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Dublin: 8 °C Wednesday 12 December, 2018

Winger O'Halloran on getting 'thrown in at the deep end' against Leinster's pack

The Connacht back was joined by scrumhalf Paul O’Donohoe in the back row as his side wilted under late scrummaging pressure.

Tiernan O'Halloran (14) fails to prevent the Leinster pack forcing a penalty try.
Tiernan O'Halloran (14) fails to prevent the Leinster pack forcing a penalty try.
Image: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

TIERNAN O’HALLORAN’S DEBUT as a flanker in the Connacht pack lasted three scrums and he is not keen to repeat the experience.

The winger was forced to pack down in a depleted Connacht pack after two teammates were sent to the sin bin. A great escape looked possible after one solid scrum but it was re-set and Leinster’s final push delivered the penalty try they were craving. A famous away win was denied Connacht and they remained bottom of the league.

“At one stage,” O’Halloran told, “[scrumhalf] Paul O’Donohoe and I were playing 6 and 7. We were down to 13 men and needed numbers in the scrum. If Leinster had spread play wide they might’ve had us on the overlap but, unfortunately, the scrums paid off.”

The experience resembled getting ‘thrown in at the deep end’ but he is open to tips from his teammates in the forwards division, just in case he is ever drafted again. For the immediate future, O’Halloran is content to remain a back. “We had a maul in the second half and myself, Craig Ronaldson and Robbie Henshaw were involved in it. That was enjoyable but I think I’ll leave the scrummaging to the [forwards],” he remarked.

imageO’Halloran reflects on Leinster’s late win at the RDS. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The 16 — 13 loss, he concedes, is the most painful of a season that has brought just two wins thus far. “We thought we would hold them off,” he said. “We were under siege at times in the second-half but we trusted our defence. Going down to 13 men was too much to take in the end. It’s a tough defeat to take.”

O’Halloran acknowledges that errors, such as ‘silly knock-ons and going off our feet at rucks’, often gave momentum back to Leinster. On at least four occasions, excellent Connacht defence was followed by errors that allowed the home side to pin them back in their 22.

The Galwegian refuted the weekend claims of Matt O’Connor that Leinster were the only team that played rugby at the RDS. He said:

We were playing against one of the best teams in Europe and we went there with a gameplan to counter-attack. It had worked well against Saracens and Zebre. Rugby is a game of defence, too, and, as you could see, it nearly worked.”

O’Halloran believes Connacht’s Kiwi recruits, Craig Clarke and Jake Heenan, have added some steel to the pack. “We were worried when Willie Faloon was injured but Jake has come in and done an unbelievable job,” he added.

For all the talk of trusting their defence, close calls and positive gameplans, O’Halloran admits it is frustrating to look at the league table and see his side propping it up. “The Glasgow game,” he said, “going into the two-week international break is massive.

“We’ve let a few games slip away from us this season but are taking on two teams [Glasgow and Scarlets], at home, that will lose players to their countries. It is time to string a few results together and climb up that table.”

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Kieran Marmion is the form scrum-half in Ireland at present

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Patrick McCarry

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