Saturday 25 March 2017

Five things we learned

There's life, Jim ...

When London Irish got their second try to lead 14-7 with less than a quarter of an hour to go, the post-Toulon Munster obituaries were being touched up for another airing.

But suddenly, the home side found their mojo, the crowd found its voice and London Irish were blown asunder by an astonishing three-try salvo.

Power of the axe

A tough week for Donncha O'Callaghan and Tony Buckley with the former vilified for the needless yellow card in Toulon and the latter failing to make the Ireland Six Nations squad.

Both men began this game on the bench, but were determined to make a point when introduced. They did exactly that. O'Callaghan played like a -- highly effective -- Tasmanian devil for the 20 minutes he was on the pitch, while Buckley put himself about energetically and got on the ball repeatedly. Good to see.

Mind over natter

Munster's poor disciplinary record got plenty of exposure following their disastrous two yellow card showing in Toulon and we said in the build-up that if they could keep the penalty count to single figures while keeping the bin empty, they would be in business.

The penalty count was an acceptable eight, there was no bitching to the officials and it was the London Irish players who earned the yellow wrath of referee Peter Allan.

This should set a template for the future with the emphasis on patience and concentration.

The invention of trying

Munster were never going to suddenly unearth devastating backline moves in the six days since the slow retreat from Toulon and until their stunning end-game, the home side struggled to break down the Irish defence.

They tried to play the off-loading game, but the backline moves were laboured and ineffective, with overlaps ignored or botched -- as was the case just before half-time -- and it was all a bit Leinster Lite.

The tendency is to revert to pick-and-go power drives when in the scoring zone and it will take time and fresh input to improve the backline play, but the positive was the proof that, when Munster play with the intensity they showed in the last 15 minutes, tries inevitably follow.

Mob rule

All week, the talk had been that Thomond Park was going to be significantly less than full as disenchanted supporters stayed away.

The wheels had come off the bandwagon and the newbie fans were jumping clear. Not a bit of it. A full house, who hung in patiently while Munster stuttered along trying to relocate their confidence before exploding into life when most needed.

The players were happy to show their appreciation afterwards on what was a good day for the Munster masses.

Irish Independent

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