Oh, how much easier it is to look optimistically at this season after a game like last weekend. I had more than a little trepidation facing into Friday evening. Sure, they had a few injuries, but so did we. They were resting their best scrum half but it seemed ours only had one arm. Whether they have been playing well coming into the derby or not, Ulster have traditionally been able to outmuscle Connacht and drag a result out of the game. When Ulster have been on form, they’ve often ripped Connacht to shreds. And Ulster had been on form so far.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been as nervous about a game as I was last week. I was on tenterhooks every day waiting for a morsel of news, but it was pointless because no matter the news it was impossible to decipher what effect it might have on the game. Connacht had beaten Townsend’s Glasgow once in 10 attempts, and were setting out to do it again, to go one better than they’d ever done before and achieve a final. Glasgow were out to retain their title and be the first team to win an away semi. Given their depth, their internationals, their experience, their historic comfort playing Connacht, it seemed more than reasonable that they should win, hence why I didn’t offer a prediction last week.
Going into this game, I was not particularly confident. Having achieved our best ever finish, and qualified for the semis, but also lost to Treviso, I feared that there was a chance Connacht may be running on fumes, and Glasgow in comparison seemed to be on a mission, coming into form at the right time in the season.
After a few minutes and Finlay having to leave the field these fears worsened, as Rodney had not had a particularly memorable game against Treviso and has never been an 80 minute player. Glasgow were all over Connacht in the first 15 minutes, bursting out of the traps to put pressure on in our 22, forcing penalties and rucking frenetically. It looked bad. Continue reading
Connacht 7 – Leinster 6
Rarely have we seen a game of finer margins. Against Edinburgh I never really felt we were in danger, but against Leinster tonight I’m not sure I ever really believed we were winning.
There’s some nervous energy developing around the province as a superb win at the weekend leaves Connacht in uncharted territory with three from three. Some might see the word ‘superb’ as hyperbolic, but considering Connacht just defeated the Six Nations champions (as Penney described them last year) I think its an apt description. At the very least, the visiting twenty three constituted the majority of the league winning team from last season who ripped Glasgow apart in the final, and when Faloon went off early in a repeat of that game I feared the worst. Instead George came on and added some serious go forward momentum when he got on the ball, just as fans have been demanding for some time. While the scrum was initially under pressure it seems clear to me that this was only the case when the Leinster flankers were allowed drill into our front row. In the second half Connacht consistently looked the better pack, winning all their own feeds and one of Leinster’s. Continue reading