Wednesday 20 September 2017

Tight margins ensure no danger of us losing the run of ourselves

Dominic Ryan, Leinster, is tackled by Matt Healy, left, and Robbie Henshaw, Connacht.
Dominic Ryan, Leinster, is tackled by Matt Healy, left, and Robbie Henshaw, Connacht.

I woke up on Saturday morning after our win against Leinster and someone had sent me a picture message of the league table. It was nice to see us just one point off the top at that stage, but when you see three games, three wins with a score difference of only plus seven points you know we've been dealing in very small margins.

In days gone by those three wins would have been three losses, and we might have thought we weren't doing so bad.

We have been on the back of enough losses where we should have had wins, so it is nice to see us grinding out those results. We are doing it the hard way but every day we are putting in the hard hours to make that difference. We try to focus on what we can improve every week and I think that's proving crucial when games get tight.

Friday was a special night, it was definitely one to remember. As a player it had everything: a great win against a strong side, a super crowd and an exciting finish to make the win even sweeter.

We were all still buzzing a bit when we went in on Sunday to review the game, but the realisation one of the toughest games of the season coming up soon brought us back to reality.

Crucial

That review session on a Sunday or Monday morning is a crucial part of the week. You get to look back at what you did well and where you can improve. So we soon all saw that there is plenty to work on.

But that's the exciting thing for us: it is not as if we have played outstandingly well for the first three games. We have been very disappointed in some aspects of our performances and then happy with others.

It is noticeable that there has been a progression in some of the problems we identified after Dragons and Edinburgh, but by no means have we hit our ceiling or have we played extremely well.

Every four points picked up is supposed to mean the same as the next, but the electric atmosphere at the Sportsground on Friday made that win a little bit sweeter than most. The derby games are a little bit special because they bring that little bit more bite to the occasion.

Everyone associates derby games with the tightness and a competitive battle. There were a couple of defining moments in the game: Robbie Henshaw had a big tackle on Jimmy Gopperth and Dave McSharry made a big one on Rob Kearney. Those kind of things get the crowd going.

It was great a great result, but now it is important that we treat it as just another win and move on.

I was thrilled to be able to play the full 80 minutes and last week's training was the best I had since my hamstring problem. I am feeling pretty good and the way I am looking at it now is that problem is behind me. I am looking forward to getting stuck in for the rest of the year now and not thinking about it.

We came through the game pretty much unscathed, but I would imagine it won't be too long until we see a few changes to the team with the way a few of the lads have been training. There is depth in the squad now and there are lads there that deserve a chance. It's a long season with loads of rugby to be played so it is important that we retain a bit of freshness.

It is still a little strange for all of us to be in for training and video work on Sundays, but it is necessary now with nearly all of our games taking place on Fridays. After a review of the game we did a little bit of a cardio hit-out which got the legs rolling again.

As usual Monday was one of the busier days for us as we ramped up our preparation for tonight, and we had a recovery day on Tuesday, before another hard one on Wednesday.

It might seem like a short trip over to Scotland for the game, but we still will be gone from yesterday morning until late tomorrow evening. Unlike some teams we don't have the budget for a chartered flight out and home so it is a bit of a long trek. But those journeys are far easier with a good performance and a win in the bag.

At this stage I think everyone recognises that Glasgow are one of the best teams in the league, if not the best. I know they haven't managed to win the title yet but they have certainly come close of late. They have been outstanding and we know how tough this game is going to be.

Once the fixtures came out when we looked at our first month or so, we saw Leinster followed by Glasgow away. The thinking was they are two of the best teams in the league back-to-back. We saw them play Leinster in week one and it was a physical, enthralling game. The final margin flattered Leinster and Glasgow could have beaten them by a far bigger margin.

It's fair to say that a lot of teams would have looked at Glasgow as a chance to take a win a few years ago when they weren't doing as well as they should have been. But they deserve huge credit for the way they have completely turned it around. There is a lot to be said for what they have done there both on and off the field.

And while we have huge respect for them as a team, we have no reason to fear our trip to Scotstoun tonight. We have started the season well, we've prepared well all week and we are hungry for more wins.

Irish Independent

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