Big display sets tone from here
Published 03/04/2015 | 02:30
The win last week over Connacht was a great response from the guys after the defeat to Ospreys before the break.
There were a lot of positives to take from the game as well. It was good to get Tommy O'Donnell, Keith Earls, Simon Zebo and Felix Jones all back in a Munster jersey after their exploits up in Irish camp.
In an inter-provincial match like that it's always great to get a good comprehensive win over the opposition, especially when you are playing in your own backyard.
Connacht showed how good they were when we played them last time in Round 12. We were pretty hurt on New Year's Day and wanted to make sure we put in a better performance this time around.
In saying that we still weren't as clinical as we would have liked. We gave up too many points in terms of the nature in which we conceded the two tries. They were opportunistic efforts and they are never nice to concede.
But at the end of the day any time a team scores six tries, and secures a bonus point at this stage of the season, it's extremely helpful going forward.
The game was very close up until around the 60-minute mark and then to finish as we did is very satisfying but I think the players themselves had driven that during the week.
Rugby is an attritional game. Every single hit and every tackle you make will take its toll over the first hour and you generally get the reward at the back end of that. But you've got to be disciplined and patient enough in order to realise that it is going to pay off and that things can change quickly for a team in the final 20 minutes.
That's what happened against Connacht and we clicked on the day.
In terms of the scrum, when you play against Connacht you know you are in for a game - they have one of the best scrums in club rugby.
I thought Denis Buckley had a huge game for them in the loose but in the scrum Stephen Archer played really well, and on the opposite side they had Rodney Ah You.
He is a very powerful tighthead and John Ryan had a very good game against him.
At the back of the scrum CJ Stander played a starring role from No8.
He was so prominent for us over the first part of the season that I think teams started marking up on him. They would try double teaming him and stuff like that so he's had to work extra hard to find form again.
He's adding little extra bits to his game all the time because when he is as prominent as he is for us, teams generally think if they can stop CJ, they can stop giving Munster go-forward ball.
I think when you see him making something like 18 carries in the game and being as effective as he was, it is testament to the work CJ does off the field.
Munster are in a good position in third now with just four rounds of rugby remaining in the PRO12. Our injury list is starting to clear up and we're getting a lot of our big players back.
Seeing players like James Cronin and Donnacha Ryan coming back is great. We're still missing the likes of Mike Sherry, who is potentially as good as anyone out there but it's a big boost for the squad to have the others back.
You're delighted for them because you know how hard they have been working and it's such a tough job to be a player when you're injured so when they do come back it's hugely positive.
We also have the Irish lads with Paul O'Connell, Peter O'Mahony and Conor Murray to come back into the set up. They played an awful lot of rugby during the Six Nations and the break is good for some of those lads and they were given a bit of time off last week.
With the starting internationals coming back it just helps to refocus the group and that's a good thing when you're still challenging for silverware. With everything so tight at the top of the table it's exciting that we are up there joint second with Ulster.
In the next few weeks we'll be looking to stay in the running and we want to make sure we're around for the play-offs in the Pro12 at the end of it all.