Sport Rugby

Friday 18 January 2019

It's vital we finish this huge block of games with a bang

We've been consistent but we need another big performance against Montpellier tomorrow

Luke McGrath is expecting a tough battle against Montpellier this weekend where Isa Nacewa scored a late try to earn a bonus point last season’s Champions Cup. Photo: Sportsfile
Luke McGrath is expecting a tough battle against Montpellier this weekend where Isa Nacewa scored a late try to earn a bonus point last season’s Champions Cup. Photo: Sportsfile

Player diary: Luke McGrath

It's hard to believe that we are in the last week and last game of this block of games.

It seems like only yesterday that we were facing one of the most demanding series of games I can remember, yet here we are one game out from its completion.

The Exeter back-to-back wins got us up and running and then it was a very enjoyable Christmas period for us, completing inter-pro wins against Munster, Connacht and Ulster.

There was great squad rotation which showed how competitive training is. Every week, lads are stepping up which gives the coaches positive headaches when it comes to selecting the team.

This gave us great momentum leading into what was always going to be a huge two weeks in deciding our future in Europe.

First up were Glasgow in the RDS.

At the beginning of the week we spoke about Glasgow being a proud club with nothing to lose coming here so that was an immediate danger for us.

Glasgow have a superb record in the Guinness PRO14 only losing one game, narrowly to Edinburgh, out of 13 this season.

They have also scored an impressive 53 tries from 13 games in the PRO14.

Since Dave Rennie has arrived, they have become a high-tempo team constantly wanting to take quick tap penalties and throw-ins.

Isa Nacewa. Photo: Sportsfile
Isa Nacewa. Photo: Sportsfile

Nevertheless, we said it was about our motivation in this competition and the hurt from last year was going to drive us on. We had to focus on ourselves.

Training is always ramped up on European weeks. We trained in Donnybrook, partly due to weather conditions but also because of the surface.

Glasgow are a team that play with great tempo so we used the 4G surface to try and match the tempo in training. The traction of the 4G surface makes defending that bit more difficult due to the speed of the ball. They were the perfect conditions to prepare for them.

The game came around quick, especially with it being a one o'clock kick-off. The early kick-offs are much different from what we are used to but most of the group seem to prefer them. Wake up, have breakfast and get straight into it. No hanging around.

The first half was very enjoyable. We managed to score some great tries, showing some nice touches and offloads that we practise every day in training.

However, we lost a bit of cohesion in the early part of the second half and our offloading game was poor. We threw too many 50/50 passes that played into Glasgow's lethal attack.

However, all in all, we were delighted with the performance. To get five points against a talented side like Glasgow, it was all smiles in the changing-room afterwards.

We were a bit disappointed with our defence at times so there are still pieces to work on for the week ahead.

Congratulations must go to Bryan Byrne and James Lowe who made their European debuts at the RDS. It's great to see all of their hard work has been rewarded.

Due to the Sunday game, we had Monday off to get the body right for another tough week of training. It is also a big week for the Leinster 'A' squad as they take on Doncaster on Saturday in the B&I Cup in Donnybrook. So everyone arrived on Tuesday morning with a focus.

Tuesday and Thursday are the big training days this week. We began by speaking about our match in Montpellier last year. If we are honest with ourselves, we were lucky to get the losing bonus point.

If it was not for a nice, accurate pass by Jamison Gibson-Park to Isa Nacewa in the corner it would have been a different story.

We came away from that game feeling well beaten. Montpellier are littered with world-class players all around the park such as Ruan Pienaar, Aaron Cruden and Louis Picamoles, to name a few. Not to mention, their try-scoring machine Nemani Nadolo on the wing. We will have to have our homework done.

It's always an incredibly physical battle against them so we know the huge challenge that awaits us. Montpellier are still alive in the pool, although relying on other fixtures, which enforces the battle that lies ahead. One more big performance. We can't wait.

Irish Independent

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