While I think the significance of our win last Friday night over Bordeaux-Beglès shouldn’t be underestimated, we are under no illusions that we have to back that up tonight by fronting up in similar fashion.
Even though we made errors and conceded penalties in the early part of the game at Stade Andre Moga last weekend, what the players demonstrated is that if you follow a process and you show character and have attitude, eventually you’ll prevail.
Losing our captain, Mike Coman, in the first five minutes put us under immediate pressure. However, with Gilcho [Grant Gilchrist] at the helm and Roddy [Grant] coming on, the ship was immediately steadied.
Recalling the first half, we forced a lot of turnovers – maybe didn’t use them as well as we should have – but we did have opportunities. The home side put us under a lot of pressure and there were a couple of times they threatened the line but our players maintained their composure to hold them off. Ross Ford and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne demonstrated a lot of attitude and work-rate to stop a try in the corner midway through the first half.
In the second half, although we lost a player to a yellow card, the guys didn’t panic, they believed in what they were doing, they believed in the guy next to them. That manifested itself when we started getting momentum with ball in hand and we began dominating the collisions and essentially, barring our error that led to their try, they didn’t look like scoring after that. They had a very big heavy pack but I felt our conditioning was far superior (hats off to our S&C trainer Johan Pretorius) and we managed to eventually wear them down, even when they brought on their bench. I felt that the guys we brought on were fitter and, if anything, there was an increasing eagerness to show that we could prevail.
Yes, the outward travel was arduous, particularly with a 5am departure last Thursday but the guys managed to overcome this hurdle. They fronted up and wanted to prove they were capable and they were. The way I see it is that, when will and attitude and good character meet systems and technical ability, you have an unstoppable combination.
Tonight we have to make sure we front up in the same way because, although we’ve banked two back-to-back wins, which is good, we know we still have a long way to go.
You have to bank a season of success – you have to perform and follow the processes and have the hunger, the will and the desire week in, week out, and make sure nothing gets in your way to achieve it.
Having a good result against Lyon is important in the sense that you’ll then have three wins in a row, which leads to a feeling of when you want it and you execute, it can be done.
To know that turning point has come, you’d not only have to have a few good wins in a row and the ability to come back from behind and grind out a win, but also to be able to dominate a game from start to finish and put the opposition away. Then you know you’re on the way.
If you look at the season so far in context, we have shown, particularly in the Munster, Scarlets, Dragons and Bordeaux-Beglès matches, that we have the ability to break through. We have to remember that tonight and give ourselves and our supporters plenty to cheer about.