Thursday 23 November 2017

We're paying the price for handing out gifts – Pat Lam

Connacht 26 Ospreys 43

Connacht coach Pat Lam
Connacht coach Pat Lam

John Fallon

IT'S going to be a long and torturous season for Connacht if they keep undoing good work by conceding a bagful of soft tries. Three losses in their opening four games – two of them at home – has left new coach Pat Lam very disappointed.

Connacht looked vulnerable any time Ospreys ran with pace at the Sportsground on Saturday and while there were just three points between them with 18 minutes left, there's no arguing with a try count of 6-2 against you.

Only once before have Connacht scored 26 points or more at home and lost a game – a 29-34 loss to Glasgow at the quarter-final stage of the inaugural Celtic League in 2001 – while at the other end of the scale only twice have they conceded more than 40 points at the Sportsground.

They suffered a 19-44 loss to Munster in October 2005 and a 16-44 defeat to Ospreys six months later at a time when Connacht were also suffering some massive maulings away from home.

The net result from Saturday's clash is that Connacht have just four points from four games – a home win over Zebre – and the failure to pick up bonus points away to Cardiff and home to Ulster is proving costly.

They did well to get within three points of an Ospreys side with five summer Lions in their ranks, but having set up the possibility of a surprise win they could not hold out for a bonus point and in the end had nothing to show for their efforts.

"We're pretty disappointed," said Lam. "We worked very hard for our points and then we gave up some very soft tries; an intercept early and then a couple of missed tackles.

"They showed a lot of character to work back to 29-26, but then it is pretty gut-wrenching to concede another few soft tries at the end. We just have to regroup and take the positives."

They now face a trip to Treviso next Friday before the daunting prospect of hosting Saracens in the Heineken Cup the following weekend and there will be only one outcome to that match if they don't learn how to shore up their defence.

It was a dispiriting outcome to an entertaining clash at a half-empty Sportsground on Saturday where the folly of starting the game – which was not televised – at the same time as the All-Ireland hurling final replay resulted in the smallest crowd in years.

Connacht announced an attendance on Saturday of 3,888, but that included season tickets and there was about half that crowd in the Sportsground when the game kicked off.

Craig Ronaldson, in his first start after being signed following his exploits for Lansdowne last season, kicked four penalties but limped off before half-time.

Those scores kept Connacht in touch but they trailed 22-12 after Ronaldson saw a pass intercepted by Dan Biggar after eight minutes as the Ospreys out-half, who passed the 1,000 points mark on Saturday, raced through to score.

Missed tackles and an inability to defend out wide saw full-back Richard Fussell and winger Eli Walker also score before the break.

Connacht got back in the game after 55 minutes when Ali Muldowney broke down the left to set up South African Danie Poolman for a try. Parks added the points to leave Connacht trailing by just 22-19.

SUPERB

But Ospreys wrapped up the try bonus point when superb scrum-half Tito Tebaldi spotted an opening off a line-out and he sped through from the left to score under the posts. Biggar's conversion made it 29-19.

Kieran Marmion responded with a try for Connacht but their hopes of a bonus point were dashed as Ospreys sealed the deal with late scores from Jeff Hassler and Alun-Wyn Jones.

"We gifted too many tries to them and we just knew if we could build some pressure then the points would come, but at the end of the day we have to take some responsibility for what we do with that ball and how we look after it," added Lam.

"It has been an issue for us all season. We work so hard to create opportunities to score but some of the tries we are gifting up are too soft and that puts us under pressure.

"We need to take it on the chin and regroup for Treviso. It is a short turnaround, six days, but that is the nature of the competition."

Connacht – G Duffy; D Poolman, R Henshaw, E Griffin, M Healy (F Carr 43); C Ronaldson (D Parks 38), K Marmion (P O'Donohoe 73); B Wilkinson (R Ah You 65), S Henry (J Rael 74), N White (R Loughney 73); M Swift (A Muldowney 49), C Clarke (G Naoupu 73); A Browne, J Heenan, J Muldoon.

Ospreys – R Fussell (M Morgan 79); J Hassler, B John, J Spratt (A Bishop 58), E Walker; D Biggar, T Tebaldi (T Habberfield 77); D Jones (R Bevington 56), S Baldwin (R Hibbard 52), A Jones (A Jarvis 73); AW Jones, I Evans (T Ardron 64); J King, J Tipuric, M Allen (J Bearman 50).

Ref – A McMenemy (SRU).

Irish Independent

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