Thursday 23 November 2017

Beat Edinburgh and we can really start thinking about the play-offs

After John Muldoon dropped out at the last minute against Ospreys, Sean O’Brien really stepped up and put in a great performance. Photo: Sportsfile
After John Muldoon dropped out at the last minute against Ospreys, Sean O’Brien really stepped up and put in a great performance. Photo: Sportsfile

Tiernan O’Halloran

This Edinburgh game is massive going into a break. If we get a win we are pretty much guaranteed top six and pushing on towards qualification for the Champions Cup.

Edinburgh got a huge win against Scarlets at the weekend. They have a proud record at home this season, and they have a few lads back from the Scotland set-up, so it is going to be a tough game, but one we are looking forward to.

It's a short turnaround, but there's a break after that. So there's plenty of time to rest and recover afterwards. We are fully focused on this - essentially it's a final for us. We are looking at it with that mentality, it'll put us in a fantastic position if we win.

The victory over Ospreys set us up nicely. Every game at this stage of the season is just so crucial.

Coming towards the end there, the replacements that came on and made such a big impact. Danny Qualter came in there without that much game-time. He stole a few lineouts and that was vital.

The energy that comes off the bench every week really lifts everyone else. It was brilliant to see that and a lot of it came from the younger lads stepping up.


Unfortunately John Muldoon dropped out last minute with a tight hamstring. It's tough at that stage of the week to lose your captain. We could be thinking 'our talisman is gone here', but Sean O'Brien really stepped up. He came on and put on a great performance.

And Tom McCartney was a brilliant leader as well.

It was good to get that while Mul wasn't there. It's something that you learn from. You get that experience, and it means in the future if something like that happens again you have done it before, and you have got that win under those circumstances.

It was a massive win but we are a bit disappointed not to have got four tries considering we had three early on. But at the end of the day it was crucial to stop Ospreys getting a losing bonus point; they would have got two bonus points had they scored at the end, so that was massive for us.

It is a confidence thing as well. We targeted five points in our three games before, against Scarlets at home, Dragons away and Zebre away. We targeted five points because we knew we could create opportunities to score tries as the league's top scorers.

We looked at Ospreys and felt there were opportunities to score tries, and in the first ten minutes we got two.

Unfortunately maybe we weren't clinical enough when we got into their 22 after that. But it shows where we are at right now.

And with a couple of results going our way elsewhere it was a good weekend. At this stage of the season every game matters, it is such a crucial time.

And Edinburgh are a tough side to beat, so we are expecting another bruising encounter this evening. This season, apart from the match during Christmas when the weather was very bad, there have been a lot of tries in every game we have played, except the one against Edinburgh.

We had a lovely dry pitch against them at the start of the year. We only scored one try and they didn't score any; that's the type of game you expect from Edinburgh. They are very physical and direct. They have got some big guys. Some people say they play a South African brand of rugby.

They are very hard to break down. You have to go through the phases and if you get opportunities to take your points and penalties you have to, because a lot of the times against Edinburgh it's a low-scoring affair. Especially away from home, you are going to have to earn everything you get.

We have done a lot of work and analysis on them. We know it is going to be a tough game.

And you can see with their last couple of games it is going to be tight. Our last few games against Edinburgh have all finished within a score of each other. So we are in for the same tonight. We are just hoping we can get on the right side of the result.

We have the week off after this and depending on the result we are going to have to look at our goals and what we are planning on doing if we have already guaranteed top six. In the position we are in now, there is naturally a lot of talk outside about us getting to the play-offs and the top four. It would be unbelievable for Connacht to get to that stage.

Mul has been here for around 12 years but he has never finished above seventh place in the league. To jump up to the top four and get to a play-off would be unbelievable. A home semi-final would be amazing with the crowd and the buzz around Galway.

But it's a long way to go and it's still game by game now, because every match is a cup final. It's huge for us.

We still have that quarter-final against Grenoble to look forward to as well.

It's really exciting, everyone is looking forward to the weeks and months ahead. There is a lot of confidence in our game, and we want to finish the season strong.

We really want to achieve our goal and get something for the province.

Irish Independent

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