14 March 2023
Declan Kidney believes his side showed the importance of representing the Club on Sunday with a 36-18 Gallagher Premiership win over Sale Sharks.
The Boys in Green took maximum points after a five-try showing in Brentford against second-place Sharks, extending their run to five wins in six league games.
The Director of Rugby said that he, the coaches and the players are currently “enjoying the moment” in the midst of a rich vein of form approaching the business end of the campaign, but the group will not look beyond this week’s final against Exeter Chiefs.
A match-defining moment arrived on 67 minutes with a clutch defensive intervention from Rory Jennings on Sharks’ Cobus Wiese, one of many small victories that led to the bonus point win.
“It just shows what the team means to players, and Rory [Jennings] really showed it in that moment,” Kidney declared.
“Moments like that were key, we always look at games in how many moments like that we can win because we aren’t going to win all of them, so it’s very important to see how we react to both ones you win and lose.
“There were a few in the first half where we scored a try and got an intercept through Paddy [Jackson], and we went down the other end and got seven points again.
“We were aware that they would bring a lot of physicality to it, you have to match that mentally because you know you are going to take a few hits yourself.
“The boys showed what the team means to them in the way they went about their business.
“Huge credit has to go to the players for executing the plan and also to the coaches, Les [Kiss], Brad [Davis] and all the team for coming up with the plans to exploit what is a very difficult defence to get through.”
Sale has the third least number of points conceded in the division (381) with the second least amount of tries conceded (46), but Irish became one of only three Premiership tries to score four or more tries against the Mancunians this season.
Irish still remain 10 points behind Sunday’s opponents having also played a game more than seven other sides in the division currently, with the boss cautious to talk up any level of confidence gained from recent form.
Instead, the aspirations of further refinement from the team in the season’s final four games still remains a goal for the management.
“We won’t get carried away in the same way we didn’t when we had three or four losses on the bounce earlier on in the season where we lost by seven points or less.
“We said we were picking up things and we were improving all the time, and that point still remains.
“Just because we have been winning doesn’t mean we stop improving, we have no pretensions about being anything special and we just want to go about our business and see where that takes us.
“The table is a bit false in terms of other teams having fallow weeks and us not, we’re just really enjoying the moment.”
The Irishman was keen to credit the offerings of Agustín Creevy and Ollie Hassell-Collins on the afternoon, Creevy’s 50:22 kick laying the platform for his own score off a rolling maul.
Academy graduate Hassell-Collins also put in five tackles, two offloads and seven carries in his first home game in almost two months to mark his 100th Club appearance.
“Gus [Agustín Creevy] brings an awful lot of things to the team, both on and off the pitch, and he provided another big contribution today with the 50:22 kick and try.
“He’ll probably remind us about it for a while, but I’ll still be delighted for him!
“Some people want to write players off when they get to a certain age, but Gus isn’t like that – there are plenty of targets left in his playing career.”
“Ollie turns up every day and is really consistent, he’s always working on his game.
“Reaching 100 appearances is always difficult because there are a lot of emotions that go through your head, and we as a Club have to recognise that.
“He’ll never be happy until he scores three tries, and then he’ll always be looking for the fourth – he’s always best when he has the ball in his hands.”
Kidney is of the belief that through purple patches such as the last few weeks, as well as the tougher spells in the earlier portion of the season, there has been sustained betterment in his squad.
“When you get positive results, people see that progress.
“But as coaches, we have to see whether that progress is being made when results aren’t going our way, which I believe there was.
“I have to compliment the boys more than anything else, they stayed on task and they’re getting a little bit of a reward now for their hard work that they never shirked.
“Going through those tough times can make you a better team, because those losses can hurt.”
A fateful fixture lies ahead for Kidney and his team this Sunday when they play out their second consecutive final appearance in the Premiership Rugby Cup.
The Director of Rugby credits the squad effort that has projected Irish to another final berth this season, maintaining that competition for places in the matchday remains ambitious as ever.
“We’ll talk to the medics and see how the bodies are, there are players that have helped us get to the final and we’ll come up with the best side available to win us a cup.
“It’s nice to be there again after last year, performances like this are a result of the training put in through the week with 38 fellas looking to be involved in every session.
“The way they conducted themselves last Friday to prepare for Sale was very impressive and helped prepare for this game.”