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Wednesday 1 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
INPHO/Morgan Treacy Connacht's Jake Heenan's reacts to the decision to award Leinster a late penalty try.
# War of Words
Pat Lam questions double standards as Leinster land knockout blow
The New Zealander is calling on Academy players to shore up his ‘injury decimated’ side.

“I’M REALLY PROUD of the effort. To come over here and take on a team full of internationals — you look at their bench — and our team is injury decimated. We were pulling out guys from the academy [to play]. The way they performed was outstanding.”

That was Pat Lam’s opening reply when asked about the heartbreaking nature of his side’s late defeat to Leinster at the RDS. The New Zealander may have been warned about such instances in his interview with the Connacht board earlier this year but two defeats after two good interprovincial performances have had a smelling salts effect.

Lam bristled, last night, at the suggestions made by Leinster coach Matt O’Connor that Connacht ‘didn’t play any rugby’. O’Connor’s comments were on the harsh side as Connacht were camped in the home side’s 22 on three occasions in the second-half but left, each time, with nothing.

It was almost the classic away-day performance — strike early, land jabs on the defensive and throw your body where it hurts. The mentality was personified by Kieran Marmion on 73 minutes as he slid in to hold up the ball when a try from Leinster flanker Rhys Ruddock looked on the cards.

Marmion, who was otherwise excellent, dipped into a Leinster scrum three minutes later and was yellow-carded. The home side took on a Connacht pack that featured two backs and caved their opponents in. Leinster won while not playing well and Connacht lost while performing many heroic deeds. Welcome to Ireland Pat Lam.

imageLeinster captain Jamie Heaslip, who opted against going for the posts on numerous occasions, celebrates the 77th minute penalty try. INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The former Auckland Blues coach told TheScore.ie after the 16 — 13 defeat his players were “gutted” and did well to keep a lid on his anger that Connacht were not awarded a penalty try of their own.

He said, “We should have scored down there. We had a 12-man maul and its moving, its going and it stops. There is only one way that maul is going down and that’s if someone is pulling it down.”

Denied a potential seven-pointer, Dan Parks then opted to kick the penalty that was awarded to his side, rather than repeat the gutsy option of going for the 5m lineout. A questionable decision was compounded when Parks struck the upright. Lam explained:

We went for the corner and then put 11 men into a maul and got nothing out of it. The next penalty we got was closer to the posts… If he popped it over we would have been in a good position [seven points ahead] but, hey, that’s rugby.”

Paradise lost for another week and the visit of Glasgow Warriors to Galway next weekend will be stern test for the Pro12′s bottom side. Lam, struggling to explain how his side have only beaten Zebre [twice] this season, said, “Every single game we’ve played, we’ve had opportunities to win… We don’t have [all] the internationals but we are building towards what we want to create at Connacht Rugby. The last three weeks have really shown our character.”

He added, “They lost Sean O’Brien but had Shane Jennings coming in at 7 and Rhys Ruddock coming onto the bench. We had Mata Fifita playing his first game at 6, at this level, but he was superb.”

Andrew Browne’s torn hamstring sees him join back-rows Eoin McKeon, John Muldoon and Willie Faloon on the sidelines and utility back James So’oialo is off back to New Zealand after a two-game stint.

Lam will hope that the academy coaches are teaching the young reserves character because they will be drafted sooner rather than later and will need it.

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As it happened: Leinster v Connacht, RaboDirect Pro12

RDS dog-fight sparks war of words between O’Connor and Lam

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