Sunday 25 February 2018

Carty taking steps towards greatness

Out-half going from strength to strength following last week's clinical masterclass

Jack Carty needed a game like last week’s win over Brive for his inner belief. Photo: Sportsfile
Jack Carty needed a game like last week’s win over Brive for his inner belief. Photo: Sportsfile
Danie Poolman was back among the scorers on his return to action

Johnny O'Connor

Connacht had to dig deep last weekend but the win was the most important thing and it doesn't matter when the tries come, as long as they arrive. They've put themselves in a great position ahead of Sunday's clash at Kingston Park and things are back on track.

Top of Poo1 1 and seven points clear of both Newcastle Falcons and Brive, it couldn't be going much better for Pat Lam and all the Sportsground at the moment - well apart from the injuries.

I was gutted for Dave McSharry last weekend, he was just on the field as a replacement when he had to go off again. It's terrible when you know it's a committed guy like that and after so long on the sidelines, he gets his chance, and then finds himself back at square one all over again.

But he'll be fine - he's a top-class professional and will come back stronger than ever.

Another centre and former team-mate of mine Eoin Griffin is on his way back to the club after he signed during the week and I think that's a tremendous bit of business. A homegrown Galway man will only add to the culture that Lam always alludes. It will also go some way towards filling the gap if other players end up leaving.

But for the moment it's all about the game against Newcastle, and it was heavily focused on getting the basics right last weekend. Connacht didn't over-extend themselves by any means, but they were clinical when they had to be, and Jack Carty was central to that.

He had a great game. He is a serious talent and can be a great player, and I think he needed a game like that for his inner belief. He kicked 20 points off the tee, landing seven of his eight attempts. Jack also controlled the game really well on a night where the experienced heads had to stand tall.

Connacht could have been more direct, though. The Falcons were there for the taking at times, and Connacht should have used their forwards more to create more space on the field - sometimes you need to mix up even if you know the team you are facing are strong in the tight areas. As the game progress these strengths can be exploited as fatigue sets in.


Peter Robb stood out again. He's learning fast, and after his first appearance out in Siberia, he's starting to look more at home in the team - especially around the breakdown, where he's a big physical threat and difficult to move off the ball when he gets in first.

It was great to see Danie Poolman back among the scorers on his return to first-team action. It showed how much of a threat he can be, and with all of the injuries and upheaval around the Sportsground at present, it's fantastic that his talents are back on show.

But the overall feeling after watching that game was, throughout the squad, no player was excellent and no player was bad. Everyone did their jobs and all things considered it was another victory at the end of the day. When you have to do without 22 players that's a fantastic return.

Connacht are almost in bonus territory now, and even if they lose over there they are still in control of the pool, but I definitely see them going close, if not winning at Kingston Park.

It's vital Connacht keep the wins flowing while they can, and they need momentum with a huge Pro12 inter-pro derby against Ulster around the corner. And it's likely Connacht will draft in a few more experienced guys if they are available.

The Falcons won't go down without a fight this weekend, and they will call on a few of their first-choice players who didn't travel to Galway last weekend.

If you're a player you want to play in these big matches, and this weekend it's a Challenge Cup tie away to an English Premiership side.

That's a big game for Connacht until they get back into the Champions Cup. And the players will want to get out on the pitch and make an impression.

It's would be great if Connacht got the four points over there, but it's even more important that the guys keep playing with confidence and bring that forward into the Ulster game - that's the important one.

Irish Independent

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