Tuesday 16 January 2018

Pat Lam: We must go to battle as a team, not individuals

Connacht's Matt Healy in action against Scarlets
Connacht's Matt Healy in action against Scarlets

Pat Lam

Our season to date has been based on teamwork. We pride ourselves on working hard as a team to improve during the week to ensure we can execute our roles and apply 'Connacht pressure' for 80-plus minutes on the weekend.

We know we are not good enough to play as individuals and we rely heavily on our team ethos.

Coming away from the Scarlets with nothing and giving them five points was bitterly disappointing and we have no one to blame but ourselves.

We prepared well, did our homework but in the end failed to produce the teamwork necessary to get the result.

The performance we put out is not reflective of who we are and what we stand for.

I can tell you there was a real gutted dressing-room after Sunday's game in the knowledge that we let ourselves and our fans down.

It was a very long trip back to Galway late Sunday into the early hours of Monday morning.

We actually started well and should have been 10-0 up after 10 minutes. However, we were called back for blocking on Matt Healy's disallowed try, which was a tough call, and then there was a massive momentum swing.

Discipline

Discipline - which is a big focus for us this season, especially away from home (we are the second lowest penalised team in the Pro12) - cost us as we had the next five penalties going against us, which put us under points and territory pressure.

Before we knew it instead of being 10-0 up we were 6-3 down. This was followed by some individual basic system errors in defence where we conceded some soft tries and in a short space of time from potentially being in control we were 25-3 in arrears and it wasn't even half-time.

So we were forced to play catch-up rugby early to try and claw our way back into the game. We had plenty of opportunities but we didn't take them.

Most of what we did right (yes, there were some positives) was based on team structures and working hard off the ball, which was reinforced in our honest review at the start of the week.

We can't be all about doom and gloom. As always after the games, win or lose we go back and go through the process.

This process once again highlights that all the issues we had are fixable and it gives us the confidence and belief to move forward to focus and remedy that against Dragons on Sunday.

We know we have lost a crucial game, which affects our top six aspirations. However, we are still in the all-important sixth place and our destiny remains in our control, but we have lost our safety net. Every game is definitely a final from here, and we have no room for error.

After a rest day on Monday and an early review on Tuesday morning, what better way to lift the morale and get back into it with higher standards than to welcome the Irish team to the Sportsground, fresh from a great win over France.

The players who weren't involved on Sunday got a chance to do a units (backs and forwards) session, against the hottest team in international rugby, including our own Robbie Henshaw.

Then on Wednesday morning, 3,500 spectators watched their Connacht team going full on against their national heroes in a tough conditioning session run by Joe Schmidt and Les Kiss.

The whole day was fantastic and we want to thank Joe, Mick Kearney and the IRFU for making it possible. When we talk about 'Grassroots to Green Shirts' we talk about growing and promoting the game in the West of Ireland, where every child has the opportunity to play their rugby in Connacht and go through the Connacht systems right up to playing for Ireland.

Wednesday's initiative reinforced that message and it was just a great day for the whole province.

To see so many young children and families in their Connacht and Ireland jerseys at the Sportsground really supported the Ireland team's motto of 'four provinces, one team'.

So after a disappointing start to our week, we ended on a real high and head to Rodney Parade tomorrow with fresh optimism knowing that a win would put us right back in the driving seat for a place in next season's Champions Cup.

Irish Independent

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