Friday 23 February 2018

After strange weekend in Parma we want a big display at Scarlets

Player Diary: Tiernan O’Halloran

Denis Buckley is tackled by Zebre’s Federico Ruzza and Pietro Ceccarelli as the rain begins to fall in Parma last Saturday. Picture: Sportsfile
Denis Buckley is tackled by Zebre’s Federico Ruzza and Pietro Ceccarelli as the rain begins to fall in Parma last Saturday. Picture: Sportsfile

It was an unusual weekend with the game being called off in Parma last weekend, but it is what it is.

It was actually a lovely dry day over there on Saturday but just as we were starting to warm up for the game against Zebre, the rain clouds came in and began to circle.

Within about 30 minutes it started raining and there were flashes of lightning. It started to get very bad at half-time but we didn't know going in to the changing room that there was any doubt about the restart.

It was something a lot of us have never experienced before. We had done all of our video review of the opening half and all of a sudden we were told there was going to be a delay up to a possible further 20 minutes.

So we had to sit there and wait while the officials made a call on the game continuing. It could be easy to switch off because you are looking out the window and it's looking very bad.

But at the same time you have to be ready for the situation where the game is going to go ahead. At the time we were trailing 22-10 and we knew we needed to play a certain type of rugby to get those tries back to win the game.

You have to stay sharp, we had the mentality that we could have gone out and won that game. But it would have been very difficult to go out and score those tries in the conditions out there.


Zebre were disappointed - as we were. No one wants to travel all that way and not have a game to show for it. But player safety was the main concern and you have to respect that.

It was good to get another 40 minutes under our belt as well and especially for the guys coming back that would have been beneficial. Even on Monday we put in that extra mile on the training pitch because we had the fresher legs and minds, having not exerted as much energy as usual at the weekend.

Scarlets are in a similar situation to us in that they have not picked up a win at the start of the season. And they will have the advantage of being at home this weekend and in a stadium where we have never won. But we enjoy that challenge and we know we need to go out and perform.

From our first two games at home to Glasgow and Ospreys and then the first 40 minutes in Zebre, there were things that we were disappointed with but also things we feel we did well. In defence we certainly made some small errors and that let them in for a few tries.

Going away to Scarlets if your defence isn't right they will cut you open completely. There are lots of things we need to shore up and make sure we are all on the same page.

In attack, we have definitely improved. It's just about getting to that consistent level and continuing to work on the basics so that come match day we can click and the more intricate moves come off for us. We are confident we can get back to winning ways if we continue to go through the process of reviewing and improving.

Scarlets, like us, will be disappointed with where they are and will be determined to get back to winning ways. 2004 was the last time a Connacht team won away to them so it's long overdue.

We have to expect them to come hard us in the first 20 minutes. They will come out of the gates and it's up to us to be switched on and ready right from the off.

You can't afford to let teams get a head start on you in this league, especially away from home and in Wales. It is so difficult to chase the game over there.

But we are in the same place as them. There is a lot we are pushing to get right as well now and it is going to be a very physical and fast-paced game - something that we relish really.

These are the games that can kick-start your season. We are a bit low having lost two games and we are still searching for that first win after the way last weekend went for us.

If you can win at Scarlets it would be huge for the squad ahead of the games at home to Edinburgh and Ulster. And then you have the Champions Cup fast-approaching. So it's crucial at this stage of the season to be building momentum behind your team.

It's obviously a big goal of ours to get the performance right at Parc y Scarlets tomorrow. And with a couple of guys coming back from injury, it will add even more competition for places and that can only benefit us in training and in games.

As players, we are pushing each other to get things right. Pat Lam and the coaching team have put the game plan and trainings in place and the onus is on us to provide the finished product at the weekend.

Confidence is high and with a young squad that is vital as we look to kick on from last season. Despite winning the Pro12, we still have a relatively young and inexperienced panel and us guys who have been here for a number of years know what it's like to go through rough times with Connacht.

But after last season we know what it's like to win silverware too and we are hungry for more success this season. And games like this, away to Scarlets, represent a very important opportunity to gain some valuable points on the road. But first we are focused on cutting out our mistakes and a much improved performance all-round. With that, we are confident that the wins and the points will come.

Irish Independent

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