Tuesday 12 December 2017

Cut out the silly errors and we'll be fine

Dragons display was terrible but crippling injury list is starting to ease

The return of Craig Ronaldson from injury will be a big boost. Photo: Sportsfile
The return of Craig Ronaldson from injury will be a big boost. Photo: Sportsfile

Johnny O'Connor

The first weekend in October was packed full of contrasting emotions on the rugby field if you were a Connacht fan, but the history-making victory over New Zealand healed a few wounds from the province's terrible outing in Rodney Parade on Friday night.

Hopefully Connacht can build themselves back up over the break, and be ready to hit Cardiff Blues hard when they come to the Sportsground at the end of the month.

I always remain positive with regards to where Connacht are because the players are doing everything in their power to make things happen. Everyone wants to be champions, but all the growth occurs while you're trying to do it. The players need to get back to the process.

When Connacht lose Andrew Browne they lose vital experience, and an important part in the set-piece and game-plan in general.

Connacht have a horrendous injury-list. They leave a lot of the workload for a small group of players which causes the injury cycle to continue.

There is bad luck of course, but you feel sometimes Connacht have to take risks to get players on the field. It is costing them in terms of continuity. They just can't cope without the numbers.

There were 16 injured guys down in Rodney Parade, and that puts a massive burden on the squad. In an ideal world players would be integrated back in slowly but with the high injury count Connacht don't get much sway in that and have players back playing the full 80 minutes straight away.

Nothing can prepare you for that. Take Nepia Fox-Matamua: as soon as he came back, Connacht lost him in the first game. There is the perfect world scenario and the real scenario, so I am not criticising anyone but sometimes you must take stock.

This time last week, I was adamant that Connacht would do the job in Newport, and a very good one at that. Maybe the scarring from Leinster, and the way they shut Connacht out, might have had a bigger effect and caused a bit of mental fatigue on the team.

They did lose a few good players to the Ireland versus New Zealand game as well, but still they shouldn't have played like that.

Pressure

But thankfully there are guys coming back. It's well and good when there is less pressure on. You know players are out and you know that your place is guaranteed. But it's when the players start coming in the guys need to up it. 

In the centre, with Craig Ronaldson and now Eoin Griffin coming back, that gets into the back of your mind when you are someone like Peter Robb.

If he had a bad game, it happens and it doesn't mean he will play like that again. He needs to take it as a learning curve. You can't fault him for knock-ons, it just didn't work out for him. It happens to everyone in one game or another and he certainly wasn't the only cause - Connacht went into that game as a team, and they lost that game as a team.

It was worrying how many time the defence got cut open though. There are a few things that are so important in defence: once you make a tackle you get off the ground, get in a position and make a decision as fast possible with intent. The commitment levels need to be there for defence to be effective.

You need to do that with an incredible amount of intensity -and when you look at how Ireland played at the weekend, the big difference there was the line-speed Joe Schmidt's men had in defence.

Whatever the nuances in attack and how good the Irish team were going forward, defensively they were outstanding. They got off the line and pressurised New Zealand in the rucks. Ireland were continuously on their feet and waiting to make decisions. 

My biggest fear was that they only had two weeks together and they had to ready to face the reigning world champions. But the biggest difference between 2013 and 2016 was that Ireland went after New Zealand in the second half. 

It shows you what a team can do when they play clinically, and Connacht just need to cut out the simple errors.

Irish Independent

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