Monday 24 October 2016

Brian Walsh: Great to see 'Keats' deliver after copping so much flak

Brian Walsh

Published 08/01/2016 | 02:30

6 January 2015; Munster head coach Anthony Foley walks along the perimeter of a team huddle during squad training Photo:Sportsfile
6 January 2015; Munster head coach Anthony Foley walks along the perimeter of a team huddle during squad training Photo:Sportsfile

When you are on a bad run of results, winning that first game to break the sequence is always a big relief. So to go to one of the most difficult destinations in the Pro12 in Ulster and win was a great result for us.

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They have a very proud home record and we had a lot of guys unavailable at the weekend, so we were going up there testing the depth of the squad in what was a massive game for us.

We are delighted with the win and hopefully it will kick-start us back into a good run again.

In such tight derby games it's vital to take your chances when they come your way and after periods of pressure, we got ahead at a key point.

In the previous couple of weeks we missed those opportunities and ended up chasing the game in the final quarter. But it was different at Ravenhill, this time we capitalised when we were in the Ulster 22, we kicked points when we needed them and it was Ulster who were forced into chasing the game.

Our defence was solid and we were confident that we would be able to soak up the pressure and pin them back. Turning pressure into points just after half-time with Ian Keatley's drop goal was key. It gave us a touch of momentum, and we maintained possession and territory well at that point which proved crucial.


Ian had gone though a difficult couple of games and had copped a lot of flak for it as well, so it was great to see him perform so well after a short break over Christmas. He came back really mentally strong, we had the confidence in him that he'd perform and he responded really well.

Ian controlled the game excellently for us, and in the end his tactical kicking and ability to keep the ball ahead of our pack was the difference between the sides in my opinion. He delivered the game-plan to a tee.

This weekend our focus is back on Champions Cup and our rescheduled game against Stade Francais. They are in a decent position in the pool and can take a big step forward with a win in this one. It's a key game for both teams really, so we expect a huge battle.

With so many of our players away with Ireland early in the week we decided it was a good time for us to have a two-day camp of our own when they got back. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday together in Limerick and had a couple of real good field sessions to finish off our preparation for the trip to France. Having a camp together is a real bonus in the lead-in to such an important game.

If you look across all of the leagues there are teams of real quality that have had rocky patches. Bath in the English Premiership are a good example, and Stade, last year's champions in the Top 14, have had a few tough weeks too.

A pivotal moment in their season seems to have been last weekend when they beat Toulouse, who have been very strong on the domestic front. That was a huge win for Stade: Toulouse could have gone top of the table with a win, but Stade won it at the death. That will give them great confidence and they'll be looking forward to us coming over to them this weekend.

We all know the reasons for the game being postponed originally, and there was no doubt that it was the correct decision at the time. But from a playing point of view perhaps it did have an impact on us.

We were in a good vein of form at that time and we were looking forward to the game. We were confident in what we could achieve going out there. The week off was unexpected and we struggled a bit after that for sure, but we're satisfied that we are moving forward after last weekend's win in Belfast.

But the game is here at last and if we have any chance to be a success in Europe this season it's all about this weekend. The fact that we had a good bit of work done in preparation for the original trip to Paris has stood to us this week, but on the other hand a lot of rugby has been played since then too.

We have really focused on ourselves this week again. All we can do is look at what we can improve on from last week, try to work on a few small issues and give this trip to Paris our best shot.

There is no doubt we face a good side who'll be keen for a win, but so are we and we are looking forward to the challenge.

Irish Independent

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