Wednesday 21 March 2018

Lam: Ulster test doesn't faze us

Connacht players celebrate their win against Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile
Connacht players celebrate their win against Leinster. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

It's a season which has seen more alterations to the record books for Connacht than any other, and coach Pat Lam is hoping that another chapter can be updated when he takes his men to Belfast this evening.

Victory in this one would notch three notable achievements - it would be Connacht's first win in Belfast since a 6-3 success there in November 1960, while it would be the first time ever that Connacht have beaten the three Irish provinces in the same season.

Also, Ulster remain one of only two sides that Lam has not got a win over since he took charge almost three years ago. The other team, champions Glasgow Warriors, come to the Sportsground on the weekend of the final round of games, so there is time also to tick that box during this campaign.

But of primary concern now is building on that gripping 7-6 win over Leinster last weekend and holding on to leadership in the Pro12 as the battle intensifies for semi-final places.

"It's a massive challenge but it is nothing that should faze our guys. It's just preparing well and understanding what is coming and if we prepare well mentally we give ourselves a good chance," said Lam.

That stats don't paint an optimistic picture but that's been great motivation for Connacht all season.

This is the 26th meeting between them in the league, Ulster have won 21, there has been one draw and Connacht have won three games. Connacht have only beaten Ulster once in the past 19 meetings and all 12 visits to Belfast have ended in defeat.

Lam's men have been setting new parameters all season, although last weekend's 7-6 win was not the lowest score that achieved victory for Connacht in their 281 league games so far.

That, actually, came in their first ever game in the league in August 2001 when two Eric Elwood penalties gave them a 6-3 over Cardiff at the Arms Park. Since then there has only been one other occasion when Connacht scored less than 10 points and still won - that was a 9-6 win away to Treviso in October 2014 when Craig Ronaldson kicked three penalties.

That 7-6 match between Connacht and Leinster last weekend wasn't the lowest scoring match between them - that came in November 1960 when they drew 0-0! And two weeks later Connacht defeated Ulster in Ravenhill.

Irish Independent

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