Tuesday 24 October 2017

Toulouse win could have been easier

Second victory over in Parma can set up surprise in this difficult pool

Jack Carty helped push Toulouse back on their heels last week. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Jack Carty helped push Toulouse back on their heels last week. Photo by David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Johnny O'Connor

That was a great win last weekend and the Connacht fans should carry greater expectations of their team now. We knew that they were a better team than Toulouse so why the surprise when they won?

Connacht should have probably won by more on the day - the bonus point could have been picked up, but more so the margin should have been bigger at the end of the 80 minutes.

Connacht shouldn't have had to protect the ball deep in their half like that, with the clock running out. They need to be more comfortable when they are the better team and that will come.

Overall, it was another special night and a good solid win over a club with a big tradition. Toulouse might not be the side they were when they won four European Cups, but they are still a class act.

The Connacht squad are soaking up the pressure that's been put on them and I feel that we have more of a chance in the pool then the pundits think.

You have to go through some hard times before you get better, and Connacht have done that since Pat Lam came in.

In sport, things don't just change overnight, and it's very rare that a team would hit the ground running straight away when a new coach comes in.

But this is three seasons down the road now, and this Connacht side are much further along the progression chart than the one that pulled off the once-in-a-lifetime victory in Stade Ernest Wallon in 2013.

In fairness, Toulouse are massive, and looking at that game, it's unusual to come across a side that are that much bigger, player for player.

Connacht came into the game thinking they had to run this big French side around the pitch, and to their credit they executed the plan. I would like to see a bit more tactical kicking around the field as well.

Jack Carty was good in that sense, where he did it for a tactical advantage and that forced Toulouse back, but maybe Connacht didn't do that enough.

People talk about the philosophy in Connacht Rugby right now - run the ball all the time and from anywhere. But you need that other aspect in your game as well and teams will catch you out if it's not employed a little better.


Even if Pat Lam comes out and says they are winning games, it's noticeable that the margins are getting smaller. There will be games where Connacht will lose because of their philosophy, so they need to fine-tune it.

On that side of things with Marnitz Boshoff coming in, it hasn't changed anything because Carty has played well in the last few weeks. I don't think because a player is a marquee signing that they have any right to special treatment.

The Connacht kickers have found it tough recently, apart from Craig Ronaldson's brilliant touchline conversion against Toulouse. But in terms of open-field play, Carty has been one of the best.

His kicking into the corners has gone up a notch in the last few games, and his attack and defence are much better than where he was last season. So the extra competition will help him on and who knows, he could keep his place in the team.

It's a winning team now and players need to prove themselves in training before they get their chance on the field in the Champions Cup or Pro12.

Connacht travel to take on Zebre this weekend, a team that will be smarting following last weekend's hammering at Wasps and the disappointment of having their last encounter with Connacht abandoned at half-time.

Zebre were leading 22-10 before it was called off, and no doubt they will feel they were going to go on and win it. So they will be full of confidence and it will be up to Connacht to zap that out of them.

It's never easy in Parma, the heat can be a massive factor and if Zebre are in the mood they could cause Connacht problems. But if Connacht have aspirations of getting out of the pool they need to win.

They can start to think about bonus points once they get out of touching distance, but first and foremost they must secure the win.

Irish Independent

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