Wednesday 21 February 2018

Bank on Lam to have something up his sleeve

Ultimate tactician will make sure Connacht run big French side ragged

Pat Lam will be hoping to point Connacht in the right direction once more against Grenoble Photo: Sportsfile
Pat Lam will be hoping to point Connacht in the right direction once more against Grenoble Photo: Sportsfile
Aly Muldowney, here celebrating the win over Leinster with John Muldoon, has been to the forefront of Connacht’s fine season Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny O'Connor

It's a tricky one to call this weekend, Grenoble are a bit off the pace in the Top14, but they're more than capable of upping the ante against Connacht. I just feel Pat Lam will have something up his sleeve.

Let's face it, Connacht are the better side. Connacht are one of the best sides in the Pro12 at the moment, and they are competing against a French outfit, which should suit Connacht's style perfectly.

We all know Connacht like to move the ball fast, get it into the wider channels and generally keep it alive. It's all about the quick phase play and putting the opposition on the back-foot.

It's vital they do that against Grenoble because French sides just can't cope with that sort of the pressure. They are trained towards an entirely different style of rugby, because the French league is all about physicality.

Inside line

Bernard Jackman and Andrew Farley have the inside line on Connacht, and that will give the French a bit more of an insight in what to expect. But they won't have enough time to alter their game and trump Connacht.

Lam is the ultimate tactician, and with the rest of the Connacht coaches I am sure they are going to stick to their strengths and impose them on Grenoble this weekend.

It will be interesting to see what team Lam chooses to put out, but I fully expect him to go with a strong starting XV. There's no easy games from here on in, and they are all cup finals in a way.

That could be used as an excuse to rest some players, maybe the likes of Aly Muldowney, who has been fantastic again this season. His impact wasn't so great against Ulster last weekend, and maybe he deserves a rest.

But other than that I don't think Lam will want to risk losing this for the sake of resting a few front-liners. This is a European quarter-final. It might not be the Champions Cup, but the Challenge Cup still provides a chance at silverware.

If Connacht were to win this game, there's no reason why they wouldn't go all the way and win their first trophy. They've got all the attributes to cause the remaining teams problems, and a win gives them a home semi-final so it's all to play for.

It was disappointing last weekend, when they had to cough up their winning run at the hands of Ulster. Talk about a bogey side. There were a lot of positives to take from that performance and despite that loss I'm sure Lam would have been quietly pleased with what he saw.

It's never nice to lose an inter-provincial derby but Connacht were absolutely defiant at the end. With just 13 men on the pitch they defended like men possessed and it was another coming of age moment for them.

Connacht deserved a losing bonus point, but again there were a few errors and plenty of work-ons for training this week.

But it's all coming together nicely and we're still seeing the flashes of brilliance in every display.

Caolin Blade's try was nothing short of the sensational, and right in the middle of it was John Muldoon.

He's having a really good season, and that match was his best in a long time. He even made a couple of line-breaks, and his work off the ball was brilliant. It's great to see the captain stepping up like that, and I'm sure that will give heart to the younger guys going forward.


But plenty of those guys stood out in Kingspan Stadium last weekend, because at times Connacht were over-running Ulster. I can't remember Connacht looking so dominant in Belfast.

Peter Robb took his chance again, and he nearly cut Luke Marshall in half with one of his tackles. It was another statement from another young gun, coming from an academy that keeps on giving.

Elsewhere, in the Ulster Bank League Division 1A Galwegians' trouble intensified last weekend, but Corinthians completed their great escape as they staved off relegation.

It was an amazing few weeks for my old club, and fair play to them. They deserved it, and hopefully my other former club, Galwegians, can stay in 1A.

Irish Independent

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