Drastic action required as scrum disaster lets side down
EDINBURGH need to have to act quickly if they are to have any hope of saving their season. They cannot afford to surrender every game where WP Nel is unavailable, as they did in this match where the scrum was a disaster area.
With fly halves also thin on the ground, they head for Connacht on Friday needing a win to stop the rot but likely to be without Duncan Weir.
The game was ridiculous in so many ways. Admittedly there were a couple of nasty injuries that added to the stoppage time, but lengthy referrals to the TMO, a lot of more minor injuries and a long discussion over what should happen when the Scots did not have a tighthead prop on the pitch after Alan Dell was sin binned meant it was two hours and nine minutes from kick off to final whistle.
To add to Edinburgh’s woes, there is a chance that Fraser McKenzie, the lock, could find himself in more trouble after a reckless charge into a ruck saw his shoulder hit Jack O’Donoghue, the Munster flanker, on the head. He was unconscious and taken to hospital as a result. Fortunately he was quickly released but there were many in the Munster camp who felt McKenzie got off lightly with only a sin bin.
Strangely, the Irish were almost as aggrieved by the second Edinburgh sin bin as by that incident. They were camped on the visitors’ line and driving scrum after scrum and winning penalty after penalty until Dell was ordered off. Edinburgh did not have another tighthead prop, so the game went to uncontested scrums and their huge advantage in that area evaporated.
Scrums were the big headache for Alan Solomons, the Edinburgh head coach. With Nel on an enforced rest weekend, he had hoped that Kevin Bryce, the hooker who is trying, at the age of 28, to turn himself into a prop, might be able to cope. The experiment lasted six minutes.
In that time he had gone down in the first scrum and spent a long time having his left arm taped up. He had struggled again in the second and was taken off before there was any more damage to his arm and his confidence.
This was, after all, only the third time he has played tighthead. When he does recover from what looked like an elbow injury, he needs to get miles on the clock in his new position before making another attempt at it in the professional game.
Afterwards, Solomons was full of praise for Dell, who had stepped into the breach, but the fact is that instead of being a source of strength and confidence for the Edinburgh side, as it is when Nel is there, the scrum was an embarrassment in this game. It gave away two tries before the break, both touched down by Conor Murray, the Munster scrum half, costing them the lead Chris Deans had earned with an opportunist break.
Then you come to the defence, which showed a lot of guts undone by lapses in concentration. They withstood a final barrage from Munster, Weir was incredibly brave when he got under CJ Stander, the Munster No8, to stop one try and seconds later he was back tacking the same opponent only for a clash of heads to send him into the stand looking dazed.
It was all undone by simple missed tackles that gifted tries to Conor Oliver and Dave O’Callaghan, the Munster flankers. With the two scrum scores, the home side had the scoring bonus point wrapped up before the final quarter.
Edinburgh did finish strongly with John Hardie coming off the bench to claim a try, and in Magnus Bradbury, the young back row, they had the single best player on the pitch – how often does a losing opponent win the man of the match award at Thomond Park? – but without that scrum platform they didn’t have a chance.
“I am bitterly disappointed,” was the reaction from Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, making his first start of the season. “We got off to such a good start but the try immediately before half time and the one immediately after completely changed the momentum.
“Going to uncontested scrums and the start-stop play gave them all the momentum. They got a good couple of tries and a big lead.
“When you are chasing at Thomond Park, it is always going to be tough. The last 20 minutes, we had a lot of good intentions and almost came back to look for that bonus point but it got away from us.”
Scorers: Munster: Tries:
Murray 2 (25min, 39), Oliver (41), O’Callaghan (56). Bleyendaal 4. Dean (22min), Hardie (66). Weir, Kinghorn. (Munster first): 0-7, 7-7, 14-7 (half time), 21-7, 28-7. I Keatley; D Sweetnam, K Earls, C Bohane, R O’Mahony; T Bleyendaal (A Wootton, 58), C Murray (D Williams, 58); D Kilcoyne (J Cronin, 56), N Scannell (D Casey, 58), J Ryan; J Kleyn (D O’Shea, 44), B Holland (C); D O’Callaghan (S Archer, 63), J O’Donoghue (C Oliver, 12), CJ Stander. G Bryce; D Hoyland, M Allen (R Scholes, 71), C Dean, T Brown; D Weir (B Kinghorn, 51), S Hidalgo-Clyne (S Kennedy, 63); R Sutherland, S McInally (C) (N Cochrane, 59), K Bryce (A Dell, 6, sin bin: 49-59), F McKenzie (sin bin: 12-22, L Carmichael, 67), B Toolis, M Bradbury, H Watson (J Hardie, 24-33), C Du Preez, (J Cosgrove, 51-59, J Hardie, 59). B Whitehouse (Wales) 12,826
Edinburgh: Tries: Cons: Scoring sequence Munster: Edinburgh: Referee: Attendance: Cons:
MAN IN THE MIDDLE: John Hardie smashes his way over the line for a second-half try.