Sunday 4 December 2016

Foley praises 'composed' Holland as Reds stop rot

Munster 26 Dragons 5

Darragh Small

Published 07/03/2016 | 02:30

Foley: "The boys played well, they went about their job very well" Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE
James Cronin, Munster, is tackled by Adam Hughes, left, and Phil Price, Newport Gwent Dragons Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Ian Keatley, Munster, kicks a conversion Photo: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE

Anthony Foley believes that Saturday's bonus-point victory over Dragons will be a massive boost to Munster's Pro12 play-off push and their hopes of Champions Cup rugby next term.

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Munster were in danger of slipping further behind in the race for the final four but they earned all five points in a bruising encounter at Thomond Park and they are now well in touch, with their game in hand to come against Cardiff Blues in two weeks' time.

Munster were also boosted by the return of prop Stephen Archer, on his 100th appearance, and out-half Johnny Holland from injury, and Foley thinks it all points towards a positive end to the season.

"Stephen is a quality player, so it's great to have him back now," he said. "It's taken Johnny a bit of a while to get back (since ripping his hamstring off the bone in November 2014), but he scored 26 points for Cork Con last week and came on today and was very composed.

"He's a very tidy player. It was great for him to get 19-20 minutes tonight, it was crucial. At crucial stages he controlled the game pretty well.

Munster were made to wait until two minutes from time to secure the bonus point, even though they had two tries by half-time and led 12-0.

Loosehead Dave Kilcoyne was the first to touch down after 19 minutes when he crossed off the side of a ruck. He made it four tries in three games after the interval and that added to Rory Scannell's effort to give Munster a 19-0 lead.

Hallam Amos dived over to reduce the arrears shortly after, but replacement loosehead James Cronin secured the bonus point in the 78th minute to seal an impressive victory.

It was only Munster's third four-try bonus point win of the season in the Pro12, and the victory ended their three-game losing run at home in league following defeats to Connacht, Leinster and Ospreys.

Foley was impressed with his side's discipline as they coughed up just eight penalties. And he believes this could be crucial in the run-in.

"Our discipline was quite good - it looked like we were never going to give up a yellow card," he said. "There wasn't infringement on infringement, the boys got behind the hind-most foot and got off the line and didn't go after the ball unless it was available to go after and they showed good discipline around that.

"The boys played well, they went about their job very well. It was difficult at times. Dragons as we knew coming into the game were going to be tough. They were physical with their nine and ten, they challenged a lot around the edges but our boys kept turning up and knocking them down.

"Granted there was one or two occasions where the TMO was called in but I think for the vast majority of the game we controlled it, apart from a 10-minute blast in the second half where we couldn't get out of our 22."

The win gets Munster back on track and victory over Cardiff in a couple of weeks will strengthen their Champions Cup qualification and leave them right in the mix for a semi-final spot.

Munster - A Conway (D Johnston 57); D Sweetnam, F Saili, R Scannell, S Zebo; I Keatley (J Holland 61), D Williams (C Sheridan 71); D Kilcoyne (J Cronin 50), N Scannell (M Sherry 50), J Ryan (S Archer 68); M Chisholm (D Foley 40), B Holland; D O'Callaghan, T O'Donnell (R Copeland 52), J O'Donoghue.
Dragons - C Meyer; A Hewitt, A Hughes (R Wardle 52), A Warren, H Amos; J Tovey (A O'Brien 50), C Davies (S Pretorius 50); P Price, T R Thomas, B Harris (S Knight 68); C Hill, M Screech (R Landman 50); N Crosswell, N Cudd, L Evans (E Jackson 50).
ref - M Mitrea (FIR).

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