Friday 21 July 2017

No harm for the boys to taste defeat

Experience of losing will have minds focused for Blues test

Munster out-half Ian Keatley may be heading to Worcester. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster out-half Ian Keatley may be heading to Worcester. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

Munster fell to their first defeat since December last weekend against Scarlets, and it will be a tough one to take, but they will have learned a lot of lessons from it which they can benefit from in the long-term.

There was a strange flow to the match. At one stage Munster looked like they were going to get a bonus point before half-time. But Scarlets came back and created a very unlikely upset. And you have to give credit to them for their response in the second half. 

Rassie Erasmus will be hoping that Scarlets defeat will spur his charges on. Photo: Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus will be hoping that Scarlets defeat will spur his charges on. Photo: Sportsfile

They released a flurry of punches against Munster three times in six minutes. There could have been a fourth try too. They really caught Munster napping after the break. And it will be a tough lesson but a very good one to learn.

In hindsight, Scarlets were always going to be dangerous with where they are in the table, because they are in a fight for a play-off, and possibly even a home semi-final. 

Scarlets are a quality side, and perhaps Munster came out a bit complacent after half-time but they will learn from that and the defensive errors that came with it. 

Their defence has been exemplary all season, and in fairness they were shell-shocked because they conceded a couple of easy tries. 

But Scarlets countered their hard-court press well by playing with a bit of depth, width and accuracy. Munster's shooting-up defenders weren't able to cut out the pass, leaving them vulnerable out wide. 

For a long number of weeks now we have been talking about Munster's winning run, and it will take the monkey off their back in that regard. But at the same time they won't want to let a lead like that slip again

Munster had a couple of young players in the team against Scarlets. It's good experience to get the guys like Dan Goggin and Conor Oliver blooded again even in defeat. 

Along with the rest of the team, that experience to not switch off and play for the 80 will be invaluable. When you play big games, half-time gives teams a chance to reassess and start like it's a brand new match, and players need to be switched on to that. Things can change in an instant, and that's what happened in Limerick last weekend.

Revenge

It's going to be a tough game against Cardiff Blues especially after losing to them earlier in the season. But Munster can use that as extra motivation and they will be going there on a revenge mission. 

Looking at the Scarlets game from a Cardiff Blues player's point of view, they would be thinking these guys are coming over angry at what happened, and they might be on the end of a backlash.

But even with the internationals away Munster are full of quality - guys who are motivated and competitive and they will want to get back to winning ways.

I expect Munster to make a statement and win at Cardiff Arms Park.

Meanwhile, Ireland are set up for a great finish to the tournament after a big win over France last weekend. The French are packed with quality attacking players and when they looked dangerous at times. Obviously France's off-loading game wasn't conducive to a slippery ball. But Ireland's scramble defence was fantastic and to keep them from scoring a try speaks volumes of their attitude. 

In attack, Ireland were running into massive tackles and did brilliantly to keep their composure. The back-row were excellent at finding the hard yards and CJ Stander was to the fore again with his 23 carries.

The half-backs' precision from hand and foot kept France under pressure all the time. Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton controlled the game, marshalled the team and guided them into the right areas.

They must be the best half-back partnership in the world right now.

It looks all set up for an Ireland versus England finale. A lot of people are looking to that match as the important one but I feel that the Welsh game in the Principality Stadium on the Friday will be the much trickier affair.

But if Ireland can negotiate that I am confident that they can beat England, who are on a high but I am not convinced that team are as good as they are perceived.

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