Saturday 29 April 2017

Lam not buying into talk of crisis in Connacht

Kieran Marmion of Connacht is tackled by Jake Ball of Scarlets. Photo by Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile
Kieran Marmion of Connacht is tackled by Jake Ball of Scarlets. Photo by Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile
Jack Carty of Connacht is tackled by Rhys Patchell and Aled Davies of Scarlets. Photo by Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile

Tim Lewis

Connacht have dismissed talk of a club crisis, despite making their worst-ever start to a Pro12 campaign.

Scarlets 17 Connacht 8

The reigning Pro12 champions are rock bottom of the league without a single point after slipping to a third defeat of the season at the Scarlets.

Bundee Aki of Connacht is tackled by Aled Thomas and Liam Williams of Scarlets. Photo by Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile
Bundee Aki of Connacht is tackled by Aled Thomas and Liam Williams of Scarlets. Photo by Chris Fairweather/Sportsfile

It's the first time Connacht have ever opened their season with a trio of losses but head coach Pat Lam has refused to criticise his players after their dramatic change in fortunes.

Connacht pulled off arguably the biggest shock in the history of the league last season, which culminated with a superb victory over three-time winners Leinster in the Pro12 final at Murrayfield.

But they now find themselves looking up at the rest of the league after perennial Italian strugglers Treviso picked up their first win of the season against the Newport Gwent Dragons, while Zebre secured a second losing bonus point of the campaign against the Cardiff Blues.

"I'm not concerned if people talk about a crisis. I wasn't concerned when people said we were great last season," said Connacht head coach Lam after the defeat at Parc y Scarlets.

Experience

"I have a good saying off a mentor I work with, 'I have no business doing what I do if I listen to people who have no idea or experience about what I do'.

"If I start listening to people then I will lose my focus on the job and then there will be a crisis.

"The only way we are going to improve is by keeping working on the things we can do, not beating ourselves up about what's happened or wishing we'd like to be somewhere else."

Lam insisted a top-six finish is "non-negotiable" but they look a long way behind early pace-setters Ulster, Cardiff Blues and the Ospreys so far this season.

Some poor penalty kicking from Scarlets full-back Aled Thomas had allowed Connacht to take an 8-7 lead into half-time on Saturday night thanks to a well-worked try from Niyi Adeolokun.

But with the game poised on a knife-edge going into the final quarter, it was Liam Williams' second try of the evening for the home side which proved to be the difference and secured the home side their first win of the season.

Connacht forward Eoin McKeon said: "It's disappointing, last season we lost four games on the bounce and it's during these tough times that a team gets closer together.

"There's no point anyone pointing fingers or blaming anyone else, the true character of the team must come through when you come off the back of three loses.

"We know we are not far off, it's only one or two errors between winning and losing. We just have to eat the bitter pill at the moment but we have to get over it quickly because it's a short turnaround."

Scarlets - Thomas (S Williams 54); L Williams, J Davies, Parkes, Evans; Patchell, A Davies (J Evans 75); Jones, Owens (capt) (Elias 74), Kruger (Edwards 59), Ball, Bulbring (Rawlins 67), Shingler (Boyde 78), Ja Davies, Barclay (Allen 59).

Connacht - O'Halloran; Adeolokun (Kelleher 74), Aki, Griffin (O'Leary 59), Healy; Carty, Marmion (Blade 65); Buckley (Heffernan 67), McCartney (Loughney 67), Bealham (Cooney 67), Roux (Stevenson 77), Dillane, McKeon, Heenan (Connolly 72), Muldoon (capt).

REF - G Clancy (IRFU)

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