Monday 11 December 2017

Player Diary: Jack O’Donoghue - Individual and team errors cost us but we need to up the effort again

Jack O’Donoghue stands dejected after last weekend’s defeat to Ospreys. Photo: Sportsfile
Jack O’Donoghue stands dejected after last weekend’s defeat to Ospreys. Photo: Sportsfile

Jack O’Donoghue

It's hard to know what to do after a loss like ours against Ospreys last Sunday, but the good thing is we didn't have long to wait before our next game tonight against Glasgow Warriors.

We've tasted a few losses this season, but that one was a tough one to swallow. There was a real feeling that we left it behind us at the end. Somehow just failing to get over the line in a game you should win stings more than a heavy defeat.

We had some good patches of play at Irish Independent Park, but we have to be disappointed by the manner in which we allowed them into the game after we'd built up an early lead.

At the start they threw everything at us but we defended well, and after we found our feet playing into the wind, we held on to the ball, played the phases and kept battering at them. And it paid off: we got the try early on which usually helps your game and gives you a chance to play your natural game.

But they came at us hard again, and I'm not sure how many phases they went through for their first try - it seemed like a hell of a lot anyway - but it was a lapse in concentration on my own part that let them in in the end. I bought the dummy instead of jamming at the line, which cost us dear.


But thankfully our reaction from that was good. They gathered the restart, but we turned them over again and after we regained our shape we went at them. It was some nice skill from Francie Saili that got us over.

That score was after some great play from us, but moments like that really only came in waves. We would be good for five minutes then dip off for another five. Our discipline wasn't great either and when you play against a kicker like Sam Davies and the boot that he has, you can't afford to concede those silly penalties. Anywhere around our ten-metre line he slotted them over. That essentially killed us as they chipped away at our lead.

Overall, it was a really frustrating defeat to take. After the game there was a few words said in the dressing room - not too major - but we wanted to get over that result as soon as possible, this week of all weeks.

We had just a five-day turnaround this time before we travelled to Glasgow, so any time spent mulling over that loss was a real waste of time.

We held a brief review of the game on Tuesday, but we all knew where it went wrong ourselves: we fell off a few tackles; we were a bit sloppy in defence at times; and we didn't use the ball as efficiently as we could have.

The breakdown was another real battleground, where we got turned over in attack on a few occasions - again I was guilty there - and it's those mistakes that stick with you. I suppose I was the villain at the end too when I dropped the last pass which could have led to a try.

The pass was on the money, I just tried to sidestep the defender at the same time as I caught it and it didn't come off.

Those mistakes really annoy me, so I'm eager to get back out there and put it right.

It really was a physical game - it always is against Ospreys' physical pack - and their back-row carried really well.

We had a real battle with Sam Underhill at the weekend and it seemed every ruck I was at, he was there too being a nuisance. We played against him on the opening day of the season when nobody knew anything about him and he won man of the match. There is no doubt he's a quality player and he'll make for tough work for a lot of teams in the weeks to come.

As well as the loss we lost a bit of ground to the other Irish provinces, which means the next few games are going to be even more important to us. We still want to be playing Champions Cup rugby next season, we don't want to end up in the Challenge Cup, so we have a few huge games coming up in the next month to get back in the thick of it again.

Eighth-placed Glasgow are probably in the same boat as us too, which means tonight's game is massive. We didn't have that huge amount of time on the training pitch this week, but what we did do was efficient and accurate, so we're confident that we can iron out some of those errors that we made last weekend.

The fact that the game takes place at Rugby Park in Kilmarnock is another interesting change for tonight's game. I've never played in Glasgow before, so it would have been new to me anyway, but the 4G pitch should make for an exciting game.

As champions, Glasgow Warriors have to be respected hugely. They can score tries from all angles, they run the ball from deep and love to offload in contact.

But I think the dry, artificial surface will suit us too. We like to express ourselves on the pitch as well, so it promises to be an entertaining game all round. Hopefully we will come out the right end of the result, whatever sort of game it turns out to be.

As well as our own game last weekend I had a good look at the Ireland game, and I'd say that made for a tough couple of days for the boys after that result. They seemed in control of the game for the first 40 or 50 minutes, only to lose out after that.

I think they really missed the cutting edge of Simon Zebo or Keith Earls on the day; those are the type of players that can edge a tight game like that your way.

I'm sure we'll get to see plenty more of that before the season ends, but a win tonight in Scotland is the first priority.

Irish Independent

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