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Calm belief pays dividends for Pat Lam's Connacht against Leinster

The western province’s head coach feels that the culture within his group is beginning to shine through.

Ian Porter and Dave McSharry celebrate at the final whistle last night.
Ian Porter and Dave McSharry celebrate at the final whistle last night.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Pat Lam put his side’s impressive victory over Leinster down to a new-found belief and calmness within his squad.

The western province find themselves top of the Guinness Pro12 table this morning, after last night’s 10-9 success against their interprovincial rivals made it three wins from three to open their league campaign.

In what was a rollicking fixture, Connacht found themselves 9-0 down with 16 minutes on the clock, but found a way back. The scrum struggled alarmingly early on, but Connacht’s forwards managed to reverse the momentum. The defence looked porous in the opening exchanges, but the western province turned it into a strength.

Lam believes his side’s ability to come out on the right side of so tight a game again – Connacht had narrow wins against the Dragons and Edinburgh in the previous two rounds – was, in part, down to the focus they have had on clear thinking under pressure.

“Because we’re a very inexperienced side, we’ve put a lot of focus on being calm,” said Lam post-match. “When you have a lot of young guys, it’s really important that you have calm out there. We don’t need to get erratic and panic. We trust our structures and we trust our system.

When we get those moments where the crowd’s going crazy, everyone’s going crazy around you, breath. Key guys know when to speak instead of everyone speaking. It’s all about being calm and clear, that’s what it comes back to.”

Indeed, it is not difficult to imagine Connacht losing out in a situation like last night’s in times past, perhaps conceding a penalty during Leinster’s final attacking passage rather than shutting down the chance for Jimmy Gopperth to take a drop goal.

Lam has been vocal about his aim of building on what was already a strong culture within the Connacht squad, taking existing strengths and helping his players to draw more from them.

Pat Lam celebrates Lam thanks supporters at the Sportsground. Source: Tommy Grealy/INPHO

In that regard, the former Samoa back row feels strides have been made.

“The biggest thing is around belief and that was the focus that we’ve had,” said Lam. “Belief comes from the work that we’re doing, and I’ve been saying it all last season about that process.

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“Part of the reason we go to Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo and Galway, and put a lot of work in there [with open training sessions, etc.], is because I say to the boys that at the end of the day when you get down to these sort of moments in the last three games we’ve had, you’ve got to know who you represent and you’ve got to know who you’re standing next to.

“That’s going to get you through – I’ve been there before. All the stuff that we do off the field, that’s coming through. When you throw together that belief, togetherness, culture, jeez you can do anything.”

Despite so positive an outcome, Lam admits there are many aspects Connacht need to improve upon swiftly, particularly with a visit to Glasgow to come next weekend. Last night, however, he was simply happy to have come out on the right side of a tense clash.

I’m happy with the result! There’s no doubt that there are things we can do better in there, we know it wasn’t perfect, but we have to put it in perspective. We’ve got two guys that started two internationals and three internationals versus what is a whole Irish pack.

“Versus the experience of that backline, that’s massive. It does highlight that it’s all about teamwork. We can beat anybody as a team. We shouldn’t be where we are, but it’s all about believing and working hard.

“Now we’ve got a tough one in Glasgow, it doesn’t get any harder away from home. The top team [Leinster] and now the second top team.”

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Murray Kinsella

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