Wednesday 23 May 2018

Conway turns page on magic moment

Wing wonder not resting on laurels after sensational try against Toulon

Andrew Conway leaves Chris Ashton in his wake before diving over for Munster’s dramatic, late try against Toulon last month. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Andrew Conway leaves Chris Ashton in his wake before diving over for Munster’s dramatic, late try against Toulon last month. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

After the try, Andrew Conway wants the trophy. The winger has his Thomond Park moment and it will live long in the memory banks, yet he doesn't want his heroic intervention against Toulon to be in vain.

The Dubliner doesn't want to dwell on the moment he broke the French giants' hearts, but he hasn't been before the microphones since and it is too good not to revisit it just for a moment.

First, the catch and the refusal to give up on a Francois Trinh-Duc's touch-finder, arcing his body acrobatically while keeping his feet firmly in touch before setting off towards the try-line, finding the chasing line disconnecting and side-stepping his way past the covering defenders to set Ian Keatley up with a kick underneath the posts to win it and send Thomond Park into raptures.

It is a stand-alone sporting moment, a Thomond tale that will be passed on through the generations.

Footage of the score on YouTube has been viewed more than 125,000 times and it's not that Conway has been wearing out the F5 button on his keyboard re-watching his feats. Far from it.

"Celebrating is great, it's great to score and it's great for it to have an effect on the result, but if I'm still watching it on YouTube and I'm thinking about it now, then it's no good to me," he said matter of factly.

"It would be great if we could look back on it at the end of May as being a pivotal moment in us winning the European Cup, but at this point it was a big moment in a quarter-final that got us to a semi, but now we're in a semi and that's a new challenge, really."

Conway wants to move the story on, but a try like that deserves a bit of dissection.

"You don't really have time (to think)," he explained of the moment.

"Other than catching it, when you have a bit of time in the air and we do so much work on high balls and small little margins that there's a lot of that stuff and there's a lot of those catches that we work on regularly... so as it's going to the touchline, I'm going, 'I know my feet are in, is it going to go out, is it not?'

Marking

"I thought I was going to be able to catch it and have a go, and I think (Josua) Tuisova would have just assumed, like most other people did, that the ball was going out and he was marking the quick throw.

"So once I realised that, that there was a bit of space, and you're 75 minutes into a really tough game, the forwards would have thought it was going out, they're taking a breather, everyone kinda thinks it's going out and then it doesn't... that doesn't happen too regularly and something opens up, and it opens up really quickly, and luckily enough I was in position to have a crack and get in behind the line."

There was very little luck involved, but having been dealt a disappointing hand in the months leading up to the Toulon game, Conway deserved whatever slice came his way.

The versatile back-three player was set to be involved in Joe Schmidt's match-day plans for the Six Nations campaign until a knee injury struck on the eve of the tournament, meaning he missed out on the opportunity to be part of a historic Grand Slam.

"It (the try) was great. Missing out on things like the Grand Slam, pending selection obviously, is tough," he conceded.

"And at the time you are watching the lads playing massive international matches that you might have been involved in, again pending selection, but you can only look at these things for so long.

"You change the page and there is a new challenge and at this time of the year you have knockout rugby if you get out of your group, so you miss out on a few big games internationally, but soon after there is a quarter-final to play in, so it is great to play in these big games."

Beating Toulon got the Reds back to the stage they reached last season when they came up against the Saracens juggernaut in Dublin and fell well short of progressing.

"Saracens were a very, very good team last year. That was it. It was a big ask for us I think but we are in a good position now," Conway said.

"Going into last year I was confident we were going to win it as well. It was not to say last year we were kind of hoping we were going to win and this year we know we're going to win, it was nothing like that, last year we were confident but we came up against an incredibly good Saracens team who absorbed the pressure we put on them early and then took their chances.

"They were ruthless and they were fit, and they were a tough, tough team to play against. That semi last year was probably the toughest came I've played in, in terms of just feeling constantly under pressure.

"Everything they did they were all over you and Racing could be the same this weekend again; we just need to be more prepared for it.

"I think we are a better team (now). You need to evolve. If we weren't a better team we wouldn't have got out of the group.

"You see that with everyone this year with Leinster, with Scarlets, we're all constantly evolving and the coaches are looking at where the game is going and we're given direction on how to play and then you go out and it's who performs better"

Although outside of the camps the prospect of an all-Irish final is being discussed at length, at Leinster and Munster they are not entertaining the notion publicly lest they take their eye off the ball.

Briefest

As a former Blue who moved south seeking opportunity, Conway allows himself the briefest moment to envisage what the San Mamés might look like, before switching back to business-mode.

"Yeah, it would be cool, wouldn't it?" he said with a smile. "We will think about that after Sunday, I'd say.

"It would be mad (to get to a final), I am not from here obviously, but I went to the 2006 and 2008 finals with my dad. Heineken Cup or European Cup finals is different; there is something magical with Munster in Europe that you can't quite put your finger on, last year going to Dublin for the semi-final for the Saracens game was the best atmosphere I ever played in in my life.

"It is so disappointing to not perform on those days because of what's around you, your family are in the crowd, the crowd are on a different level and you want to play in those days as much as you can.

"They are the days you will remember in 30-40 years when you look back on your career and say those are the special ones.

"I'm sure hopefully Bordeaux is similar in terms of what the crowd bring, but then it is down to us to perform on the pitch.

"The crowd will definitely do something for us, but they don't win you semi-finals as we saw last year, so we just need to perform."

His try gave him a moment he'll never forget, but it also opened the door to more and Conway is keen to make the most of it.

Irish Independent

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