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Connacht fans looking at the opening 5 games of this season didn’t expect a huge return of points. Facing all 4 semi-finalists from last season and Munster in those 5 games is an absolute slog of a start. Add in the two-week trip to South Africa and Andy Friend might be wondering what he did to upset the powers that be in the URC.
It’s tough to be a Connacht Rugby fan right now
I consider myself a very reasonable Connacht fan and understand that Connacht unlike the other provinces do not have the same resources, budgets, talent etc. I do not like that, but accept it. If Connacht lose narrowly to a team but played well and gave a good performance, Ill be happy enough.
What fans cannot accept is performances like we have seen the past three weekends. Mistake ridden performances that constantly put the team on the back foot. Nine minutes into Friday’s game, Connacht were 14 points down. It felt like the game was already over. Trying to imagine Connacht turning that game around and making that gap up seemed too unrealistic for me at the time.
That is the current mood surrounding the Connacht team. There is a lack of confidence and a lack of belief. A team that last season looked so potent at times with ball in hand and were a real threat to oppositions defences, now looks like 15 men showed up and met each other for the first time and decided to play a game of rugby. Connacht were winning zero of the collisions in that 80 minutes and that’s a tough way to try and win rugby games. When you get bullied physically like that every other part of your game needs to be sharp and Connacht have been far from sharp this season.
Bulls should have won by more than 14
It was far from a polished Bulls performance on Friday. The score-line could have been a lot worse. Twenty penalties conceded is the headline. A constant lack of discipline which gave Connacht platforms to attack. Twenty-four missed tackles by the Bulls to Connacht’s seven. Twenty-four defenders beaten for Connacht along with 53% territory and a 94% tackle success rate. If you ever needed a timely reminder that stats can be deceiving, this was it.
My big interest this week is the reaction we get from Connacht. So far, the message from coaches and players has been a positive one. “Staying patient” and being ”close to where we want to be” have been the slogans in interviews and press conferences so far. Andy Friend has always said he is a glass half full type of man but even he in his post-match interview was noticeably angry. I for one am happy to see that. I want to see frustration. Show the fans that the players and coaches are just as frustrated as we are.
Munster on Friday night
This Friday, Munster travel to The Sportsgrounds. Connacht will be playing at home for the first time on their new 4G pitch and in front of their fans for the first time this season.
Munster themselves are not in flying form so a great chance for Connacht to get back on track. The atmosphere will be an electric one. We want to see aggression, some anger, but most importantly a performance that will make Connacht players proud.
Connacht can win this game and remind us all how good they can be. Will we get that performance? Only time will tell.
But before you head to the Sportsground on Friday evening watch the video below of Connachts victory away to Munster last year. It will get the spirits in shape to roar on the men in green.