Munster’s work-onsefor theeinterpros
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