Monday 22 January 2018

Player Diary: No need for panic, but we know we have to perform against Blues

Jimmy Duffy. Picture: Sportsfile
Jimmy Duffy. Picture: Sportsfile

Tiernan O'Halloran

It's been a tough few weeks, and two losses from three in the new PRO14 doesn't make for good reading. However, we are third in our conference and hope to notch our second win of the campaign against Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground this weekend.

I went after about 20 minutes against Dragons, I got a hip pointer injury when I went down on a ball and their tighthead prop's knee went into my hip. It was just really bad bruising and you can't play on.

It's hard to know with those injuries. It felt all right earlier in the week and you would be hopeful, but you could also be out for two or three weeks with that complaint too.

Overall it was a tough night at Dragons. We were disappointed with the defeat because we were looking for the win. We went in a bit undercooked last year and got beaten over there so we knew it was a tough place to go.

Kieran Keane spoke about that before the game. We knew it was going to be a really tough night and so it proved. Unfortunately in the first half we were slow to everything and they got a few early scores which killed us.

We came back slightly in the second half but it was a disappointing outcome. Even reviewing the game on Monday we tried to get the positives out of it. We did play better rugby and attack more fluently after the break but our defence in the first half was the problem.

Defence

We had a chat at half-time about our defence. Pete Wilkins, our defence coach, tightened up a few things that we needed to work on and thankfully we didn't concede any score in the second half.

We had the ball a lot after half-time and our discipline improved. We gave away a lot of sloppy penalties, didn't have territory and gave away the ball for long phases before that.  

In the second half our defence was a lot more aggressive and we played with a lot more ball. We couldn't really get through other than Quinn Roux's try but we did create a lot of opportunities against a good team.

Dragons play a pretty expansive brand of rugby now under Bernard Jackman.

They are well able to throw it around and there is a new surface at Rodney Parade which will stand to them on top of that.

In the past when you went there the pitch would be pretty badly cut up. But with the new semi-artificial surface it's like a carpet and I'm sure that will suit Dragons.

It's great to get back home to the Sportsground this weekend. We are in Galway again and hoping for a big crowd to turn out and cheer us on. That always helps us, you could see that especially with the atmosphere in the Southern Kings game.

We had pinpointed this block of games to put our heads down and get some points - we are now playing our third home fixture of the opening four rounds and we need to win. We would like to be in a better position than we are but it's a huge opportunity to build on things.

Cardiff had a tough start to their campaign as well, with three defeats in a row, but they only lost by the minimum against a high-flying Glasgow Warriors side last weekend.

They are going to be hurting after that and they are a tough team as well. They will really hope for a big scalp in Galway after one of their fellow Welsh regions got the better of us last time out.

But there is no sense that we are on the back foot after just three weeks of the competition. This season with the way the two conferences are structured, if you have a slow start it doesn't affect you as much.

When you look at Conference A we are still well in contention in third place, most of the teams have found the going tough early on except for Munster and Glasgow.

We are not in a bad position but we need to get on top of things now and that starts tomorrow against Cardiff in the Sportsground. We need to build a bit of momentum.

It's natural enough to have a slow start to the season where there is a new coaching structure in place and we can see on the training ground that things are coming together nicely.

This year you really have to recognise who is in your conference and what the crucial games are going to be. It's important for us to stay ahead of teams like Cardiff if we have aspirations of qualifying into the latter stages of the league again.

It's important to win these crucial games because we are hoping for top three in our conference. We need to keep getting these wins early in the season before we really push on.

It would have been ideal to have Kieran Keane over at the start of pre-season but with Super Rugby that was never going to happen. We knew that so we did as best we could to try and implement the game that he wanted.

There was still a lot of tidying up to do with it, when he got over first and there is a lot of improvements that we need to make. 

He is constantly flagging our mistakes and as a group this squad have gradually come to terms with having some new voices in the training ground.

We know what KK, Jimmy Duffy and Nigel Carolan want from us I am confident that we can push on and get a lot more wins under our belts.

Irish Independent

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