'We fell a bit in love with ourselves . . . we lost focus'
Munster 5 Glasgow 22
Published 14/04/2014 | 02:30
After the elation, such deflation.
How, we wondered, had Munster displayed the credible credentials of champs when destroying Toulouse in a seething Thomond Park cauldron a week earlier?
On Saturday, they demonstrated the feeble frailties of chumps when deferring to a well-drilled, well-coached, but hardly unbeatable Glasgow Warriors, before a stunned and silent Limerick venue.
So stunned and silent was Thomond Park, at times it resembled a library, bar the odd, desperate pleas of "Munster, wake up," a singularly polite form of chastisement from a crowd tallied optimistically at half its capacity.
Rebukes of more violent intent were offered from the ghostly stands.
And much worse in the Munster dressing-room, too, one feels. Today's video review will be, shall we say, interesting.
Given that training went well during the week – doesn't it always? – the fact that Munster's limp-wristed players also seemed to undergo a collective frontal lobotomy was such a contrast to the side that fought and thought their way to a Heineken Cup semi-final.
Perhaps their minds were drifting to the Cote d'Azur rather than honing in on the banks of the Shannon.
And this will be a costly affair too; should Munster cough up a home Pro12 semi-final – and presuming they got a better crowd than this – they will also toss away the two years' salary required to sign one of the world-class players they desperately need.
Anything up to €700,000 could have been tossed into the breeze by this fickle offering.
Rob Penney's thinly concealed anger suggested that he felt the players were mostly culpable; James Coughlan's unveiled annoyance hinted that he agreed with his coach.
So, will the real Munster stand up?
"I remember Declan Kidney saying once that you can't pick and choose your matches, the same way a doctor can't pick and choose his clients," offered the captain, who presided over Glasgow's maiden victory here.
"If you're going to be considered a great team then you need to turn up week in and week out. Everyone is blowing on about last week, but if we're to be considered a great side then you have to back it up, we lack that consistency.
"And in professional sport no one really cares what you did last week, what matters is what you do this week.
"Glasgow certainly didn't care that we beat the hell out of Toulouse last week and they turned up. Maybe we fell a small bit in love with ourselves and lost focus. So, I suppose there's nothing better than a kick up the a**e to keep you going and we certainly got one of those."
Glasgow sensed Munster's unease from the off; pouring into rucks, rushing in defence (often illegally) and rendering Munster's great strength, the maul, a weakness.
They opened the scoring from one and were 10-0 up after seven minutes. CJ Stander's response was sandwiched by more relevant botched try-scoring attempts; Glasgow's two tries before the break were more indicative of the game's overall trend. Simon Zebo fell off a Sean Maitland tackle for one of them, Josh Strauss bundled over for another.
That last score derived from James Downey wandering into an attacking cul de sac on halfway, before Munster failed to send bodies into the ruck and Chris Cusiter's box-kick forced Zebo to concede the five-metre scrum.
It was a snapshot of the game.
So, too, an early second-half period of play when Munster denied Glasgow a bonus-point try and soon found themselves attacking at the other end.
Conor Murray, one of several who had a below-par day, dropped the ball in what should have been an inevitable act of scoring. That was the ball game.
"It was unacceptable," Coughlan continued. "We'll have to have a good look at ourselves individually. You can't turn up there half-cocked; to be fair to Glasgow they played as if they had something to play for and we didn't."
Munster's propensity to pick and choose Pro12 games is as old as the Galtee mountains, but Penney didn't seem too impressed at being re-introduced to the concept.
"It was ugly from our perspective," he seethed. "There are no excuses at all. All week, our focus has been on Glasgow so there is no reason for us to think there was a hangover from last week's effort.
"Our mental preparation was poor. Individuals. Of course, it is disappointing, very disappointing. We, as a coaching group and as a team pride ourselves on top-shelf performances and that certainly was not one.
"It is all about how you prepare mentally and we were off the pace today and that was highly evident by our defence and our lack of work ethic on attack.
"They got a bit of a blast at half-time, but the game was lost by that stage. Credit to the lads, they put in a much better effort in the second half, but it is not acceptable."
Munster head west to Connacht next week; not a venue to pitch up and suddenly find you've left your manhood on the bus. Paul O'Connell's return shouldn't have to, but it will, galvanise this group.
"The important thing is now that we bounce back, get a reaction and turn up to Connacht and show them the respect they deserve," agreed Coughlan. "And maybe show ourselves a bit more respect than we showed tonight.
"Because we worked bloody hard all year and to let yourselves down is tough. It leaves a bitter taste."
Rather than give their supporters an appetite for more, all this display caused was indigestion. Munster need the effects to wear off quickly.
Munster – F Jones; G van den Heever (J Murphy 63), K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; JJ Hanrahan (Keatley 22), C Murray (D Williams 71); J Ryan (D Kilcoyne 49), D Casey (Q McDonald 71), BJ Botha (Ryan 71), D O'Callaghan (B Holland 71), D Foley; CJ Stander, S Dougall (P Butler 71), J Coughlan (capt).
Glasgow Warriors – P Murchie (R Horne 72); S Maitland, A Dunbar (R Vernon 62), F Russell, T Seymour; D Weir, C Cusiter capt (H Pyrgos 73); G Reid (J Yanuyanutawa 67), D Hall (P McArthur 61), J Welsh (G Cross 55), T Swinson (L Nakawara 59), J Gray; J Strauss, C Fusaro (R Harley 61), R Wilson.
Ref – N Owens (WRU)