Monday 19 February 2018

'We haven't adapted to game plan as quickly as we should have'

Player Diary

Denis Buckley of Connacht in action against Willis Halaholo of Cardiff during the Guinness PRO14 Round 4 match between Connacht and Cardiff Blues at The Sportsground in Galway. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Denis Buckley of Connacht in action against Willis Halaholo of Cardiff during the Guinness PRO14 Round 4 match between Connacht and Cardiff Blues at The Sportsground in Galway. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Denis Buckley

It was a tough defeat against Cardiff Blues at the Sportsground last weekend, but I'm excited, and I know the guys are too, about the improvements we are making as we head to Scarlets aiming to turn our season around.

From the outside it is difficult to see that we are making small improvements in every game and we are getting there slowly but surely. We have a really good game-plan. It challenges the defence all over the field. There are opportunities out wide, up the middle and there are kicking chances as well. It really is an all-round game-plan. 

But we haven't quite pulled it off yet and we haven't fully done ourselves justice so far. When there are such big changes in the coaching set-up and game-plan you have to learn and adapt quickly.

We haven't done so as quick as we should have. If we did we would have been sitting a lot further up the table with more confidence in our game. 

We are training hard, trying to improve every day, and every session is getting better than before. It really is getting close to clicking. You can't look at one phase individually, everything flows into each other, and I believe that we are so close to having the new system work. 

It is only a matter of time until our attack and defence match-up on the one day, and I am confident we can turn up this weekend and put in a really good performance at Scarlets which will get us the outcome we need. 

We have never won in Parc y Scarlets before and it's obviously going to be tough against the reigning champions, but I believe that we can win over there. They really are tiny margins that make the difference and if they come together we will be playing some really exciting, successful and ultimately winning rugby.

Strong

The set-piece has been good and we saw that last weekend too. The wind was incredibly strong. We always do a lineout run through before the game. We usually do it in the gym but went outside to try and get a handle on the wind. 

But it was the most bizarre 15 minutes of lineouts I have ever been a part of. The ball was being skewed off in all directions - it was like a hurricane out there. 

It did die down a little bit when the game started but between Quinn Roux, who was calling the lineouts, and Dave Heffernan, who was throwing, and Shane Delahunt when he came on, they did a really good job in negotiating that wind. 

That side of it was good, and in the scrum we competed very well too. However, I was disappointed with the first one after we gave away a free-kick. 

On another one we had a real crack at them but again we gave away a penalty. We were a bit too aggressive and maybe we need to be more patient there.

We had two scrums on our ball, which we launched off and we were comfortable there, but we still gave away a free-kick and a penalty on their ball.

But so far this season we have got a bit of dominance in the scrums throughout every game. Maybe we gave away one or two penalties because we weren't patient enough but it's something that we can take confidence from. 

When results are not necessarily going your way, having something that you can take confidence from is huge and the scrum is definitely that area for us right now. It's a weapon that we can hopefully use against Scarlets and get a bit of change out of.

It's exciting going over there. We are not worried about reputations or the fact that they are the reigning champions - we are going out there to have a go.

Not too many people are giving us a chance considering they are the holders, and playing some really good rugby, and with how the results have gone this year for us. 

We enjoy the lack of expectations and we can win if we go over there with a good game plan and produce a solid 80-minute performance.

The fact that not many people are expecting it from us is the most exciting part and it gets me up for the weekend.

I'm not being disrespectful either. Parc y Scarlets is always a difficult place to go but I really enjoy it. It's a good wide open stadium and the pitch is always in great condition too, so it allows you to play an expansive game. 

When you go there you know what to expect and the GPS averages tend to be much higher than from games anywhere else. Scarlets like to go from deep, they are a counter-attacking team and we like to play with that sort of style as well, which makes for an exciting game. Going into this week, defence is the major part of how this game will play out. Both teams like to plan an expansive game, and attack from deep by putting phases together.

If we can keep our defensive line intact it will go a long way towards getting us the victory.

Scarlets are second in Conference B with three wins from four - their only defeat was the brilliant game at Kingspan Stadium where Ulster edged them out.

But they look every bit as good as last year and we will need a much improved performance to stand a chance out there. It sounds like a tall order but it's one we are relishing.

It's time to give KK his second win, and we know a victory in Scarlets would put us on a much better footing heading into a few tricky inter-provincial derbies in the coming weeks.

Irish Independent

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