Wednesday 17 January 2018

Brian Walsh - We must hit high notes to get over Ospreys

Brian Walsh
Brian Walsh

Despite a convincing victory against Zebre, there is still plenty to work on. We will need a step up in intensity and accuracy ahead of tomorrow's game against Ospreys.

While we were happy with a lot of what we did against Zebre, any time the league's leading side come to your home ground you are always going to be tested. Ospreys have gotten off to a very impressive start to the season and have won their three games in convincing fashion, so we will have to be very good to beat them on Saturday night.

On the back of our defeat to Edinburgh it was important that we went out last weekend and built on the good things from the Treviso game. We needed to go out and score a few tries and build some momentum in both attack and defence, and a bonus point was achieved around the hour mark.

At times, especially early on, we were perhaps a bit sluggish, but we gave the game the respect it deserved, played the game in their half and managed to find a good rhythm to our play. Once Simon Zebo got his first try things began to flow easier for us.

On the other side of the coin, we were disappointed that we didn't control the ball as well as we should have at times after good work to get into strong attacking positions.

Misguided

A couple of misguided off-loads and wrong options taken cost us potential scores and let the game become loose in the final quarter which is something we will have to address for tomorrow night's game.

The game lost structure in the last 15 or 20 minutes with both teams bringing on all of their replacements, but in general you have got to be happy when you score five tries and you pick up a bonus point. There were more positives than negatives.

One negative was seeing Johnny Holland having to go off injured on his first competitive start. Johnny has had a very good start to the season and is improving all the time. He was having a solid game and looked comfortable at this level. Hopefully the injury isn't too serious and he will be back in contention in a couple of weeks.

I think we have an important job to do in terms of bringing on our younger players, we need to test them at a high level, allowing clear direction for their development over the next while. Jack O'Donoghue is another of the younger guys that deserved his first run out and he slotted in seamlessly.

I was pleased with how our backs finished last weekend. Simon looks sharp - he took his three tries well - and it's great for Andrew Smith to get off the mark. Players that have that ability to read the game, get on the end of things and predict the play will get plenty of chances, so hopefully they continue to take advantage of that.

But it is also important to note that a lot of good work went on to create these opportunities. It is the solid scrums, the well executed lineouts and consistent phases of play that carve out those openings.

I really think we are going to need all those facets of our game to be on the money tomorrow night if we are to get a result against Ospreys. Last week we had a number of players making their first appearances of the season, so Paul O'Connell, Dave Kilcoyne, Denis Hurley, JJ Hanrahan and Conor Murray will all feel far sharper this weekend as a result. Until guys can get out on the park and start playing together it is very hard to get the balance right and get the consistency that is required.

There will be peaks and troughs in overall performances throughout the season, but this weekend we need to be working up to one of those high spots on the graph.

Ospreys seem to be very settled and in a good run of form - they racked up 60 points last weekend. They appear to be playing as well I have seen them over the last few years and it is going to be a big test for us. They are a very balanced side and have a lot of good players that are playing well and they have found a high level of consistency that is evidenced by their results so far this season.

It's up to us to get our own house right though; we need to be ready for what the Ospreys will throw at us, and ready to play our own game.

We have a couple of huge games on the horizon, but it's important to keep focused on our progression, getting better week to week. Tomorrow's challenge is a tough one, and one we are looking forward to.

Irish Independent

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