Thursday 23 November 2017

Numbers stack up for Lam's men

Pat Lam encapsulates the feelgood mood at Connacht these days Photo: Sportsfile
Pat Lam encapsulates the feelgood mood at Connacht these days Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

Connacht's best ever season has been manifest in many forms - not least last weekend, with five players on the field at the same time for Ireland in a winning Six Nations side - and the old adage that the league table never lies certainly holds true for Pat Lam's men.

Connacht remain the only side in the Pro12 to have been in the top four since the start of the season.

And while they have a 12-point cushion over fifth-placed Munster - who play their game in hand away to Munster this evening - Lam will be taking little for granted with three Irish derbies in the offing.

But the fact that Connacht are the only side to occupy a semi-final berth since the start of the campaign clearly illustrates just how good a season it is.

Connacht even managed to stay in the knockout places when losing four games in a row - away to Cardiff, Leinster and Scarlets and a home tie against Ulster.

They slipped from first to fourth in that barren spell over December and early January before getting their title bid back on track with three bonus point wins away to Dragons, Zebre and Edinburgh and a home win in between against Ospreys.

Four teams have not been in the top six all season with Treviso, Zebre, Dragons and, surprisingly, Ospreys failing to make it to the top half at any stage.

Glasgow Warriors, the reigning champions, have not been in the top four all season. Only Scarlets, who moved from fifth after the opening weekend, have come close to matching Connacht's ever-presence in the semi-final berths.

Leinster, Munster, Ulster, Cardiff and Edinburgh are the other sides to occupy top four places during the season.

Connacht's impressive season is also illustrated by being top try scorers on 49 - Ulster on 41 are next - with Matt Healy the top individual try scorer in the competition with nine touchdowns. An interesting aspect of his scoring is that six of the tries came away from home.

Place-kicking was a big problem in the opening half of the season but it is worth noting that Craig Ronaldson is now second in the Golden Boot competition with a return of 35 from 46 kicks giving him a success rate of 76.09pc.

Irish Independent

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