Sport

Lam lavishes praise on Connacht team

Connacht's Bundee Aki celebrates at the final whistle against Leinster
Connacht's Bundee Aki celebrates at the final whistle against Leinster

Connacht coach Pat Lam was full of praise for his team after their 7-6 Pro12 victory against Leinster on Saturday evening.

Connacht moved four points clear at the top of the table with a hard-fought victory at the Sportsground, with Kieran Marmion scoring the only try of the game in the 13th minute.

“I’m really proud of the guys," Lam said. "When you have Peter Robb from the academy, making his first start in the Pro12, Sean O’Brien from the academy, young Caolin Blade is a scrumhalf and had to go in and play at standoff... you’re looking after the jersey and when it’s your time to step in, you step in.

“I look at the age profile, particularly in the back line. (Tiernan) O’Halloran is the oldest guy, I think he’s 25 – there’s so much more to come from these guys.

“Rugby is not just a game, it’s about growing, maturing, working as a team. I keep thinking of (playing the Challenge Cup in) Siberia, the amount of injuries we’ve had and all the challenges we’ve faced. Guys just keep working hard for each other.

"It was about working hard for each other, keep applying the pressure. Do you want to run with the ball or do you want to tackle? We forced them to tackle a lot in that second half."

“The weather wasn’t great but I said to the boys, ‘just trust your skills’," he added. "I obviously would have preferred more (of a half-time lead) but I emphasised that the only way we were going to get through it was our structures and keeping hold of that ball.

"The boys know I can’t stand just one-off runners – you’ve got to show some expression and use your skills.

“Even when after a lot of phases we stayed in our 22, we eventually broke out and that was again the work that we do every week.

“We enjoy this but we now move on to Ulster. We’ve never won up there so there’s another challenge we face. We might be top of the table now but it doesn’t mean anything until we get to May."