Thursday 29 September 2016

All is not lost, but pressure to win is huge

Everything riding on two remaining home games with top-six finish vital

David Wallace

Published 22/04/2016 | 02:30

Munster players react after conceding a try against Connacht
Munster players react after conceding a try against Connacht

It was bitterly disappointing for all involved last weekend but the squad have to dust themselves down now. It's not the time to feel sorry for themselves, because there's so much at stake.

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They will have to learn from their mistakes. And will have their destiny in their own hands with two home games to finish out the season.

They are seventh, but arguably have the best chance of finishing in the top six after the games against Edinburgh and Scarlets and they have to believe they can do it.

Munster have to learn from their mistakes, and once everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet it will help the team through these matches. They proved against Leinster, and for a lot of the first half against Connacht, that they can.

You can't take anything from Connacht, although those two yellow cards and the penalty try before half-time made a massive difference, and it's never easy to come back after a hammer blow like that.

Munster started both halves well, and had Francis Saili touched down in the second half it could have made a difference. It was disappointing because Munster put themselves in the ideal position with two early tries.

Simon Zebo's try was fantastic and displayed what Munster can do when they get their tails up and spread the ball. Johnny Holland was brilliant again, and his flicked pass to Jack O'Donoghue created the opening.

Mike Sherry's try was vintage Munster, and going forward it's important the guys are able to mix and match like they did in the opening stages there.

But unfortunately they couldn't stay in the ascendancy - if they had got another score Munster may have solidified that advantage. But instead Cronin was shown yellow.

It was a marginal call, but for the referee to give a yellow I thought was harsh. Billy Holland's one might have been a bit more obvious, but nevertheless, it was always going to be uphill afterwards.

That penalty try must have been such a confidence-booster for Connacht. And even though Munster had the wind in the second half, that nearly suited Connacht more.

Confidence

Munster had their chances at the start of that second half, but couldn't get across the line and Connacht grew in confidence. Once Niyi Adeolokun crossed for their third try they were on their way.

There were still some good individual performances for Munster, but overall as a team they didn't click. And that's the biggest learning going forward.

Going into the final two games of the season, it's going to be all about the collective. The guys need to rally around, and put in two massive team performances if they are to beat Edinburgh and Scarlets. The good thing is, with both games at home, they are winnable and Munster, on their day, can beat anyone. It will be a tough week next week, but this is the type of adversity that helps you grow as a player and hopefully Munster will be a better team for it.

Munster still have the big group of young indigenous talent coursing through this squad and they are the future of the province. They need to lay down a marker in the next few weeks if they want it to be a prosperous future.

If Munster get into the Champions Cup, this season will not have been a failure. They have unearthed some fantastic talent through their academy, and they can take the province higher in the coming seasons.

There are exciting times ahead, but only if Munster win these two remaining games. Edinburgh won't be easy, they put up a good showing against Leinster and will come to Cork chasing a Champions Cup spot too.

But Munster have more to lose, and they will be fired up after a couple of weeks of hurt. It will be interesting to see how it works out.

There are changes happening. The single centre they are going to operate out of will make a big difference. And with a director of rugby set to be announced there are positive signs ahead.

And hopefully Munster will be in a much stronger footing next season.

Support can help players over the line

Getting into the Champions Cup is Munster's biggest worry now, and hopefully next season they will have learned from this, writes David Wallace.

It's unthinkable that Munster might miss out on the showpiece event for the first time, and it would be a huge setback for the province if they began next season in the second tier.

Irish rugby needs Munster in the Champions Cup and with all of the star names in the team, it's crazy to think they might have to fight it out in the Challenge Cup instead.

But the saving grace is the run-in, and Munster have two home games. They will play a massive part in the future of the province, and could be the difference between remaining a super-power, or a return to square one.

Munster haven't been in this precarious position for a long time, but if they could squeeze through to the Champions Cup anything is possible next term.

They haven't performed this season, and with a bit of luck they could get a favourable draw in the Champions Cup again. But the support is crucial now.

Like in the good days, the support made all the difference. It's just as important, if not more important, now.

Irish Independent

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