Friday 28 July 2017

We are all desperate to win this one for 'Mul' on 300th appearance

Player Diary

Denis Buckley takes on Edinburgh’s Simon Berghan during last Friday’s win at Myreside. Photo: Sportsfile
Denis Buckley takes on Edinburgh’s Simon Berghan during last Friday’s win at Myreside. Photo: Sportsfile

Tiernan O'Halloran

It's easy to get excited for this fixture every season. It's been a great week of training ahead of a huge inter-provincial derby against Leinster at the Sportsground tomorrow - and we want to put a few things right after last weekend.

The inter-pros always bring out the best in this Connacht squad and as the competition for places increased, hopefully we can step it up tomorrow.

One player who definitely stepped up in Myreside last weekend was Steve Crosbie, nailing all of his kicks to land 17 points.

That gave us a really good buffer, and with Duncan Weir uncharacteristically off target a couple of times it gave us a great 16-0 lead at half-time.

We felt confident at half-time and everything seemed to be going very well, especially when Steve kicked two more penalties around the hour-mark and we took a 22-0 lead.

Pressure

But unfortunately my yellow card put a lot pressure on us. And the referee decided to give a penalty try on top of that, which changed the momentum of the game.

We were under immense pressure and that gave Edinburgh confidence to come at us. We need to work on the way we reacted. When we get into those positions, even with 14 men, we cannot afford to give away penalties because that gives the opposition the chance to get back into the game.

We were never expecting an easy game and we were delighted to come back with the four points, but it shouldn't have been so close.

Once we got back to 15 men with a couple of minutes to go we knew the only way they were going to get anywhere near our tryline was through our ill-discipline. We weren't getting many calls at the break-down and our poaches didn't yield so we said we would leave it alone.

We tried to force mistakes like knock-ons, elsewhere. Our defence was smart, we stayed connected and got some good line-speed. Edinburgh couldn't break us down and we ended up with the game finishing in their half.

We weren't under too much pressure despite the score-line, but we still expect more from ourselves.

There was a feeling of relief afterwards, but there was a bit of frustration as well. When you are 22-0 up with about 19 minutes to go, you don't expect to get yourself in a position where you are defending for the last couple of minutes, trying not to lose.

We got ourselves into that position with ill-discipline, the yellow card and penalty try. We went into our shells when we were down to 14 men.

To let them back into the game was disappointing but we knew things were going to start sticking for them eventually, because they had plenty of chances in the first-half and they weren't scoring. We were expecting a backlash.

It wasn't ideal they got three tries at the end but at least we got the all-time important victory.

And this weekend is another massive test, against the team flying high at the top of the Guinness Pro12 table. There are three games left in the regular season and all against top-four teams, so it's a huge opportunity for us.

We are trying to finish as high up the table as possible and to put in performances we can be proud of. The season is in no way over for us. There is still so much to play for.

When we played Leinster at the RDS at the start of the year, they changed a lot about the way they defended against us, compared to last season in the Pro12 final. The way they defended last May allowed us to get over the gain-line a lot easier.

But now they are much stronger and quicker to get up in your face. That challenged our game-plan when we played them in the RDS earlier in the season. But the breakdown is one place where we will look to get an advantage over them.

We feel if we can be accurate enough at the breakdown it will give us that quick ball.

We all know how good they are in attack too, so the key thing is to disrupt their breakdown and look to stop them at source.

It's always enjoyable facing off against lads you are in competition with at Irish camp.

I am friendly with a lot of the Leinster lads as well so there's that familiarity as well as the healthy rivalry.

While there will be a lot of talk about guys fighting for Ireland places, you can't let that enter your head. You do your job for Connacht first and foremost, you can't get obsessed with trying to out-do your opposite number in terms of the Irish set-up. That won't get you anywhere, you need to do what's best for the team.

This game has been sold out for a few months now and, as always, there will has been a great atmosphere around the place in the lead up to the game.

Our captain John Muldoon is in line to play his 300th competitive game for Connacht which is some achievement! We're all absolutely delighted for him and a bit in awe to be honest.

I've known 'Mul' for nearly ten years and he's become a great friend. He's an unbelievable leader and the epitome of hard work.

Winning a trophy last season meant everything to him and I think the entire rugby community was smiling for John Muldoon that day. I know for him this is just another game but there's no doubt we'll all be looking to put in a performance for him as usual.

Hopefully we'll all be celebrating with him in the changing-room after the game.

Irish Independent

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