A promising start, but we can perform much better
Published 09/09/2016 | 02:30
Whatever anyone says, and no matter what sort of preparation you do, it is always a relief to get your first competitive win under your belt in a new job.
We faced a real tricky game away to Scarlets in week one of the Pro12 season, so to come out of it with four points and a solid performance was really pleasing.
We were not perfect, but we played as a team and took the scoring chances that came our way. If we face every game of the season with the same work-rate and attitude we'll be okay.
I was particularly pleased with the way we defended in Wales. There was a good attitude there from the players: they fought really hard for every ball and in every tackle and I think that went a long way to us winning the game.
Unfortunately, we were pushed onto the back foot for much of the opening minutes again. It was something that we did against Worcester Warriors at Irish Independent Park in our warm-up game, and having to defend like that early on in a game is difficult.
It is important to start games brightly, with the same attitude and intent that you wish to show for the full game, and when you are pushed back into your own half it is harder to get the good start that is required.
But that is something that can be rectified and we will work hard to get off to a better start in Cork this evening.
When we went through the game on Monday to review what we did well and what we need to work on, we identified plenty of small things that we need to do better.
While it didn't cost us the win at Parc y Scarlets, if we don't gradually improve in the coming weeks, we might miss out on some opportunities.
But the approach we have taken is to tick these targets off the list one by one and make sure we keep getting better all the time.
We won't have everything right by tonight and they won't all be perfect by next week either, but we are going to work hard to go in the right direction for sure. It was an encouraging start for us, no doubt.
We were sorry to see Simon Zebo go off injured early on in that game, but I thought we coped quite well in his absence too. Credit to Felix Jones for that, he had the boys very well prepared, and with Ian Keatley there to fill Simon's position, we had some great options in attack.
Keats kicked very well for us - he landed a really good penalty to give us a ten-point lead in the second half - but also we had Tyler Bleyendaal, Rory Scannell and Duncan Williams, who got us some great territory throughout.
It was a big night too for Dan Goggin, who should be really pleased with his senior debut for Munster. He was strong defensively and also popped up on the front foot for us too. He worked very well beside Rory Scannell and we were pleased with what we saw.
Jean Kleyn came off the bench for his debut and he made an impact too, as did Brian Scott in the front-row for his first appearance for the province. It's always good to see young players making the step up to senior level.
And it was also pleasing to see Dave Kilcoyne and Donnacha Ryan make their return to the team. Having players like them - and CJ Stander tonight - is a big plus for us and we'll see more from them in the weeks to come I'm sure.
On a sad note, I'm sure the Munster supporters were looking forward to seeing one of their own, Johnny Holland, lining out for us again this season, but everyone was disappointed to hear that Johnny had to retire from the professional game.
We wish him all the best in whatever path he takes, and it is encouraging to see him coping well with this difficult news. He is certainly a loss for Munster and Irish rugby, but he leaves us with our best wishes for the future.
Tonight at Irish Independent Park, we face a Cardiff Blues side that really looked bright in the opening week of the league. They are one of only four teams to take a bonus point from round one, so that tells me they are in good form. We will have to be at our best for this game if we want to take our second win from two games.
Our home supporters will contribute in a big way in helping us to bring a quality performance this game. In the Worcester game I saw some of what the Munster home support can add to our team, and now in the first competitive home game of the season, I hope we will be helped on again by the fans.
We hope to see small improvements this week. We're looking forward to tonight.