Monday 26 September 2016

Time to upset the status quo with a win

Great chance for Lam's soldiers to usurp fancied side once again

Johnny O'Connor

Published 20/05/2016 | 02:30

Connacht players go through their paces during training ahead of the game against Glasgow. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Connacht players go through their paces during training ahead of the game against Glasgow. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

It's finally here, the game we've all been waiting for and at last Connacht and Glasgow will clash in the Pro12 semi-final tomorrow.

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I really felt that in the last five years Connacht have been building towards a game of this significance. There's been Challenge Cup semi-finals, and of course last year's play-off defeat to Gloucester, which will all stand to them in this fixture. It's just now you see they really are close to cracking it.

Glasgow are deemed to be favourites; they are reigning Pro12 champions and have operated around the knockout stages of league for the last few years. There is an art to winning these type of games and Glasgow have plenty of experience.

Fear is good for Connacht, fear is an indicator of what they have to do win this game. It helps players grind out top performances and deliver when it matters most on the pitch.

Connacht are a young side, and as the season has gone on I don't feel we have seen the ceiling of their potential at this level yet. The backroom staff will ensure they have the right mindset coming into this game. There were a number of occasions this season when they had to dig deep.

Many pundits said they would be found out against Munster in Thomond Park. They hadn't won down there in the professional era, but even in treacherous conditions they stuck to their game-plan and won playing brilliant rugby.

Connacht continued to perform and stay in the top four all season, until everyone said they were going to fall off towards the end of the campaign when the other play-off-chasing sides got back to their full complement, and Connacht's limited numbers were stretched.

But against Scarlets they scored a crucial bonus-point victory, they prevented Ospreys from taking a losing bonus point from the Sportsground. And then the challenges of Leinster, Munster and Glasgow were still to come.

Leinster were expected to come to Galway and reassert their dominance at the top of the Pro12. But again Connacht came up with the goods and their game-plan never wavered.

Canter

Against Munster, they won at a canter and the clash against Glasgow, last time out, was another real litmus test. But they found it within themselves to produce a performance and put themselves in pole position for a first ever Pro12 final.

It would be such an historic occasion in Edinburgh, but it's all about living in the moment and appreciating where they are right now. This weekend will be huge for Connacht rugby.

The bunting has been up around Galway all week, and the fans will be out in their droves at another sold-out Sportsground tomorrow. The atmosphere will be something special, and I don't see why Connacht cannot come out on top again.

Glasgow was a huge test for Connacht; if they had conceded there, and gone into an away semi-final against Glasgow it would have been a totally different game. The Sportsground is a huge advantage for Connacht in this game.

The players don't read into the stats from previous seasons, and they will know that right here and right now they have a big opportunity against Glasgow. Despite not having as many internationals, Connacht have the work ethic and togetherness of a side that is going places.

I know they will go out and put it all on the line again, there will be scuffles and the team will fight for each other, there will be mistakes and the team will overcome them as a unit. And there will be moments where have to defend, but they will all hold their line as if their lives depended on it.

Then when they get the ball in hand we all know what they are capable of. Connacht are one of the most exciting teams around at the moment, and no matter who they are playing against, they have the ingenuity to break them down and score tries.

They just need one more big game and they will be in a final. There's been very few poor displays this season. But in a game of this magnitude, I certainly expect them to hit the ground running and make Glasgow chase the game.

Irish Independent

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