Tuesday 24 January 2017

David Wallace: Munster in the driving seat for a home semi-final

Reds looking good for top-two finish after rousing win at Murrayfield

David Wallace

Published 17/04/2015 | 02:30

Munster scrum
Munster scrum
Munster's Paul O'Connell wins possession in a lineout against Edinburgh

It was such a great win in Edinburgh last weekend - Munster's Ireland internationals were clearly only too happy to return to the ground where they had won the Six Nations in such dramatic fashion.

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With Munster not being involved in Europe this weekend, it was particularly good to get the win.

Murrayfield was a much quieter stadium this time around but things went very well even after the positive start that the home side had - Munster weathered that storm.

Alan Solomons' side showed they were up for it and at one stage they even got within inches of Munster's line. But they only came away with three points from that attack and that was a psychological blow for them after the aggression they exerted in their attacking forays.

Munster's defence was really good, and once they hit the front there was only ever going to be one winner.

Credit

They just seemed to kick on after that, so all credit to the guys behind the scenes who work with the strength and conditioning side of things because their fitness levels in the last half-hour were very good.

They did a lot of work through their maul - again the forwards were to the fore.

On a wet and windy evening they played the conditions perfectly and ground Edinburgh to a halt.

It was great to see a player of the standard of Donnacha Ryan coming back on the pitch, and he contributed to a couple of the tries later on as Munster continued to pile on the pressure even when the game was in the bag.

Conor Murray really deserved his try because he was close on about four or five different occasions and in the first half especially he just controlled everything and was the stand-out player.

He has such a calming effect for Munster when they are going forward and he's there at the base on time every time to get the ball away really promptly and efficiently.

His kicking game is fantastic as well and for any out-half it's great to have a scrum-half inside him that he knows can control the game and provide good clean possession.

A player like Murray takes a lot of pressure off the No 10.

And then in the second half he showed how he can prod and poke his head through gaps if they are there around the fringes and he was thoroughly deserving of his try.

At the moment there's no doubt that he's one of the best around and I suppose there's an argument to say he is the best in the world.

Another aspect of last weekend was the fact that Munster picked up the same points as Ulster, with the five-try bonus but crucially moved ahead of them on points difference.

That is a real shot in the arm and it has put them back in the driving seat for a home semi-final now.

It's so close up in the top four places at the moment - there's only four points separating all four teams.

Points difference is going to be a big factor coming into the latter stages and it's massive for Munster that they can just keep those few points ahead.

Because even with Ulster getting the bonus point win at the Sportsground they still weren't able to keep their second spot in the Pro12 and it shows the fickle nature of the positions there.

Munster are in the ideal place now with three rounds remaining in the league.

Mentally

I suppose mentally you're still trying to chase Glasgow who are first but they are just two points ahead of Munster.

Munster are equal with Ulster but have that points difference advantage of course and they are two ahead of Ospreys so it's certainly not a bad place to be in at this time of the year.

There is no room for complacency either with Ulster and Ospreys breathing down their necks, but more importantly Munster are well in the running for a home semi-final and the top four can be sown up with another win.

The gap back to Leinster is ten points and with Treviso at home in Round 20 you would be expecting big things there.

Irish Independent

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