Player Diary: Discipline must be the key for us, but we were bright in attack again
We were all gutted after the game at Parc y Scarlets last weekend. It's always tough to take a result like that, especially after you have put so much into the performance as a team and know you should have come out on top.
We were in the game for so long, and went into the last few minutes feeling we could close it out, but they came back.
On a positive note, in comparison to recent weeks I felt we showed a lot more flair in attack which was lacking somewhat in the last two or three games. That was a key focus for us; we wanted to get back to what we were doing well.
We made some costly mistakes in the last few matches, especially against Leinster when our handling was poor at times. We wanted to get back on track against Scarlets and we did that to some extent.
On another day we could have had four tries. We were certainly back to what we were doing well earlier in the year but it was disappointing not to get the result.
But we are aware of the areas that need to be improved on. Indiscipline has started to creep into our game at times and that is something that we have looked at. We pride ourselves on our discipline - we have won the Fairplay Award in the Pro12 the last two seasons for the least amount of yellow and red cards and that is something we want to continue.
We spoke about it at half-time, we wanted to come out and start well again, but we gave away two or three penalties in quick succession and they capitalised on that. After that, we regrouped and got ourselves back into it again.
But we are not getting worried. As Pat has said, there would be an issue if the effort or the performance wasn't there. Everyone can see that we are working hard for each other and the team. We just need to be more clinical in certain areas to turn those close losses into close victories.
Scarlets have been operating at or near the top of the league all season and we feel we should have came away with a win in their home ground. That's the standard we set for ourselves now. So, we will pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down.
We know we need to close out games and improve our decision-making at crucial times. With a young squad, I feel we are getting there as a group.
Among the positives, there were some very good individual performances out there on Sunday. The entire squad identified some stand-out performances from Jack Carty, Tiernan O'Halloran and Matt Healy who starred in open play.
A lot of the commentary out there focused on the TMO decisions and the last penalty we conceded. As a group, we didn't even go near the disallowed tries when we were reviewing the game on Monday. What is the point?
Yes, decisions that go against you can be frustrating but they are out of our control. What we want to focus on is the areas we can control. I said to the boys at half-time, 'Let's not play the victim with those try decisions, it's about what we can do from here', and I think we fronted up pretty well after that.
In terms of the last-gasp penalty and Ronan Loughney's yellow card, there is no one more disappointed about that than Ronan himself. I have been in that situation before when I have been penalised late in a game and cost us a penalty. At the end of the day, it's a tough position to be in, no more than if Jack had missed a kick. People would have blamed him then. It's easy to blame people but that's not how we deal with it as a squad.
Once the review was done earlier in the week, it was straight on to previewing Brive and an important Challenge Cup clash in terms of our European aspirations. We want a home quarter-final in April and everyone is fully focused now on the trip to France.
I spent a lot of Monday looking at Brive and they are a very good side. They have a phenomenal pack, and are very strong up front. They bring something extra in terms of their scrum and maul and they use their size well.
They bring a more direct physical game-plan than we would be used to facing week to week in the Pro12. It will be a different challenge for our defence. They are also aggressive in the way they run and their game-plan is probably a little more open than a typical French team.
Personally, I love playing in France. I love the physical battle and the atmosphere created by the French supporters. You could argue that the fact that we beat Brive earlier in the season, and they lost to Enisei-STM means they are simply playing for pride. But this pool is very open and they will be a different proposition at home where they have only lost once this season.
But we travel with confidence. A win in France would set us up nicely for the following week when we welcome Enisei to the Sportsground. It will be great to get back to the Sportsground then after nearly a month of being on the road. We hope to have the place packed out for that game and the week after when we'll be looking to put things right against Scarlets.
We have three big games before a short break. It's been a long run of games and we want to finish it on a high - for us and our supporters!
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