Tuesday 20 February 2018

Good to still be in the mix with two games to go

Tommy Seymour, Glasgow Warriors, scores his sides fifth try dispite the tackle of John Cooney during Connacht's disappointing defeat at the Sportsground last weekend
Tommy Seymour, Glasgow Warriors, scores his sides fifth try dispite the tackle of John Cooney during Connacht's disappointing defeat at the Sportsground last weekend

Pat Lam

It's been a busy week for everyone here at Connacht Rugby. When you are coming towards the end of the season things can get a bit hectic and despite Saturday's loss, we are still alive and have a lot to play for.

With no game this weekend there was a possibility of having the week off, but the players were determined to get straight back into work with such an important fixture against Zebre coming up.

Last Saturday was frustrating for all concerned - team and supporters alike. We said before the game that we had to make the most of our opportunities against a top team like Glasgow.

We know as a team that throughout the season our game plan will create opportunities and every time we have reviewed our games, win or lose, we've focused in on our execution of taking them.

When we did the review after the Glasgow game there was a statistic that probably summed up the whole afternoon for us. We had 37 genuine opportunities in that game and we only got 13 points out of that.

Glasgow had 14 opportunities and they managed to get 31 points. That explained the frustration and disappointment that everyone felt after the game.

That Glasgow side have been together for about three years now, building their squad of international players. You could see that in the quality of their play and it's no coincidence that they are consistently in the top four.

The positive for us is that we worked hard and started the game on the front foot - something that had been an issue for us in recent games. We just didn't nail those opportunities and for us that's a work-on for the young group that we have going forward.

I would be more worried if we didn't create those opportunities but certainly we've got to learn to nail them in games like that because top-four sides like Glasgow have the nous to do that to you.

They certainly capitalised on our errors and after controlling play for most of the first half, all of a sudden we were 13 points behind when they scored two quick tries just two minutes before half-time.

Their offloading game was immense as well. A lot of the time, we thought we had them tackled but they got the ball away out of contact which led to their scores.

On a few occasions we were one pass from scoring tries but those are the little areas where we have got to get better at under pressure.

From the coaching side of things we understand the challenges we face with a smaller squad but that is why we take these jobs.

There are certainly far easier jobs out there but for us it's about the development of ourselves and our squad.

The thing that impressed me most this week was a motivational presentation delivered by Swifty and Mils on behalf of the senior leadership group. They reminded everyone what we have achieved so far this season. They wanted to emphasise that we have two games where this group of players will play together for the last time. We have to keep the pressure on and the focus going into Zebre is all about getting our tenth win in the league.

While five points is desirable, it's important to get the win first and foremost. If we do that by playing at our best, the bonus point will come which will put the pressure back on Scarlets and Edinburgh.

Zebre have a lot to play for because their Champions Cup status next year is also up for grabs. They're a totally different proposition at home and we saw that when they played Scarlets in their last home game. The Welsh only won in the 82nd minute so we know it's not a given that we are going to get the win.

But that's another week away, the Champions Cup final is on tomorrow and it's great to see the two best teams in Europe taking part. There are certainly some quality players in both sides and it has the potential to be a real cracker of a game.

There's also a big fight on tomorrow night in Las Vegas, I wouldn't be massively into boxing but I do like the big fights.

As a kid I used to watch the Muhammad Ali fights with my dad, and we always tuned in for the ones with Sugar Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson too.

It was interesting to hear Floyd Mayweather talking about being the best boxer of all time recently. To me, there's only one greatest when it comes to boxing and that's Ali! Enjoy the weekend.

Irish Independent

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