Sunday 25 February 2018

Pat Lam: A superb win but we have moved to next test

Connacht players Denis Buckley, Dave McSharry and Darragh Leader celebrate their victory over Leinster. Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Connacht players Denis Buckley, Dave McSharry and Darragh Leader celebrate their victory over Leinster. Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

Pat Lam

Sometimes rugby gives you nights to remember and last Friday was right up there with the best of them. It was an unbelievable night.

I was very proud of how the boys stood up to everything Leinster threw at them and defended manfully once they managed to work their way into the lead.

But I was just as proud of the support that all you Connacht fans gave us. It all combined to be a great occasion, and one I hope we can recreate plenty of times.

It's hard to describe the passion that was on display at the Sportsground. The new guys were blown away by the atmosphere - even some of the players that have been here for a good few years said that it went to another level.

This week I had to order new headphones for use with our communication system - I just couldn't hear a word from the sidelines, the noise was that intense.

Last week in my diary I mentioned that as a team we would fight for everything and that our 16th man would get us over the line if it was tight in the closing stages, and that's exactly what happened.

Protecting a 10-9 lead for the last 25 minutes against the champions and triple Heineken Cup winners is a tough task, but we managed to do it on the wave of support. This really is a special place to play and I want to thank all of our supporters, you really got us home.


But the guys on the field need to be commended too. It is just another example of the growth in maturity that this very inexperienced group has made.

A lot of credit has to go to guys like John Muldoon, Nathan White, Michael Swift and Mils Muliaina. Those members of our senior group keep everyone calm and drive the standards that we strive for.

To fall 9-0 behind before the end of the first quarter might have knocked our belief previously, but the confidence that we have built up from two tight wins against Dragons and Edinburgh really came to the fore against Leinster.

Closing that gap to six points by half-time was important as we worked on a few things at the break, and once we got a couple of issues corrected we looked more comfortable.

We spoke at half-time and even before the game that we needed Kieran Marmion to snipe, but we also required runners to come around the corner at the same time and ask some questions of their defence. Kieran ran the move perfectly but credit to the props, Nathan White and Denis Buckley, they made the runs and drew the eye of the defence. It was a real team score.

Once again the set-piece was solid for us, which gave us a good base to work from and the pack must be commended for a couple of really important scrums that turned defence into attack for us.

Of course it was enjoyable right after the final whistle because we knew we were up against an international class team with some of the best players in Ireland. It was only natural and to be expected that the players would show emotion there and then. They earned a deserved win and they celebrated it with gusto alongside their supporters. That was great to see.

But by the time we got to the changing rooms the determination and focus was back and the message was clear. This was just four points and we had to get back to work and return our attention on even tougher tests ahead.

We were back in on Sunday to review the game and, while delighted with their victory, everyone was determined to get the preparation for tonight's tussle right. We go into the game just one point behind Glasgow, but there is no doubt that this will be one of our toughest games of the season.

After Jake's injury in our first home game it was disappointing to see Willie Faloon also pick up a knock. And while it is not serious, it still highlights the fact that we need more back-up on the open side position.

We're looking at all our options with regards to possible cover and this is where our ambitions to continue to grow our revenues will ensure we have the depth in our squad required to compete through a long and gruelling season.

We have taken a few steps on that journey but have a long way to go. If we continue to get the support we were given last weekend, that mission will be all the easier.

Irish Independent

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