Sunday 25 June 2017

No panic after defeat, but we must do better

Positives outweigh negatives as young guns betray lack of experience

Rassie Erasmus Picture: Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus Picture: Sportsfile

David Wallace

After they did the hard work away from home in Round 1, it would have really hurt Munster to lose to Cardiff Blues in Irish Independent Park last weekend.

Cardiff are going to be a much stronger force this year; they were very impressive last weekend, especially in their counter-attacking.

Munster betrayed their lack of experience: when they had the lead they needed to be able to close out the game.

Cardiff managed the game better and at times frustrated Munster. They shoved Munster back into their own half, especially in the last ten minutes of the game.

But there were positives, Munster's back three were outstanding, even without Simon Zebo and Keith Earls.

The pack were really strong. The scrum got much better as the game went on, and John Ryan has been a revelation this year. He has been scrummaging really well and his work around the park has also been excellent.

He has been carrying well, tackling brilliantly and his breakdown work is superb.

It was a real pity to lose Tommy O'Donnell; along with Ryan and Jack O'Donoghue, he has been Munster's best player so far.

Jack O’Donoghue, pictured during Munster’s clash against Cardiff, has been one of star peformers for Rassie Erasmus Picture: Sportsfile
Jack O’Donoghue, pictured during Munster’s clash against Cardiff, has been one of star peformers for Rassie Erasmus Picture: Sportsfile

And it must have hurt to lose Dave Foley and Rory Scannell too - things are really quite tight at centre now.

Cardiff really harried and harassed Munster at the breakdown. Munster just didn't have quite the performance that they had the previous week in Llanelli. The players were latching onto each other in the collisions and against Cardiff at times there was too much separation between the ball-carrier and the supporting players.

Munster will learn from all of that because there were certainly a few opportunities out there that went a-begging, and as the team grows through the season they will get better together as a unit.

Defending the off-loading game is an area where Munster may look to brush up on. Against Cardiff they should have tagged the ball in the channel and defended the passing channel.

If you allow the off-load to go, you need to make sure it doesn't find its supporting runner.

Caught

Munster will be working be on their kick-chase defensive line. Cardiff caught them out there on a couple of occasions when they weren't organised. But like everything else it's just a case of getting the players playing together more regularly.

It's never good to lose at home, but in reality that was a near full-strength Cardiff team and Munster didn't have their full complement. And this weekend presents a massive opportunity against Dragons.

Dragons only scrapped an 11-6 victory at home to Zebre last weekend, so this is a big chance for Munster to pick up more points on the road.

On paper it looks like Munster are the stronger team and the momentum would be back straight away then.

The average age of the Munster squad against Cardiff was only 25. There are a lot of younger guys trying to find their feet and definitely the positives out-weigh the negatives in Munster Rugby at the moment.

There is no better way to bounce back from a defeat at home than to win on the road and it would be great to leave Rodney Parade with a victory.

Dragons haven't been setting the world alight; they lost heavily in Round 1 against Ulster as well and with the guys who are coming back into the squad you would really expect Munster to have too much for this Dragons outfit.

It's certainly a game that Munster will be targeting, and they will be disappointed if they don't come away with the points. They have to be clinical, even if it is still very early in the season.

The only pressing issue at the moment is for Munster to get a solid centre partnership together. With all of the injuries they have in there, even despite the signing of Jaco Taute they still look quite light in numbers.

It is refreshing to have Earls available to make that switch in, though, and his versatility is crucial in these situations.

Irish Independent

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