Tough week all round, but we're keen to finish campaign on a high
Published 01/05/2015 | 02:30
As well as dealing with our defeat to Glasgow last weekend, I've had the joy of college exams to cope with this week too. It's hard to say which was the more unpleasant experience.
I haven't been too bad all year with my study, but on the night before the exam it is always panic stations in my house. I always want to get that last bit of cramming in. This week I had Financial Economics and Macroeconomics to get through and thankfully I think they all went pretty well. As everyone knows it's a stressful week, but that's me done now for the next while.
I am always more comfortable dealing with pressure on the rugby field, but last Saturday's loss to Glasgow was a real hard one to take for all of us. We felt we came out on top in a lot of the areas of the game, but our own errors saw us cough up silly points. The ability to make the most of those chances is what has them top of the league.
If you look at the stats, it shows that we had the most possession; they gave away the most penalties; and they had two yellow cards. We let ourselves down trying to be a bit more clinical. We should have put more points on the board when they were down to 14 men.
And I wasn't immune to errors myself. I was responsible for their third try. Niko Matawalu is a clever player and he was quick to intercept my pass and after that he had an easy run in for a try.
It has got to be one of the worst feelings in rugby. You spot an overlap out wide, your team has the chance to score a try, but then you don't execute the pass well and they got the score instead.
Any time I would back the pace of Tiernan O'Halloran and Matt Healy in a two-man overlap. Definitely, the pass was on, the chance was there, but I think Matawalu drifted off at the last second. I didn't have my eyes on him really, I was watching inside as their number 13 was coming hard and he blind-sided me.
It was close, if he hadn't gathered the ball he would have been in the bin, it would have been a deliberate knock-on and he did exceptionally well to get to it. At the last second I heard Tiernan call 'shooter' because he was coming fast at me, but it was too late, I forced the pass and they scored.
It's time to forget all of those mistakes though. We have made things hard for ourselves, but there is still 10 points up for grabs this season and we need to try and take as many of them as possible, starting in Parma.
After a game like that the mood in the camp is always a little muted for a few days, but we got together on Monday and went over the game, identified a few things that didn't go well for us and then we parked it there. There is no point dwelling on things like that.
The bones were a bit sore after the weekend, but after the review on Monday and a light gym session we were all ready for action on Tuesday's pitch session. That was a decent session, even though it lashed rain throughout, and quite a bit of frustration was played out of our systems.
It wasn't just the Glasgow game either. There have been missed opportunities against Cardiff, Edinburgh and Scarlets, but looking back we feel we left a losing bonus point behind us at the RDS as well. The Pro12 has been so tight this year that every point is vital.
And despite the fact that we are all annoyed with the last few weeks, there is still a lot we can achieve. As a province we have never won 10 games in a season, we're just one win away from that target now. We hope to achieve that goal next time out and even push on to 11 wins by the end of the campaign.
And who knows what will happen in the next two games? We've seen some crazy results in the competition to date so I wouldn't be surprised if we see another twist before the awards are handed out. It's up to us to be in a position to take advantage of it if either Edinburgh or Scarlets slip up now.
Admittedly, a top six finish is now out of our hands, but there is still the chance that we can achieve it. The chances of us getting seventh place are stronger and even that would give us a chance with a play-off against a Premiership side.
It is very hard to know who the seventh place side could end up against. If Gloucester win the Challenge Cup final they automatically get the English Premiership slot, but if Edinburgh win they are not guaranteed the Pro12 one. At the minute Sale and Harlequins are fighting it out for seventh in England, while Montpellier, Bordeaux and La Rochelle are in the hunt in France. Playing any of those teams would certainly lift the spirits.
But we still have to fight very hard in the next two games to be in with a chance of getting there. And it might sound strange, but in order to achieve our goals we have to forget about them totally.
All we can focus on from now to the end of the season is playing well, executing out plans and winning games.
We didn't execute correctly against Glasgow and it cost us, but against Zebre we need to deliver. I've played over there a few times and we have won every time so that's a record we want to continue. After this week's preparations I'm confident we will do that.