Friday 28 July 2017

Bonus point likely in chase for home tie

Second-string Racing will test Rassie's boys, but expect more glory

Rassie Erasmus must have been delighted by the performance of Ronan O’Mahony in the first match against Racing. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus must have been delighted by the performance of Ronan O’Mahony in the first match against Racing. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

David Wallace

It just gets better and better for Munster and they look set for a home quarter-final in the Champions Cup. They have been accumulating some big wins recently, and although last weekend went down to the wire, they ground out a magnificent victory over Glasgow Warriors.

It was great to go over there, and beat a really good Glasgow side, who played well and also played Munster well. Credit to Gregor Townsend, Glasgow picked apart the Munster game-plan, and they went after Conor Murray, but very cynically at times.

It was a bit farcical with what they were allowed get away with on Conor. He is obviously a massive player for Munster, and they knew if they got at him they could stop Munster's quality of possession and attack plays.

Apparently, it was pointed out to the referee Luke Pearce before the game. He knew this was an area that Glasgow were going to go after but still there was nothing done about it.

I'm sure both Rassie Erasmus, and Joe Schmidt, will have been looking at that and they won't be happy with the way Murray was hit late, and especially when he was box-kicking. There can be no excuses for a late hit there, because there is no margin for error and it can result in long-term injury.

Munster in future will need to be more cognisant of the fact that he will be targeted, and the importance of screens to stop players coming through. Still the onus lies with the referee when the hits are illegal and hopefully we won't see something like that again.

Outside of that it was another great team performance from Munster. And it was arguably their best win of the season. To go over to Glasgow in the Champions Cup, where a team are fighting for their lives, and take the victory despite making a few mistakes along the way, shows the level of maturity within the side.

The defence was excellent to stop Glasgow from scoring tries, and they didn't really have an opportunity, which says a lot considering the amount of possession Glasgow had. Even though Munster had very little in terms of attacking opportunities, you always knew that if they got their chance they would take it and that's the way it materialised.

Advantage

Munster were under the cosh for so long, but with Stuart Hogg in the sin-bin they used their one-man advantage. It was a perfectly executed back-line move and, even after it was starting to look like Simon Zebo had taken too much out of it, he gave a brilliant off-load. Keith Earls committed two defenders and Francis Saili made a great loop around to finish in the corner.

Racing 92 are going to probably send a second-string squad tomorrow because their focus is entirely back on the Top 14 once again. But they did have a great win against Leicester Tigers last weekend, so you just never know.

From a player's point of view, none of the Munster guys will be complacent but from the outside looking in you would expect a big Munster victory and hopefully the bonus point to go with it. A quarter-final back in Thomond Park for the first time in three years would be massive.

Up until a few weeks ago there have been a few changes in the Munster team, and to be able to chop and change for one of the biggest games shows the strength and depth of the squad and what they are capable of with players fit and available.

Giving guys like Ronan O'Mahony his chance in the first game against Racing 92. Those sort of selections lets everyone know that when they are performing they will get their chance. Essentially all of that helps to build a squad and morale improves.

A little bit like Schmidt, if you are training well, then you will play at the weekend. It motivates guys to put it in at every session, and that can only be good for Munster.

But, overall, Munster have now won 11 of their last 12 games, the run goes on and victories, like last weekend's one in Scotstoun, will stand them in good stead heading into the latter stages of this season.

Now the crucial thing is they don't slip up this weekend, but it looks set to be 12 wins in 13, and a bonus point to boot.

Irish Independent

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