Sunday 19 November 2017

Lam won't rein in error-strewn side

Lam:
Lam: "We gifted them a fair few points." Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Against a shadow Leinster, it was apt that the sight of Connacht chasing shadows defined this encounter.

In many ways, it has defined such a disappointing defence of their crown which, inevitably, will undermine their status as champions in some people's eyes, except those of us who attend sport to raise our spirits.

Connacht delivered more than sporting success last season; they offered a design for life.

Their team made more errors than any other in the Guinness PRO12 yet their ebullience and energy carried the garlands beyond the Shannon. Fail again, fail better as old Sam said - and they failed with such elan!

However, this season, the same mistakes that they are allowed to make are enervating rather than energising them.

While others, either through complacency or inadequacy, or both, struggled to maintain Connacht's wild pace last term, their rivals have used time and temperament to rein them in.

Connacht's lust for the very life that sustained them just a short while ago is being severely strained.

Yet again, they dominated the stats board - 25 offloads, 26 defenders beaten, 10 line-breaks - in the second-half alone they had three-quarters of possession and territory.

They own the ball but lose the ball game. The other stat they dominated told the real story; twice as many turnovers as their visitors, to whom they charitably gifted, at the very least, a brace of their five tries.

"You can't fault the effort but again when you have three tries from interceptions or turnovers and a forward pass," bemoaned Pat Lam.

"It pretty much sums us up. We gifted them a fair few points. The boys knew the significance of the game but again the errors hurt us."

Connacht are not taking their chances; everyone else is taking theirs. Having led by a cigarette paper at the break, Lam's charges then self-combusted, losing the second act by some 18-5; two tries to one.

Their thoughts are not failing them, merely their execution, allied to the pinpoint precision of opponents who blitzed them with a defensive rush sorely absent from their playbook last term.

"There is no way I will rein them in," insists Lam (left), "and tell them, 'mate don't pass the ball, don't make mistakes.' It's about learnings." There have been too many this year, whereas last year Connacht schooled the rest.

Smashed

Eoin Griffin lamented the fact that he could hear opponents actually calling out Connacht's own attacking ploys during this game.

Hence, the pacy Adam Byrne expertly picked off Craig Ronaldson in the first half, and then Sean Cronin smashed Denis Buckley in the second for two of the five tries.

"When Craig went to throw four v one, what happened is not necessarily Craig's fault," explained Lam.

"The guys who are outside, there are supposed to be in position to look up. They are all looking in. I could see them all looking in so they didn't see Adam.

"We have a call for it but they all squared up and did what they did instead of moving away and just telling Craig he is coming, don't put it through."

Spurning numerous four- or five-on-three gambits, as well as players over-running the ball, Connacht undid their ferocious breakdown work; profligacy and prodigious generosity cost them dearly. Again.

Whether they return to the Champions Cup will be defined by these tightest of margins.

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