Sunday 11 December 2016

We all desperately want to finish off a tough season with a bang

Jack O'Donoghue

Published 06/05/2016 | 02:30

Munster’s Billy Holland takes a selfie with supporters at Irish Independent Park after the game against Edinburgh. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster’s Billy Holland takes a selfie with supporters at Irish Independent Park after the game against Edinburgh. Photo: Sportsfile

What can you say about last week's win over Edinburgh only Cork was an unbelievable experience for all of us!

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On a night where we needed a win badly we were driven to victory by our brilliant supporters. Full credit to the crowd, they came out in huge numbers and supported us from well before kick-off.

They were there cheering and shouting for us from the minute we showed up at Irish Independent Park, and that makes a huge difference on the pitch. You can feel that when the going gets tough and it really helps you on to another level of performance.

While the performance was not perfect, I thought that it was very good for long periods and we felt that we were good value for the result.

In the first half we dominated on the front foot and held on to the ball very well. Simon Zebo's try down the right wing after Andrew Conway's chip was a top-class score, one of the tries of the season in my eyes.

Pressure

After the break we had to defend quite a bit as Edinburgh turned up the pressure. They chipped away at the scoreboard and kicked their penalties, but crucially they couldn't add to their first-half try, which proved to be the difference in the end.

It was a big effort in the last ten minutes from us, firstly to hold them out when their tails were up, but then at the other end, we were pretty patient and Francie's try in the last few minutes was just what we deserved.

Playing on the back foot like that is pretty draining, though. You have to make lots of tackles, put your body on the line all the time. And then when you are needed to defend a ruck or a maul, it can be tough to have the energy to play your part and make the hits late on. But the lads held solid and I think we deserved our five points.

Myself, I only got on for the closing stages and fair play to the boys that started the game, they had laid the foundations for a good win before I showed my face. But it is still crucial that you come on and make a real impact.

Whoever you replace, there is always a high bar there to match their effort and intensity. It's your job to up that effort even more. I always try to bring a lot of energy to the game when I come off the bench and it's important that replacements shoulder a lot of the workload late on. We have to make the hard yards, carry the ball with purpose, because invariably, the other lads are pretty tired after doing that same job for 60 or 70 minutes.

For team morale and the general humour about the place, this win was massive for all of us. Even just to be able to give something back to the supporters was really pleasing.

All the fans have had a tough year coming to Thomond Park and Irish Independent Park so far. When we are not getting results, making silly mistakes and losing games that we should have won, you can't blame people for feeling a little let down by us.

So with that in mind it was vital that we could win the game in Cork, but then to put the cherry on top with the fourth try meant it was one of the best nights for us all season.

Looking back over the season as a whole it is a bit frustrating to recall some of the results. You ask yourself: 'Why couldn't we do that against Connacht and Leinster?'. I think back to games that we left behind us like over in Cardiff or Glasgow away, games that we lost by just a point or two. Had we had won those really tight ones, we would be well in contention for the top four, but regrets are a pointless exercise.

We just have to focus on what's ahead of us tomorrow, take the win, secure our place in the top six and start all over again in pre-season.

And we are going to have to be on our toes for this one. We had a good look at the Edinburgh game in review earlier in the week and we saw the times that we handed possession back to them. That is one of the work-ons that we have from the weekend, but it's vital that we don't repeat any of those errors tomorrow.

Scarlets have a great back three and they are coming off a good performance and win against Dragons. While they are assured of their place in the Champions Cup next season, they are still in the fight for a place in the semi-finals, so we know they have it all to play for as well as ourselves. It's going to be one hell of a game.

As well as the prep for Scarlets, I've had the head stuck in the books as I am less than a week away from my final exams, but I have been able to front-load my study, so I think I'm in good shape.

It's an exciting time all round for me, and I am looking forward to tomorrow, I hope that Thomond Park will be as atmospheric as Irish Independent Park was last weekend. Thomond Park has rocked plenty of times in the past, so it would be great to see as many of our vocal supporters possible there with us tomorrow afternoon.

As a squad we'd all love to be able to put back-to-back wins and performances together to finish off the season, and with a few of the coaches like Ian Costello and Mick O'Driscoll leaving us in the summer, it would be a fitting way to send them on their way.

Both of them have had a huge impact on my rugby career, I played a good bit under Micko in the A team last season, while Cossie has been a brilliant mentor for me when it comes to things like my defensive work. I wish them all the best down the line.

Irish Independent

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