IT SAYS SOMETHING about Connacht’s mindset this season that defeats to Leinster and Ulster in the past fortnight have caused so much frustration.
This evening’s meeting with Munster at the Sportsground [KO 17.00] offers Pat Lam’s men the opportunity to put their inter-provincial concerns at ease.
Connacht’s players are desperate to show their inter-pro progress. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
A 21-11 loss to Leinster on 19 December was a fair reflection of that encounter, but Connacht were more frustrated by their 13-10 failure in Ulster a week later.
“We probably weren’t expected to win those games, everyone outside of the team probably didn’t expect us to win,” says Connacht hooker Tom McCartney.
“But we were going up there and we really believed that we were going to win, not to participate in the game and come close. That’s not what we’re about. So when we didn’t get the wins that we wanted, we’re definitely disappointed.”
The scoreline at Ravenhill gives some indication as to how well contested an encounter it was, with Lam’s side left regretting their errors in several instances when openings had been created.
Miscommunications and poor execution on the outside edges cost them on a handful of occasions, although they did grab a losing bonus point through Aly Muldowney and their ever-reliable maul.
“You review the game, go back over it and one of the things that’s good is that there were so many opportunities that we didn’t take that could have seen us win the game,” outlines McCartney.
“That’s better than looking back and thinking we were lucky to be close. We genuinely could have won those game and at least we’re putting ourselves in those positions to have opportunities. We just need to react a bit better and take them.”
Lam and his backroom staff have been preaching the same message to their players all season long, as they look to turn chances into tries at a far more regular rate. Ahead of the meeting with Anthony Foley’s Munster, finding that clinical edge will be even more important.
Muldoon and Lam won only a single inter-provincial derby in 2014. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
Statistically speaking, Munster have the second-best defence in the Pro12, while Connacht are only eighth in the league in terms of tries scored. Whatever about crossing the whitewash, McCartney believes the collisions will be of a more pressing importance.
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“It’s going to be a massive physical battle,” says the Kiwi hooker.
The defeats away to Ulster and Leinster may have hurt, but anything other than victory at home to Munster in front of a sold-out Sportsground would be unacceptable for this Connacht group.
Examinations of their progress have come thick and fast all season, but here lies what should be a telling barometer. Connacht won just one inter-provincial tie in 2014; the first day of 2015 offers the chance to match that record.
15. Mils Muliaina
14. Darragh Leader
13. Robbie Henshaw
12. Bundee Aki
11. Danie Poolman
10. Craig Ronaldson
9. Kieran Marmion
1. Denis Buckley
2. Tom McCartney
3. Rodney Ah You
4. Quinn Roux
5. Aly Muldowney
6. John Muldoon (captain)
7. Willie Faloon
8. Eoin McKeon
16. Dave Heffernan
17. JP Cooney
18. Finlay Bealham
19. Ultan Dillane
20. George Naoupu
21. John Cooney
22. Miah Nikora
23. Dave McSharry
15. Simon Zebo
14. Andrew Conway