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'You've got to get top six at the start' - Muldoon's Connacht on track

The western province’s captain was part of a superb defensive effort on Friday night at the Sportsground.

Quinn Roux and Robbie Henshaw embrace after beating Leinster.
Quinn Roux and Robbie Henshaw embrace after beating Leinster.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

CONNACHT CAPTAIN JOHN Muldoon says his province’s early-season focus on achieving a top six finish in the Guinness Pro12 partly explains their run of three wins in three games.

After opening the campaign with victories over the Dragons and Edinburgh, Pat Lam’s men overcame Leinster on a 10-9 scoreline in Galway on Friday evening, leaving themselves third in the league after round three.

Muldoon is pleased to be part of a side that has entered “new ground,” although Friday’s trip to the Glasgow Warriors will be another demanding evaluation of the westerners’ recent improvements.

The back row explains that Connacht’s encouraging start is down to the realisation that their end goal of a top-half finish has to be put into action in the present.

“We were quite bullish at the start of the season, me and Pat at the launch of the Pro12,” says the three-times capped Ireland international. “We said we thought we had the best squad and had recruited very well and we wanted to get top six.

The management have been telling us that the top six doesn’t come in April. If you’re second or third from bottom in April, it’s too late. You’ve got to get top six at the start and keep your position there. So we had to start well.

“The question I asked inside is where do Bundee [Aki], Mils [Muliaina] and Tom [McCartney] fit in there? Who are young going to drop? Lads are doing well, so it’s a good position to be in.”

The fact that those three high-profile recruits are still to come is a further positive for Lam’s squad, whatever about Muldoon’s suggestion that the Kiwis will have to fight hard for starting spots.

John Lacey talks to John Muldoon Muldoon was yellow carded in the first half on Friday night. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Among the defensive qualities on display against Leinster, as well as Kieran Marmion’s stunning try and overall progress in attack, the Connacht scrum stood out as a point of strength.

That was despite a deeply concerning opening patch at the eight-man set-piece, where Connacht’s front row looked to be struggling badly. The turnaround was nothing short of spectacular as the likes of Denis Buckley and Nathan White impressed, as did their replacements.

Our scrum has been good for a good 18 months now,” says Muldoon. “Rodney Ah You came on and I thought he was outstanding. He gets a lot of flak, sometimes Rodney does, and some of those scrums against an Irish international, Cian Healy, were top drawer stuff.”

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Muldoon admitted that Connacht’s line-out performance had caused concern, and a similar showing in that department against Glasgow would be potentially ruinous.

However, the overriding feeling around the province right now is an energetic, excited one. Connacht simply can’t wait to get back on the pitch and attempt to build on the excellent opening trio of wins.

“Yeah, it’s good start – three out of three, so it’s new ground for us. I’ve never been here in a Connacht jersey before. We’ve beaten the top or second top team in the league [Leinster] and now we’ve the second or best team [Glasgow] to play. It’s all good.”

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Murray Kinsella

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