Sport Connacht Rugby

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Player diary: Bonus points are a small reward but we wanted a second victory

Matt Healy, right, celebrates with Bundee Aki after scoring a try in Glasgow PAUL DEVLIN / SPORTSFILE
Matt Healy, right, celebrates with Bundee Aki after scoring a try in Glasgow PAUL DEVLIN / SPORTSFILE

John Muldoon

It's not often a team comes back from a 24-point deficit in the second half to claim two bonus points, and despite our considerable efforts, we were left to mull over what might have been last weekend in Glasgow.

Ultimately we were disappointed in the way we played in the first- half. Going in 23-6 down at the break and to concede such an innocuous try right at the start of the second half left a long way back for us.

It was an unfortunate one on John Cooney: he just slipped at the worst time and they benefited. But the lads got around him, picked him up and walked back to the restart with him. We win as a team and make mistakes as a team.

And it was that spirit that drove us to the comeback on the back of John's try, and to within a score with five minutes to go.

It's bitterly disappointing to see how many points we gave them, but on the other side of the coin it was great to see the belief and fightback there.

I spoke to the lads after the game and told them there was times in the past that Connacht teams would have dropped their heads and shipped another 15 or 20 points in that situation, so to show that determination was crucial.

Plenty of people have spoken to me about the early try that we had ruled out because of the 'spirit of the game' rule which the referee invoked, and to be honest I have no issue with his ruling.


I find the rule itself a bit contradictory, though. Rugby is a gentleman's game, but if the spirit of the game was to be used every time someone made a mistake we'd have nothing but whistles blowing.

In fairness their winger made an error and the referee made the call, so we have no issue with it whatsoever.

It is tough to see calls go against you, especially in the scrum where we were so clearly dominant. It is a really tough area to referee, but it is frustrating when you see your scrum marching yards forward and the penalty goes against you.

Facing up against a team coached by Dan McFarland was a strange experience for a lot of us, but we can be happy with our day's work against his new outfit.

But the lads in the front-row were disappointed that a few scores came off penalties awarded against them and that proved crucial in the end. But we're really happy with how our set-piece is motoring and we'll continue to work on that in the coming weeks.

We ended up with four tries to our name and for the third game in a row Nepia Fox-Matamua got on the scoresheet. He is going really well for us. He is an excellent player and like when Jake Heenan came over, he has hit the ground running.

Pat Lam has a keen eye for what's needed in a No 7, so hopefully Nepia continues to thrive.

But James Connolly is putting the pressure on him too in the last few weeks and he'll continue to knock on the door for starts too. Jake will be back before too long as well, so it's nice to have a bit of competition and depth for that position.

Going back a few months people might have been concerned about the openside, but it looks to be a real competitive jersey now.

This week we had a good day's training on Monday, just to sign off on the opening two weeks of the season. We had a good look at the match tape from Glasgow and have identified a few things that we need to work on in the next week or so ahead of the Cardiff game.

Since Monday we've all been off and after spending nearly every day since the start of pre-season in each other's pockets, it's probably no harm to do that. It is a very strange feeling, though: just two weeks into a new season and we're sitting here with our feet up.

But we all know what lies ahead too. After the World Cup finishes we have 16 weeks in a row of games, followed by a week off and then another four weeks in a row. That's 20 games in 21 weeks, which is going to be a real test of our squad. It's vital that we rest up now when we have the chance.

But it is really frustrating too not to have a game this weekend. We've gotten off to a decent start with a home win and two bonus points from our trip to play the champions, so what we'd love is another outing tonight. But we'll keep a hold on the reins for another week and try and have our 'A game' ready for the Cardiff Blues.

I suppose there could be worse times to have some hours on your hands. We're going to be spoilt rotten in the next few weeks with the amount of rugby on the telly.

I am hoping to make it over at some stage in the next few weeks and take in a game or two, but I haven't got my hands on tickets just yet. Hopefully I'm not too late, but even if I don't work it out, it'd be nice to go over and sample the atmosphere around with a few of my mates that live over in the UK.

The highlight will be watching Robbie and Nathan in action for Ireland, but it'll be great to be able to sit back and just watch a game without the notebook, or without trying to spot flaws and deficiencies in your opponents.

I'm expecting big things from Ireland in the next few weeks, I'm sure Joe Schmidt will have them ready for a tough pool, and hopefully we'll have plenty to shout about in six Sundays' time.

Irish Independent

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