CONNACHT’S SUPPORTERS AND playing staff have grown accustomed to dealing with post-match disappointment, but the latest bout is harder to take.
Missing out on a losing bonus point in the 16-8 defeat to Leinster at the Sportsground was scant reward for Pat Lam’s ambitious side. The home team played the more adventurous rugby, but came away empty-handed after several controversial refereeing decisions.
There was a strong suspicion of a forward pass in the build-up to Gordon D’Arcy’s try, while many supporters and critics felt Jamie Heaslip should have been sin-binned for a late shoulder charge on Dan Parks.
While Lam was hesitant about criticising referee George Clancy and his team of assistants – Leo Colgan, Ollie Hodges and Jude Quinn – he did admit to frustration, particularly around the Heaslip incident.
Well I tell you, I played for Samoa. We touch anyone around that area and we get blasted, absolutely blasted. I don’t know, it’s pretty obvious. Everyone saw it. What determines a tackle, a shoulder charge, what’s late?
“The officials will sort it out. But I don’t think I need to comment on it, because the crowd saw it, you guys saw it. It was a surprising decision. Obviously, the one for them to go ahead with a knock-on [was disappointing], with the call saying it went backwards.
“I didn’t see any ball go backwards. Yeah, it’s frustrating but like I said, they’re things we can’t control. We’re Connacht and we just deal with that. What we’re really disappointed with is the little errors we’re making.”
The Connacht coach admitted his own side had failed to keep their shape. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan.
Lam was honest enough to admit that his own team’s deficiencies had contributed to the defeat, with the loss of ‘shape’ in attack and defence jarring the head coach. Even with anger simmering over the match official’s calls on key incident, the Connacht boss says they will focus on their own shortcomings.
“The bottom line is – and I’ve been saying it all year – we know we don’t have 13 or 16 internationals in our squad. However, if we play as a team, we’ve got some opportunity.
We talked about that second half – ‘this game is there for the taking if we want it’. Obviously it’s difficult on some of the calls. But our focus, for us, is what we can control. Despite those calls, we lost shape and, particularly in attack, we didn’t look after the ball.”
One of the major positives for the home side last night was the fact that youngsters Jack Carty and Darragh Leader proved their ability to play at Pro12 level. The out-half and fullback impressed, and Lam is confident that both young men have promising futures.
“I think those boys, Darragh, Jack and their families can be proud. I think Ireland’s got some real talent coming through and what better stage to test and give their development a boost than in that game?
“That’s why we did it and I think both of them can hold their heads up high. Those boys will be around for years to come for Connacht and for Ireland.”
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