Munster see light at end of tunnel
Published 22/10/2012 | 05:00
A handsome win for Munster but coach Rob Penney still thinks his squad are in a dark pit.
However, on a glorious day borrowed from high summer, appropriately there is some light nearing the end of the transitional tunnel.
"I've explained to the lads when you are going through anything new as an athlete you end up in a dark place," explained Penney after this thumping dismissal of the most inept visitors Limerick has witnessed in some time.
"They call that dark place the pit. You end up in the pit for a while and it's very frustrating. It's a horrible place to be because it's so easy to go back and rely on what you used to be familiar with.
"But when you pop out of it the sun's a lot brighter and you can actually far exceed anything you were able to do previously. So we're just on the bottom of that pit I think, still trying to work our way out.
"But there's light at the end of the tunnel and given another few months of this understanding, of us working together and having faith in each other, we'll be a better side and we'll continue to be a better side."
And so new Munster eventually got the job done the old Munster way at Thomond Park, a second successive bonus point ensuring that they will remain central to the final outcome of this pool.
December, and the double date with Saracens, will test their mettle more sternly than a shockingly bad Edinburgh side, semi-finalists last season but now, again in this season's competition, quite literally pointless.
Were it not for the belated quest for a bonus point from the home side -- three of whose tries effectively came from the familiar, old-style route of the driving maul -- most of the 22,166 would have been forgiven for rushing to the exits.
Instead, Edinburgh seemed keener on rushing to the exits themselves, rolling over and having their bellies tickled as they became the first side in Heineken Cup history to fail to score in their opening two matches.
While much of the crowd sensed Edinburgh's game was up from the opening minutes, Munster also cottoned on to the fact with 20 minutes left as the visitors began dropping like flies all over the pitch.
"Embarrassing," was how Michael Bradley described the submission in his home province. He had used the same word to describe their humiliation at home last weekend.
At least the sterile, abject outfit cannot be accused of inconsistency.
Munster still can, though; albeit they will have added a little more confidence to their armoury following a difficult three weeks on the road, when three defeats cannot but have raised self-doubts about their new direction.
"We just hadn't capitalised and got the rewards," said Penney as he reflected on one of the most mundane halves of rugby ever witnessed at the famous old ground.
"We needed to improve on our ball security, our ability to capitalise on the space that's provided for us, and that space happened on about five or six occasions today." Luckily, Edinburgh's soft centre allowed Munster to dabble in a number of styles yesterday and so, while they were still guilty of cocking up overlaps on the touchline thanks to shovel-like hands from lumbering forwards, they were always in control of this contest.
With Paul O'Connell stealing three line-outs during another impressive hour, Dave Kilcoyne enhancing his burgeoning reputation at scrum-time and Sean Dougall pilfering thrice on the floor, the Scottish pack were beaten up every which way.
Spreading out their defensive line -- the visitors clearly came to play for a 0-0 draw -- Edinburgh offered nothing in attack, frustrating Munster into an inordinate amount of first-half errors, such that the half-time 6-0 lead was probably reflective of the general inadequacy of the fare.
The second half was little better, save for Munster's greater awareness that by deploying their traditional strengths, Edinburgh's submission would be accelerated.
A variation in styles then, rather than a jumbled game plan.
Their opening try derived from Gregor Hunter's aimless kick from his 10-metre line that went dead, from where Munster advanced stealthily through solid rumbling before Conor Murray pounced to atone for last week's egregious error in Paris.
From then on, it was plain sailing.
"We had really good intent and that was evident all week at training," continued Penney.
"There was an edge which you'd expect after the last few weeks. So that was pleasing.
"We created pressure which we hadn't been able to do consistently well. Even today, we didn't do it as well as we can. But we did enough to squeeze Edinburgh, which was pleasing.
"Conor played a good game last week and he's bounced back and had a terrific performance, error-free. Ian Keatley drove the team around the park more authoritatively."
And so the pieces are assembling, gradually.
Bradley was impressed with one side, at least.
"They've developed the ability to put the ball wide and they're getting more and more confident at it and in six weeks' time they'll be better again," he said.
"The change of management has given them an extra string to their bow. It's good that they have a balance in their side now and they're not afraid to go there."
Embracing that fear is what Munster intently hope will strengthen them in the long-term. Results are the primary currency of professionalism, though.
This one was never in doubt.
Munster -- D Hurley; D Howlett (F Jones 66), C Laulala, J Downey (JJ Hanrahan 73), S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne (M Horan 79), M Sherry (D Varley 63), BJ Botha; D O'Callaghan (P Butler 73), P O'Connell (B Holland 61); D Ryan, S Dougall, P O'Mahony.
Edinburgh -- G Tonks; L Jones, N De Luca, B Atiga (M Scott 13), T Brown; G Hunter (D Fife 66), R Rees; J Yapp (R Hislop 76), R Ford (A Titterrell 76), G Cross (WP Nel h-t); G Gilchrist, S Cox (R McAlpine 75); D Denton, S McInally, N Talei (D Basilaia 51).
Ref -- W Barnes (England)