Tuesday 21 November 2017

Hard lessons from Treviso aid push for home semi

Pat Lam speaks with his players during training at the Sportsground ahead of their final Pro12 game (SPORTSFILE)
Pat Lam speaks with his players during training at the Sportsground ahead of their final Pro12 game (SPORTSFILE)

Pat Lam

It was a long enough trip back from Treviso on Saturday but we used the time well to analyse the game on our laptops and prepare ourselves for Monday's review.

While we were naturally very disappointed with the loss and the manner of the late defeat, we also were able to highlight a lot of positives and learnings which will help us going into tomorrow's game and the play-offs.

While we scored three good tries, including an outstanding team try finished by Peter Robb, we probably blew another seven.

One positive is that we created those opportunities to score but our finishing skills weren't up to our normal high standards.

Another was that our position in the table allowed us to give some key guys returning from injury an opportunity to get some vital minutes before heading into this crunch time of the season.

Players like Jack Carty, Rory Parata, Jake Heenan, Tiernan O'Halloran and John Cooney will all benefit with the hit-out under their belts.

One of the key learnings from looking at the footage was Treviso showed that they wanted it more.

With the amount of line-breaks we made, the way in which the Treviso guys were getting back into position quickly before us showed the hunger they had that maybe we were missing. This sort of work-rate is what we pride ourselves on and I'm confident it will be sorted tomorrow.


Although we didn't get the outcome, we are now only one of two teams that are guaranteed semi-final rugby knowing that our destiny is in our hands.

Come 5.00 tomorrow, eight teams' dreams of winning the Pro12 are over and only four teams with a chance remain. The fact that we know we are there already is very pleasing.

We can't wait to be back at home for a Saturday afternoon fixture. We thought the demand for the Leinster and Munster games was unreal but this game with Pro12 champions Glasgow Warriors coming to town has been sold out for nearly three weeks now which is a first for us.

It's great that new supporters want to get down and support us and we can't overemphasise the difference it makes to the team.

We couldn't ask for a bigger challenge. A well-resourced and well-coached team, Glasgow are on fire at the moment. After the Six Nations and with their large international contingent back, they have taken their game to a new level and they have threats all over the park.

But there is massive motivation for us to win and secure that home semi-final. We're thriving off the fact that it's in our control. We win the game, we're guaranteed second at least and a home semi-final.

Win with a bonus point, we finish top of the league. We know what it would do for the supporters and the area, let alone us as a team.

We have two teams with an exciting mindset so it should be a great game for everyone who has a ticket to the sold-out Sportsground.

We're massively excited by it and we go in to the game with confidence on the back of what we've achieved already this season.

Another big highlight for us is that through unavailabilities, we have never been able to name the same starting XV back to back all season. So to be the only team to have remained in the top four for 22 rounds is really satisfying and highlights the level of consistency we have reached throughout the season.

It's a real credit to all the hard work from everyone involved.

Awards season is in full swing and a few of us were up at the IRUPA awards on Wednesday night in Dublin, which is always an enjoyable evening.

A good few of our Connacht boys were nominated for different awards, which was great. While it's a team game, there is a lot of hard work that goes in from individuals so it's important to recognise that towards the end of a season.

Tomorrow night, after the Glasgow game, we'll have our own awards at Bailey Allen Hall in NUI Galway. It's always a good night as it brings together the rugby family from all over the province to recognise achievements from all different levels of the game.

A great way to celebrate reaching a first ever semi-final - ideally at home.

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