Tuesday 22 May 2018

Improvement will be needed next season

Squad needs to regroup during the summer and come back strong

Jarrad Butler of Connacht is tackled by DTH Van Der Merwe, left, and Rob Harley of Glasgow Warriors during the Guinness PRO14 Round 20 match between Glasgow Warriors and Connacht at Scotstown Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Paul Devlin/Sportsfile
Jarrad Butler of Connacht is tackled by DTH Van Der Merwe, left, and Rob Harley of Glasgow Warriors during the Guinness PRO14 Round 20 match between Glasgow Warriors and Connacht at Scotstown Stadium in Glasgow, Scotland. Photo by Paul Devlin/Sportsfile

Noel Mannion

Connacht's defeat at Scotstoun last weekend was indicative of their entire season so far. There were some below-par performances, one or two flashes of brilliance, but throughout they looked like a team lacking in confidence and direction.

A lot of people would say that because the season was over a few games ago, it was just a case of freewheeling it, but there should be a lot more to it than that.

Connacht really needed a big finish to the season even if the quest for silverware is beyond them this season and qualification for Champions Cup rugby is over for another year.

There is also a need to send John Muldoon out on a high and it has now come down to the clash against Leinster to do that.

Leinster's shock loss to Treviso means that they will come to the Sportsground needing a result, but that would make a Connacht win all the sweeter and a fitting end to Mul's magnificent contribution to the province.

Connacht lost to Glasgow because of some really basic errors that have haunted them all season. They are going to find it really difficult against Leinster. It has been an average to poor season all the way through, and it's going to be remembered for that.

Glasgow had a bonus point already sown up before they took their foot off the pedal and made a few changes. In fairness to Connacht, they got a few scores; you can't fault that, or their effort to keep going.

But to be that far behind, and conceding three desperately poor tries, it wasn't a great watch. We all thought after 2016 that these games would be confined to the distant past. But Connacht seem to be slipping back to the bad old days.

Luckily, this season is coming to an end and it will give the players a chance to recharge.

But when you look at that squad on Friday night in Glasgow, a lot of them had PRO12 medals and there was real international experience on the pitch in Connacht colours too.

The bar was set at a new level for Connacht when they won the PRO12 in 2016 and the reality is that players and management are going be judged against that standard.

Transition It puts more pressure on during a period of transition and so far Connacht have not pushed on from that great day in Edinburgh two years ago.

It can be difficult to build on success. It doesn't follow that big-name signings will result; the opposite can sometimes be the case with some stars targeted.

We saw that with Edinburgh when they got to the semi-finals of the European Cup in 2012. They lost to Ulster and went into freefall after that.

Connacht fans are very forgiving - some would say they are too forgiving - and are often content if their team performs, even if that isn't enough to deliver a result.

But the Connacht players and management, I'm sure, would be the first to acknowledge that they have not performed on a consistent basis this season. I'm sure it's as frustrating for them as it is for supporters.

I watched the game against Glasgow Warriors twice this week and it got more frustrating each time.

Kieran Keane is asking the fans to be patient, and hopefully it does work out. But, unfortunately, this is professional sport.

You don't always get the latitude to allow these plans to come to fruition. Pat Lam was lucky to get the two years when he was building the team.

Maybe that is what Connacht are hoping for if a similar situation arises here.

I genuinely thought the Gloucester game would shake Connacht out of their poor form in the PRO14, and they would kick on for the rest of the season, but that just didn't happen.

Supporters were hoping that they would be joining their counterparts in Leinster and Munster in bidding for silverware at the business end of the season, but that just has not happened and there have been several disappointing displays.

The key thing now is that they finish on a high against Leinster, regroup over the summer and hit the ground running when the 2018-'19 campaign kicks off.

Irish Independent

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