Payback on our minds as Toulon come to town
We left an awful lot behind us last weekend - the challenge is ensuring there isn't a repeat tomorrow
Sport is cruel sometimes and it certainly was last week when we came away from the Stade Felix Mayol and from Toulon with no points to show for a massive effort. In a game that was very much there for the taking for us at stages it just slipped away at critical times. What were we happy with?
In general our defence really fronted up against them and I don't think they made any line-breaks off the top of my head. When you look at the talent in that backline and in particular their size and their skill-set, that's not something they would be used to!
Our set piece looked really solid. We challenged them on their ball on numerous occasions and got just rewards and then on our ball we were clinical.
Unfortunately we got players sent to the bin during the game on three separate occasions and against a top quality outfit like Toulon you cannot afford to play with a man down and not pay on the scoreboard. They will eventually wear you down either from penalties or from tries from the constant pressure.
The breakdown was another area that we need to be better this week, we conceded too many cheap penalties here in attack and defence that handed them easy territory to kick the corners.
With players like Steffon Armitage, Duane Vermeulen and Mathieu Bastareaud we needed to be more effective when cleaning out our ball at the ruck. These guys don't need a second invitation when poaching the ball on the ground so it will be vital for us to win that space and battle there this weekend.
Ultimately when the historians look back it is 24-9 that they will see and a win to Toulon. As the cliché goes 'the scoreline did not give a true reflection on a tight match-up' but in hindsight after looking at the footage this week we need to be more clinical in areas and need to sharpen up our discipline.
I think we gave away 17 penalties in total which is unacceptable from our perspective. Leo gave us the correct strategy to go over and win but if you concede that many penalties on the field it makes life very difficult.
This week has been very long for us as a group and I would be lying if I said we were not hurting now. It's a disappointing position to be in from three Champions Cup group games and it is not a position we are used to nor would we want to get used to it either.
So we have had to take a long hard look at ourselves this week in moving towards a better performance on Saturday in front of a packed Aviva. A win this week would ease the pain in a big way and it's what we want to give our home support in what should be a great spectacle in the Aviva Stadium. The back to back games in the pool over Christmas always bring a different dynamic from a players perspective and we are relishing the opportunity to try turn these over after the first leg.
Pool 5 in general has produced some interesting results as Bath beat Wasps last weekend in the Ricoh Stadium with a last gasp conversion from George Ford. Mathematically we can still qualify so we will be holding onto any chink of light in the hope of what will come if we can get a win this weekend.
These back to back matches have the ability to produce the unexpected and we found that out the hard way two years ago against Northampton. We managed to go over to England and beat them in Franklins Gardens by 30 points the first week and the following weekend they came in and beat us in the Aviva.
You can't take anything for granted in this competition and I know if we manage to be more clinical with the opportunities that we make this week and improve our discipline we will be in a good spot come Saturday.
Games in the Aviva in front of 45,000 people don't come around often, there is always an extra buzz with Christmas just around the corner. Hopefully you can get down to support us tomorrow in what should be a great game....and we are looking for payback!