Saturday 23 September 2017

Vital to get back on track against Kings

Lineout is a big concern after sloppy start to season

Jack Carty is tackled by Lee Jones of Glasgow Warriors during the Guinness PRO14 Round 1 match between Connacht Rugby and Glasgow Warriors at the Sportsground in Galway. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Jack Carty is tackled by Lee Jones of Glasgow Warriors during the Guinness PRO14 Round 1 match between Connacht Rugby and Glasgow Warriors at the Sportsground in Galway. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Noel Mannion

While that was hardly the season opener that Kieran Keane would have hoped for, I'm sure he will ramp up the heat on his side as they aim for win number one against Southern Kings tomorrow evening.

Playing against Fiji in 1992 or '93, I opened the curtains and saw the lashing wind and rain and said, 'Yippie aye oh, this is our day'. It was the exact same conditions last Saturday night, but the game has moved on since then and it suited nobody.

But you still have to go out and play in the weather you're given, and in the end Glasgow mastered the conditions better than Connacht. Territorially, I thought Connacht were naive in the first half. They should have kicked way more ball down into the Glasgow 22, because when they were there Glasgow gave away penalties.

You have to say, it is tough for the Connacht lads to change their attacking stripes in such a short time, but knowing the conditions, there was only one place to play that game: down at the Bohermore End, rather than messing around in your own 22.

Saying all that it would be unfair to judge either team on that game. It was difficult for the coaches because their game-plan had to be scrapped, the players wouldn't have been prepared for that monsoon in the first week of September, and even the referee had a tough night's work.

It was hard for Ben Whitehouse to referee the scrum in particular with underfoot conditions so poor, but he was a bit fussy at times too. He penalised Kieran Marmion for not putting in the ball and Denis Buckley twice for collapsing, but once they had a look at half-time Connacht seemed to be a lot stronger there afterwards.

But what exactly the referees are doing allowing so much time for scrums is beyond me. The top brass want the ball in play more often, but yet referees are happy to lecture six professional front-rows on the laws in the scrum.

There is no other facet of the game that sees such a constant, drawn-out conversation. We are losing minutes at every scrum: just get on with it; it's either a free or a penalty; make the call and take no excuses.

Credit

But getting back to the match, credit must go to Jack Carty for his performance from the tee. Of all people he is under a bit of pressure with a new out-half on the way from Australia, but in the worst conditions imaginable for a kicker, to kick four from four at the Sportsground was a brilliant start. He'll be delighted with that. It was a shame to see him taken off. I don't know if he had a knock, because he needs as much game-time as he can get.

The one area I would be worried about was the lineout. Yes, the ball was wet, jumpers and lifters will slip and communication is difficult, but it still wasn't up to scratch. They got two or three chances close to the line to set a driving maul, which is one of their power plays, but it didn't happen.

Kieran Keane and Jimmy Duffy will be annoyed with that because those chances are hard-earned. If you mess up a lineout after a penalty to the corner, it is such a waste; you'd be just as well to tap it or take the scrum. The lads will be putting in a good bit of work this week to sort that out before the Kings game. They need to be accurate there against a South African team.

Southern Kings looked to be a decent outfit for almost an hour against Scarlets, but as a new face they need a win to get a foothold in the competition. I don't know how they'd react to another stormy night at the Sportsground, but they look to have decent raw materials at their disposal. I won't claim to be an expert on their team because I don't think many people know much about them here, but we'll soon find out what they are made of.

For sure the Kings would love to face into consecutive home games with a few points, but Connacht, too, need to win this one after losing first up. We saw last season what effect a bad start had, so to go two-and-zip from two home games would be a poor start.

It is very early to panic, but in a seven-team conference, Connacht don't want to be playing catch-up. Any sort of a win will do this weekend.

Irish Independent

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