Saturday 18 November 2017

Plenty to be positive about but we need to cut out the silly mistakes

Connacht’s John Muldoon is tackled by Cardiff’s Gavin Evans on the last day out
Connacht’s John Muldoon is tackled by Cardiff’s Gavin Evans on the last day out

John Muldoon

It's definitely a bit of a common theme of recent weeks: after a great win the last day we are faced with another weekend without a game.

It is a bit frustrating with the way games are coming and going. Play one then you're off for a week or two. We have another few down days this week, but we'll take the break ahead of the busy four months ahead.

It'd be nice to have a week off midway through that block instead but it is what it is. The next 16 games in a row will be a fairly daunting task but we've known it was coming so we'll be primed and ready for action like everyone else.

The fact that we picked up a good win meant everyone was in good spirits on Monday. We reviewed the game and there is still plenty for us to improve on - even though we ran in five tries.

But we can't complain: it's been a pretty good start for us. We'd have liked to have taken a win from Glasgow which is eating at us a bit. But we've two wins from three and 11 points from a possible 15, so hopefully we can keep it going and get another win against Zebre.

In reviewing the match the last day, it was clear that it was a bit of an erratic performance from us. We ended up winning the game but it was a bit of a Jekyll and Hyde situation. We were in control of the game and then we let them back with some of our own poor play.

By and large we felt in control of the game for the most part. But they made the most of a mistake that cost us the first try; it was an intercept and they ran the length of the field.


We had to up our game after that, which we did, but we were disappointed to let them in at the death for two bonus points. It's very disappointing when we let teams back into contention instead of pushing on and making sure we are winning the game comfortably.

But on the positive side, we scored five tries and took a bonus-point win. We're happy that we're not on the other side of the result like we were against Glasgow in round two. We've shown that we can score, it's just a matter of being a bit tougher in D and getting our systems right to stop the individual errors that result in soft tries.

With an average of four tries per game so far, we are pretty happy but there hasn't been any major change of focus in our approach to the game since last season. I think it's just that we are together a good few years now. We know each other inside out; we are familiar with the coaching team and what they expect from us.

I've always thought it was a positive that we didn't have much change in the squad in the off-season. We've added one or two fellas, but that familiarity means lads know each other and what we're capable of doing. For the last two or three years we have been working on a lot of the same basics in training and we are very clear in what's being asked of us. That brings a bit of confidence, especially to the lads that are learning the game while they're in this team.

Each year we've had a step up in the number of tries that we've scored under Pat and so far, we're in the top three of tries scored in the league. Hopefully we can continue that trend for the rest of the season.

With no game this weekend we have already got a good start on our preparation for Zebre and what we believe we can expect from them. We got a bit of homework to do this week while we were off ahead of that clash with the Italians. We even managed to spend a little bit of time on Ospreys who we'll meet the week after. From here on in it'll be go, go, go.

But it's great that we have a lot of lads with game-time under their belt, and some other lads that haven't featured have managed to get some club games to their name. Added to that we have an Eagles game against Ulster Ravens tomorrow, so at least we'll have everyone primed and ready to go for this manic schedule - including the trip to Russia slap bang in the middle of it.

This will really test the depth and talent in our squad. We believe we have the best squad we have ever had, so I'm looking forward to seeing different lads coming in and making a significant impact.

Just look at Conan O'Donnell - he came on for his first cap on Saturday afternoon against Cardiff. It's great to see a 19-year-old local guy from Sligo make the step up to the first team - he's still Ireland U-20 next year so he has a big future ahead of him. It's only recently he has started training with us and every now and again Pat brings in one or two of the lads to train with us. It's a great experience for them.

In the end up I didn't get over to any of the World Cup, but I've watched plenty of it on TV. It was great to see Robbie Henshaw and Nathan White do so well for Ireland at the weekend. I dropped Robbie a text after the game the last day and he said he was blowing a small bit in the second half after four weeks without a game, but it'll bring him on big time for France this weekend.

Looking at Whitey, I have been so impressed with the way he has locked down the scrum for Ireland. He is a great footballer too and adds so much around the field when he comes on. It'll be a big few weeks for them yet, and we wish them all the best on Sunday against the French.

Irish Independent

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