Onwards and upwards

Guinness PRO12 Editor

25 Mar 2011


Connacht are on a roll and skipper John Muldoon is determined things will stay that way.

The Galway-based province have been traditionally found towards the foot of the Magners League standings since the inception of Celtic Rugby, yet the current campaign is proving their most successful ever.

Eric Elwood’s men sit eighth in the table and are level on points with the seventh-placed Dragons.

Having never finished above ninth in either a 10, 11 or 12 team tournament, Connacht look to be on the rise.

The key to that progression is consistency, yet a quick glance at their record this season would appear to dispute that claim.

Table toppers after Round 1, Connacht lost just one of their first four fixtures before embarking on a fruitless run of results from late September. A total of eight defeats in eight Magners League matches did its best to suggest that this was a false dawn.

But delve a little bit deeper and it was apparent that there were signs of improvement. Only three of those reverses failed to see Connacht pick up a losing bonus point, with the loses to the Ospreys and Dragons both being by the narrowest margin possible.

Throw in the fact that Leinster were the only victors to pick up maximum points during Connacht’s barren run and the fine line between success and failure becomes even clearer.

"The performance was always there," said Muldoon, who returned to action a fortnight ago following a lengthy injury lay off.

"When we looked at games afterwards, as any team would, we saw that we were doing the right things. We were just letting ourselves down in the final third, which is obviously the most important part of the pitch.

"We seemed to be picking up bonus points but we just weren’t getting over the line. We weren’t scoring our tries or getting our kicks and that led to us losing by one, two, three, four or five points, which happened a lot.

"We went on that losing run but we picked up five bonus points in those eight loses. It showed that we weren’t that far away and that if we stuck at it we’d get those wins."


John Muldoon says Connacht always kept the faith

And that’s exactly what happened. Connacht did just what Muldoon requested and stuck to their guns.

They remained upbeat, continued to battle on and eventually they turned the corner.

Four victories from their five most recent matches marks their best-ever Magners League run and is further testament to their heart and their appetite for the cause.

"Thankfully, the wins came and that brings with it a little bit of self confidence," added Muldoon.

"We always knew we were on the right path but it was just a matter of getting that win.

"A winning run can be hard to break – that’s what we found when we were on our losing streak. We knew we were there or thereabouts but we just couldn’t get over the line.

"The squad remained upbeat throughout it all, though. No one dropped their heads and that’s been shown in the majority, if not all, of the games."


Muldoon and Eric Elwood have craved consistency

For Muldoon, it’s further proof that strides are being made at The Sportsground.

Previous success in the Amlin Challenge Cup had shown that Connacht could compete in shorter competitions but an 18, 20 or 22-game season had always seemed to be too much for them.

But not now. As the season draws to a close, Connacht are heading in the right direction. And although a top-four spot maybe an unrealistic target this time around, the consistency in performance throughout the year has undoubtedly meant that 2010/11 has been a major success story so far.

"As both Eric and myself said at the start of this season, it’s consistency that’s been our issue. Some of that is squad depth and keeping players fresh.

"We’ve always come out and given performances but then the next week we might not turn up. That’s been a major issue for us. That’s what we’ve wanted remedy.

"The fact that we’ve been competitive in the majority of games we’ve played this year has shown that our consistency is a lot better.

"We’re not racing for the Play-Offs but if we could keep around the seventh or eighth bracket, that would be a major step for us and a major building block for the seasons ahead."