CONNACHT COACH PAT LAM was unhappy with his side as they comfortably beat Zebre but squandered the opportunity to claim a bonus point.
The 20-3 win was Connacht’s third in Pool 3 but has left them relying on other teams doing them a favour, and a win away to Saracens, if they are to have any hope of reaching the Heineken Cup quarter finals.
The fact that the westerners are in with a mathematical chance of reaching the knock-out stages for the first time did little to sate Lam. Tries in each half from Matt Healy and Robbie Henshaw gave them a glimmer of securing the try-scoring bonus but they were beaten by the clock. Their coach felt an over-eagerness to score tries, rather than play to a set plan, led to a stuttering start. The home side only registered their first points, from the boot of Jack Carty, after 25 minutes.
“We’re happy with the win,” Lam told TheScore.ie. ”You don’t take those lightly in European competition but we’re disappointed. It’s a pretty sombre changing room.
All season I’ve talked about the process. If we focus on that, the outcome is great as we got the win but we weren’t clinical enough. We had so many opportunities that we didn’t take.”
He added, “I think everyone in the changing room knows that, across the board, we didn’t execute or do the things we had planned to do.” The Kiwi declared that Zebre had set-up in attack and defence exactly as predicted, allowing Connacht to impose their game-plan and chase the bonus point that, ultimately, proved out of reach.
Henshaw scores his side’s second try despite George Biagi of Zebre. INPHO/James Crombie
Lam, not for the first time, has demanded that his players raise their standards. With an away trip to face Saracens at Allianz Park next weekend, every scoring opportunity must be pounced upon and finished off. The Connacht backline produced the team’s two tries and Lam is happy with how the unit has evolved this season.
He commented, “They’ve all got a lot of developing to do but part of that is game time in big games. Last week, this week, they will gain confidence from those games. Next week is a totally different prospect against Saracens and the way they play. They’re aggressive, they’re in your face.
“Some of the things we got away with this week, you won’t get away with next week. There’s a clear, structured game-plan you need to play against that team, which is what got us the chance where we should have won the last time [against Saracens] at home.”
One area that Lam wants straightened out in training this week is Connacht’s kicking game, which he described as ‘inaccurate and reckless’ against the Italians. The former Auckland Blues coach may seek to rectify perceived inaccuracies by restoring the experienced Gavin Duffy and Dan Parks to the Connacht backline next weekend.
Such changes would be harsh on Carty and Darragh Leader but Lam may feel the need to shelve his development plans while a place in the last eight is still in sight.
– Additional reporting by Aaron Turner of @ConnachtClan