No room for error now, but we have the ability to fix mistakes
It was disappointing to slip up away to Cardiff Blues last weekend, but crucially we picked up two bonus points on the road, and we have plenty of positives to bring to Parma this weekend.
We were inaccurate in a few aspects of the game and we gave Cardiff some easy scores last Friday. Some of the things that we have been doing really well over the last couple of weeks just didn't fire for us. We scored some good tries but let them off very easy by giving them opportunities to score.
We probably worked a little bit harder for ours than they did for theirs and that's never a good sign. But any time you get two points out of a game like that is pretty good. It was the shining light out of it.
You have to take a bit of heart out of the fact that we went over there and outscored them by four tries to three as well. For anyone that watched it, it was a very weird game. The second half took a while to get going and it was very stop-start as well.
In the last couple of weeks before the break, our ability to score and then to get out of our own half, and not give the opposition a foothold in our territory was something that was really pleasing. We got some good results out of that and four wins in a row.
But against Cardiff we fell back into some old habits by not getting out of our own half and not exiting well. Unfortunately, on a number of occasions we scored and then gave the ball straight back to them by not removing the ball from our territory.
Revert It was frustrating because we have done quite a bit of work on that. To have it go so well for a few weeks and then revert to old habits in Cardiff was a bit of a step backwards. We have worked hard on our defence and shape, but we missed tackles, and they cost us dearly. A combination of not getting out of our half and not making our tackles was where we went wrong.
In fairness, our shape was in place, it was just the execution of the tackle where we fell short. But thankfully that is probably the easiest thing to fix. All we have to do is work hard on that, and we've done that this week.
The system and shape was fine when we looked at it. That would have been a much more complex fix for us. But we can get back into winning ways by focusing on the smaller things. From that point of view, that's a positive for us.
When the small things accumulate it allows the opposition gain a foothold in the game. And against Cardiff our discipline wasn't there at times so that helped them gain territory. They are things you can cut out, the penalties, exits and missed tackles. You can control those.
When you come away from a game, and you say you couldn't do anything differently to win it, that's when there is a real problem. But when there are two or three things that you can fix easy that will be enough to win, it's better from a long term point of view.
We've focused on the positives too this week. We scored a few really good tries. We got two points out of it which was great to see.
There were a few new lads getting game-time. Obviously it's frustrating to lose, but if you are going to lose getting two points out of the game isn't a bad situation to be in, especially with guys getting blooded.
We understood the magnitude of the game against Cardiff, but we've rectified where we went wrong and it's on to a big game against Zebre this weekend.
Looking at them playing Munster the other day, they were well in it for most of the game. And they will be looking to improve with a lot of their internationals back in the side.
Our old coach and friend, Michael Bradley, is in charge, while Conor O'Shea has a big influence over there too. There's a big Irish presence and they obviously look to do well against the Irish provinces, especially at home.
Strides You see some of the results Zebre have already got this season, they have a few wins of the board. When you take Europe into account too, they are already probably close to what they have achieved in some seasons gone by.
They are making massive strides and the big thing they have done is brought through some young Italian players over the last few years, and worked hard with them to try and keep them in Italy. They have focused on their core skills to try and improve them too.
Certainly it looks like they are reaping the rewards out of that. It's a lot like the structures that have been put in place in Ireland in the last few years, the Italian sides are doing the same. They are building for the future but when you are building for the future you want to get results and see some things fall into place.
Over the years they have done really well at home. We know that they are very dangerous and if you don't give them that respect you could fall short. Their results so far this season have shown what they are capable of.
But if we just fix the things we didn't get right on Friday night against Cardiff, we should be able to give it a good shot at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
We need to go over there with the right attitude and look after our own stuff. And just try and be better at the end of the day. We know we can win over there but there's no room for error now.
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