Mun­ster’s work-on­se­for theein­ter­pros

Irish Examiner - Sport - - RUGBY -

Rarely can Mun­ster have come up against all three of their fel­low prov­inces in such great form while hav­ing them­selves taken a back­ward step at the week­end.

With a trip to Ul­ster this Fri­day, fol­lowed by the visit of Le­in­ster on De­cem­ber 29, and then a game at Con­nacht on Jan­uary 5, the south­ern prov­ince will have much to work on as they pre­pare for a tough fes­tive pe­riod in the PRO14.

Peter O’ma­hony did not pull his punches when he said Mun­ster “were beaten there across the board” at the break­down. In mit­i­ga­tion, Cas­tres were al­lowed free rein to cause may­hem in con­tact as they killed or slowed ball cyn­i­cally through­out, as well as cross­ing the line with a clear and ob­vi­ous goug­ing at­tempt as a hand at the bot­tom of a ruck was laid on Chris Cloete’s eyes and face. Yet they lost the phys­i­cal bat­tle in con­tact and though the break­down was al­lowed to be a melee at times by Wayne Barnes, Mun­ster boss Jo­hann van Graan said his side failed to play to the ref’s han­dling of the game.

“You’ve got to adapt to the ref­eree on the day and there was cer­tainly a lot go­ing on at the break­down.”

For the sec­ond week in a row, Mun­ster failed to profit from their li­ne­outs in ad­van­ta­geous po­si­tions. Against Cas­tres in Lim­er­ick there were five op­por­tu­ni­ties wasted ei­ther by a set­piece mal­func­tion or shortly af­ter the throw and there were four fur­ther chances that went awry at Stade Pierre-fabre. With Mun­ster’s scrum op­er­at­ing so ef­fi­ciently right now to pro­vide the penalty kicks that give the for­wards a fur­ther plat­form up­field, the hard work is be­ing un­done all too of­ten.

That Mun­ster were kept try­less in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion for the first time since a 17-6 away loss at Welford Road to Le­ices­ter Tigers on De­cem­ber 20, 2015, is re­mark­able, given the chances they cre­ated in Cas­tres.

It was not just the li­ne­out as for the sec­ond week in a row, points went beg­ging. There were four missed kicks from the tee as both Joey Car­bery and Conor Mur­ray missed from long-range amid dif­fi­cult con­di­tions in which it may have been more pru­dent to gain ter­ri­tory. An­other ques­tion­able de­ci­sion came just be­fore half-time when three more straight­for­ward points were passed up in favour of a tap penalty that saw Mun­ster turn the ball over rather than gain five or seven points. Mun­ster need to be more clin­i­cal. Words: Si­mon Lewis

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