Tuesday 23 January 2018

John Muldoon: Rucking as I knew it seems to be gone completely from the game

Connacht’s John Muldoon is shown the yellow card against Scarlets
Connacht’s John Muldoon is shown the yellow card against Scarlets

John Muldoon

Coming away from Parc y Scarlets with a loss like that was certainly not what we wanted last weekend. There has been a bit of frustration vented in training since but the importance of the game against Dragons cannot be understated now.

Edinburgh and Dragons both had big wins in Round 14 too, and we are level on points with Scarlets now, so we are going to Rodney Parade relishing the challenge but accepting that a win is necessary.

We didn't do ourselves justice in Llanelli. Pat and Dan always stress the point that if you go through the processes the win will work itself out but we veered a bit off the plan.

We didn't go through the processes after what looked like the perfect start - we couldn't have hoped for any better with Jack getting an early penalty and then John Barclay going to the bin.

But even Barclay's yellow had a sense of foreboding around it - we were attacking their line at the time and our maul was definitely going to result in a try but they collapsed it and from there on things didn't go right for us.

It was a bit demoralising from our point of view; it's great having an extra player but once they managed to stop our maul the second time around, it was a huge morale boost for their team.

Even after that we had our chances. Matt Healy had his try disallowed and that was really unlucky, and slowly but surely the game started to unravel.

Confident

By the time Barclay was back on the field, it was 6-3 to them and they obviously would have been confident to go on and win the game from there.

It's all well and good to be saying we were unlucky but we didn't get the processes right on the day and our defence was far too passive.

The margins are so small these days in the big games so you cannot afford to be allowing players to offload in the tackle and break the gain line on a consistent basis.

Time and again they were hammering through our defensive line and then any time we got ourselves into their territory and put on the pressure another error would disrupt our continuity.

I suppose the best example was the intercept try - we were pushing for a score that could have put us back within a few points. It came from a five-metre scrum and when you get up from a set-piece so close to their line and have to walk all the way down the field on a 14-point turnaround, it's a horrible feeling.

My yellow card was an act of pure frustration which looking back on I obviously regret. Tom McCartney was being blatantly held on the ground when a try was on and there was a penalty given. But then moments later when the exact same thing happened and nothing was done when we were denied a certain score, that was really frustrating.

These days rucking has completely gone out of the game. When I started playing for Connacht in 2001, I certainly wouldn't have dared to lie on the ball because you would be let know about it by the opposition.

The referee made the correct decision to the letter of the law on Sunday but I can't help but feel that the game has definitely changed as a result of players being given a greater licence to lie there.

But moving onto the game in Rodney Parade, that one has taken on a new lease of life considering the results last weekend. Dragons' win over Leinster was extraordinary and they possess a really dangerous style that we need to come to terms with.

They are missing the likes of Toby Faletau but they still have a fairly star-studded line-up. Lee Byrne is class act and when you throw in Aled Brew and Andy Powell there is a lot of experience there so we won't be taking anything for granted.

But don't get me wrong - we are heading to Wales looking for the victory and we are completely confident in our own ability. Even though we didn't do ourselves any favours last weekend we can't forget that our destiny is in our hands and we are still sixth in the table.

Elsewhere, the team I coach in the Ulster Bank League, Galwegians, have a huge game in their season as well. There are just four games left and the Division 1B table is really beginning to take shape with the top four teams all playing each other this weekend.

My phone definitely won't be on silent come Saturday because we travel to fourth-placed Ballymena while Trinity who are third and second-placed Garryowen play each other as well. A victory for us would be massive and I have feeling this weekend could be pivotal in 1B.

On the international front, Ireland are performing heroics as we've become accustomed to at this stage and Robbie has been one of the best performers. The one thing I think that could be changed there is his use in attack - right now he is more of a battering ram but when he gets into space he can be lethal. I'd love to see him given the option to express himself a bit more in attack.

It was great to have the national side at the Sportsground on Wednesday - a brilliant initiative from the IRFU. It was the first time that the national squad have trained here and the massive crowd of over 3,500 people showed how much rugby is growing in the west.

The tickets were snapped up in minutes and the team are determined now to beat Dragons to keep that positive feeling up.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport