A trademark of Connacht’s performances to date has been their resolute defence.
Last season Connacht contracted the services of former Great Britain Rugby League legend Mike Forshaw to shore up the defensive systems at the club and the former Wigan Warriors Strength & Conditioning Coach has made a big impact since his arrival.
A testament to Mike’s hard work was the tackle count from last Friday night’s Heineken Cup match against Harlequins. The starting pack made a staggering 110 tackles over the course of the match and the team had over 235 defensive involvements over the 80 minutes, denying Harlequins both space, territory and clean possession.
The defensive systems clearly took their toll on the visiting side with Connacht turning over possession in every area of the pitch. Man of the match John Muldoon epitomised Connacht’s tenacity at the breakdown and the 29 year old Portumna-born backrower displayed a dogged determination and ruthlessness in the contact zone that helped secure Connacht’s first win in their maiden Heineken Cup.
Following the pool stages of the Heineken Cup there were 10 teams that conceded more points than Connacht. This list included some of Europe’s most prestigious clubs, names such as London Irish, Northampton Saints, the Ospreys and Castres Olympique were among the sides, many of which regularly feature in the competition, to ship more points than the Western Province. Indeed Toulouse are the only team to earn a bonus point against Connacht this season and had to work extremely hard to achieve that!
Though Connacht have yet to turn performances into results in the RaboDirect PRO12 leaking trys has not been the major issue and the club lie level with leaders Leinster on number of trys conceded (19) and following last weekend’s heroic performance the team know they can use their impressive defensive capabilities to turn close matches into victories.