Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Plan B required for Connacht

Less pretty and more pragmatic should be the way ahead for Pat Lam & Connacht, says John O’Sullivan…

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In many ways, there are parallels between Pat Lams first few months in charge of Connacht and Rob Penney’s first season in charge of their Southern rivals, Munster.

Both coaches, coming from success at the lower levels of New Zealand Rugby, immediately tried to implement their own fluid system of play on their players. However, in retrospect, it appears that a more pragmatic approach initially before developing a more expansive game plan would have suited both sides, particularly Connacht.

Penney appears to have liberated his players from their tactical shackles this season and has instilled a more varied approach to Munsters’ game and their improvement in form relative to last season is no coincidence.

Indeed, Lam, who had a mixed bag of a stint in charge of the Auckland Blues, is best known for his work with Auckland the ITM Cup province and his development of younger players, which was probably the main reason Connacht pomped for the New Zealand born former backrow ahead of some esteemed competitors.

Whilst playing attractive, brave Rugby is aesthetically pleasing it is foolhardy to expect Connacht, with their paucity of resources and firepower compared to the League’s other teams, to play a high octane incisive passing game. To be frank, and I take no pleasure in saying this, Connacht simply do not have the players to implement this style, at least not yet.

What is also concerning, and it was clear to see during the Connacht’s capitulation away to Treviso on Friday last, was a lack of plan B. Despite the fact their game plan wasn’t working, the visitors never deviated from it and stuck to their guns, which, eventually, was their undoing.

To be fair to Connacht, though, their preparations weren’t helped by the late loss of Eoin Griffin to injury, in his stead came former Galwegian Brian Murphy. Also, to add to the walking wounded, Ronan Loughney and his replacement, Nathan White, picked up injuries. On his first appearance of the season, scrumhalf Paul O’Donoghue was sin binned after seven minutes for being unable to resist the temptation of sticking his hands in the ruck.

To add salt to O’Donoghue’s wound, Italian fly half Alberto Di Bernardo slotted the resulting penalty over the bar to give Treviso a 3-0 lead. However, soon afterwards, Da Parks had the opportunity to level the scores, but shanked his penalty to the right and wide.

Connacht continued to test the patience of the referee, Neil Hennessy, and Di Bernardo continued to kick the awarded penalties, leaving the score at 9-0 to Treviso at the break.

Time after time, Connacht attempted to run the ball from their own 22, which, apart from one Fionn Carr salvo, who else, resulted in Dan Parks slotting a penalty to reduce the deficit to 9-3

However, run that moment on every Connacht attacking attempt came to the same disheartening result: being gobbled up by the Italian defence.

Despite Treviso being a man in arrears, they added two more tries, through Zanni and Morisi, to compound Connacht’s misery.

The final whistle blew with the hosts claiming a deserved 23-3 victory.

Whilst Lam’s attacking style may be easy on the eye, a more pragmatic style will be needed as the season continues.

John O’Sullivan (@JohnOSullivan91) part time student, full time sports nut. I love rugby and am currently the PRO of Connemara RFC as well as admin for the Rugby Banter Facebook page. I also do some radio work for my local station. One day, I would love to be a Sports Journalist/Broadcaster.

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