Friday 28 July 2017

Defensive display was sweet last week - I'd take more of the same

Dave Kilcoyne has been playing so well for Munster and deserves his shot with Ireland. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile
Dave Kilcoyne has been playing so well for Munster and deserves his shot with Ireland. Photo by Cody Glenn/Sportsfile

Tommy O'Donnell Player Diary

You could get used to this playing games on a Friday evening. It seems very strange to have three weekends off in a row, but we're not complaining - especially if tonight's game with the Maori All Blacks delivers results similar to the last few Fridays against Ulster and Ospreys.

Maybe by the time I retire, I'll get used to kicking back on a Saturday and Sunday, but there was a real novelty feel to it last weekend. I went out around town and did a bit of window shopping, and tried to get a few ideas for Christmas presents. Once those big games start coming for us, we won't have much time for organising the festivities, so any chance we get in the next while it's important to get on top of it and sort out these things.

Then there was also the small matter of the Ireland game in Chicago to enjoy on Saturday night. I went over to one of the lads' house and a few of the players watched the game together. What can you say about it? The boys were incredible, they really picked up from where all that work started in 2013 and this time they didn't let go.

It was amazing to watch, fair play to them all. It is great to end that long wait for a win against New Zealand. Trying to back it up with a second win is uncharted territory for us, it'll be a new experience for us and no doubt the All Blacks will have a big sting in their tail.

HORRIBLE

As I know well myself, being injured during a game is a horrible place to be and I wish Jordi Murphy all the best in his recovery. A lot of players have been in that situation and it's the last thing you want to see. He was having a good game too: he did really well to score the try and you hate to see him go down like that with an ACL injury. Hopefully he'll make a really good recovery because he is a quality player and you hate to see lads going down like that.

While that was rotten news to see, it's great to see the three new Munster faces going up to Ireland this week. Knowing that they are on the verge of the squad is a great carrot for them. For Jack O'Donoghue and Darren Sweetnam, the chance to be involved with Ireland and earn their first cap is huge. And Dave Kilcoyne has been playing so well for us, his carrying is unreal at the moment and I think Killer deserves his shot. Fingers crossed for them all.

Last weekend at Irish Independent Park was pretty special for us as a squad, I can't recall if we have ever kept a Welsh team scoreless in my time. It's a fair achievement. The way we kept up the ferocity to the end to keep then to nil was great. Defending well is definitely something we are getting used to and enjoying. Scoring five tries is brilliant and a great feeling, but to hold your defensive line solid takes a massive commitment from every one of the 23 - it's a constant effort from start to finish. Leaving a game with that stat is every bit as pleasing as scoring all those points.

Throughout, I thought our strategy was good. We knew they would kick long to us, but they had the ability to run ball back. Our strategy was perfect, it was one of those days that it went smoothly.

At one stage we could hear the crowd getting a bit restless after a long bout of kick-tennis, but we had to stick at it and eventually we won that particular battle.

You have to stick to your plan, they wanted us to run at them and they were ready to meet us with a huge defensive line, so instead we kicked and countered on our terms. The kicking game really produced the rewards for us with Tyler, Rory and Ian all on the money.

As good as the win was we still reviewed it and as usual we spotted a few things to work on. That's the way we are heading as a club: we hope to get better and better. As a pack there were one or two mauls that we could have driven a few yards further, there were a couple of lineouts that slipped from our grasp, and I'm sure the backs had a few things to work on from their point of view too. We are all looking for the small gains every week.

Both teams were down numbers because of the internationals; we had a brand new second-row partnership and a few of the lads came in off the bench and made a real impact too.

Conor Oliver, Pete McCabe, John Madigan, Alex Wootton and Abrie Griesel caught the eye as did Rhys Marshall, who is just after linking up with us.

As a New Zealander, I'm sure Rhys is looking forward to tonight's game against the Maori All Blacks. He has made a big impact at training, and considering he had to learn a full playbook of lineout calls, new movements, triggers and buzz calls, he was quick to adapt.

Coming on against Ospreys, his first action was probably not the call most hookers would want, but he landed his first dart to the tail. He seems to be a good lad so far, and he won the squad over when he finished off one of our sessions last week with a new variation of our closing chant.

Like all the New Zealand lads he's excited about tonight. Any chance to play against your home country is amazing, but when you are just in the door at a club you will be keen to show what you're made of too.

This is a serious test. The Maoris demolished an up-and-coming USA team and they are capable of serious performances. They are a fine team and can counter-attack really well. We need to chase down every loose ball, cut down every gap that appears and not give them a sniff. They are a tough team, they defend really well and their attack against USA was astounding and like any other New Zealand side they have a characteristically high skill-set.

Playing at a sold-out Thomond Park will be incredible from our side, and as always it's definitely an occasion I'm looking forward to.

Irish Independent

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