers available will bring confidence.

For me, this is the first time I have been back in Connacht for the full week since I joined up with the Irish set-up for the Six Nations. It was nice to be back in full training, to fit in with all of the patterns. It can be tricky at times trying to play two playbooks in one week, in terms of training with Ireland on Monday and Tuesday and then back with Connacht after that. You might mix up one or two calls but that's what you have to get used to at that level.

But it was nice to have a full week leading into Dragons and hopefully that lends itself to a good performance tomorrow.

Although I wasn't with Ireland in Rome last weekend, I watched the game with my Connacht team-mates, and was really impressed with the performance the guys put up against the Italians.

It was great to see such a confident win after the disappointment of Scotland. To put up 60 plus points away from home in the Six Nations is an achievement regardless of who you are playing.

Personally, it has been a great experience to be up at camp in the last couple of weeks and training at such a high standard.

It was a tough week in Carton House after the loss to Scotland. But the lads bounced back and that result gets Ireland back into the Six Nations.

The bonus-point system makes for an interesting tournament, especially with the games on the way, because anything can happen and there is potential for a few upsets yet.

Irish Independent

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