Monday 5 December 2016

Marmion backs Westerners to maintain their momentum

Published 10/05/2016 | 02:30

Connacht's Kieran Marmion. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht's Kieran Marmion. Photo: Sportsfile

It has been a familiar question trailing Connacht all season: can they back it up?.

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And, as the regular season ended with a defeat of the seemingly irrepressible champions, Glasgow, in their Galway fortress on Saturday, the query was inevitable and pressing too, as the sides meet again here in a fortnight to decide who will reach the Pro12 final.

The urgency of the demands upon them have, occasional glitches aside, failed to halt their own unstoppable gallop; on Saturday week, they will be asked to deliver once more and few now should doubt their ability to do so.

The weekend's prize was, effectively, the home tie they so craved; now it is onwards to the next goal.

"The most important thing is to get that home semi-final," acknowledges Kieran Marmion (above), the outstanding performer for Pat Lam's side on the day he earned his 100th cap in what is proving to be a watershed season for the Welsh-born scrum-half.

"We set out before the game to get the home semi, we backed ourselves and that's what we got. Our results show we've lost just one game at home all season, so it's not a great place for visiting teams to come.

"You could hear how loud the support was out there, especially in a tight game like that, it really helps us round off the game."

If Glasgow are to successfully defend their title, they must overcome the statistic which confirms that no side has ever won an away semi-final in the history of the play-offs.

"We viewed today as a quarter-final for our supporters to get back home so now we have to buck that historical trend that's a new challenge," said Warriors coach Gregor Townsend. "We will certainly be more determined. The winning and losing is not the key factor, it's if we play close to our potential. We didn't do that on Saturday.

"There were a couple of areas, with discipline, attack and defence. The players are disappointed with themselves that we didn't play to our potential."

Connacht may face a front-row crisis before the re-match after losing four props in the game. Glasgow will expect a ban for flying prop Sila Puafisi, while centre Alex Dunbar is an injury doubt.

Lam's men have rarely wilted whatever the obstacles placed in their way.

"When I came here, Connacht were bottom side in the table, they always talked about the ambition of where they wanted to go and where they wanted to be but there's a different type of belief about the place at the moment," says Marmion.

"We had to change the way we played at the weekend - we talk about having different systems for different conditions. It was tough; we trained in the sun all week, but we knew it was going to be raining, so we played the way we do in the rain all week, even though it was dry.

"We've proved we can beat them. We'll take huge confidence from that. They're the ones under pressure coming here, and we'll go into that game fully believing we can win that game too."

Irish Independent

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