Friday 18 August 2017

Ospreys clash will be a slog and an arm wrestle but we're up for it

O’Donoghue: everyone knew their roles with Tyler Bleyendaal (pictured with Tommy O’Donnell) directing us. Photo: Sportsfile
O’Donoghue: everyone knew their roles with Tyler Bleyendaal (pictured with Tommy O’Donnell) directing us. Photo: Sportsfile

Jack O’Donoghue

It was a good win for us against Dragons last weekend in Irish Independent Park and getting a bonus point at home was vital, especially at this stage of the season when our internationals are away.

I picked up my first Man of the Match award too which was special and I was happy enough with the way I went during the game so to be rewarded for my performance afterwards is always a nice way to round it off.

In the first half we attacked Dragons really directly, and our kicking strategy was very good with the lads, as usual, doing well on that side of things. We had the bonus point secured by half-time and with that target achieved, that is probably where you get a bit complacent and you begin to think the game is won.

I suppose when we came out after half-time our performance started to feel a bit flat and we didn't hit our targets for a few minutes. We weren't accurate or clinical enough inside their 22. We had a lot more opportunities for tries that we didn't take, and that is something that we looked back on earlier in the week.

When we are on the front foot and going well it is that much easier to get our game going so it's just making sure we are working for the full 80 minutes in ensuring that happens.

Directing

We all know the roles we have to play but it's great knowing we have the likes of Duncan Williams and Tyler Bleyendaal directing us around the park and controlling the backline. Everyone's putting their hand up and looking to put pressure on the coaches for selection for when the internationals return.

This block provides an opportunity for guys to step up to the plate. I remember two years ago when I first got my chance, I stuck in there for a few games and at the end of the season that experience stood to me.

Now there are younger guys in the same position, lads coming up through the academy like Conor Oliver, Brian Scott and Dan Goggin. They are all really impressing and going well, and that all stems from the training ground.

We are all in together training hard on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and that's translating into the game and performances at the weekends.

We're now in the middle of this mini tournament of Munster versus Welsh opposition with successive weeks of coincidentally playing the four Welsh clubs.

This weekend we have a top-of-the-table clash with Ospreys, the in-form Welsh side, and with just one point between us it's going to be a huge contest. These next games will determine our position in the table for when it comes to the play-off stages of the season.

It's vital that we go over there and front up as a pack because Ospreys have a similar playing style to us. They are going to have big forwards and a few of their Welsh internationals back so it will be closer to full strength for both sides in Swansea.

They have some smart breakdown operators and the last time we went over there Sam Underhill was a real nuisance for us around that area. They always have a very competitive back-row and it will be an enjoyable battle all the same.

It's going to be a massive game, but it will be such a slog. Their winning home record this season speaks for itself and the last time we went over to their place, it was a one-point win in the final play of the game so we are all aware of the challenge ahead.

But the squad is looking forward to it and you want to be part of these games against quality opposition just like our Munster colleagues have been doing on the international stage with Ireland.

We're coming up against the best scoring team in the league and they're just behind us on the defensive record so it'll be an arm wrestle, but one we're up for.

With the Six Nations on a break this week it was great to see Ireland secure the bonus point last weekend in Rome and I thought all the Munster players put in a huge shift. Simon Zebo had an unbelievable game, and I was delighted for Niall Scannell on his debut. His nerves were probably at him but he dealt with the occasion and put in a top performance.

A lot of the guys around the place here can take huge confidence from that. Niall has been having a fantastic season for Munster, and he is finally getting just reward by being capped for his country.

He played all the way up through the ranks and captained the Ireland U-20s so for him to get his chance was great to see and hopefully he can push on and prove to Joe Schmidt that he is real competition for Rory Best in that No 2 jersey.

In fairness, all the guys played their part on the day with Earlsy crossing for two and then of course CJ Stander topping it by getting three, the first forward to get a hat-trick in the Championship so that's another one for the history books from him, and another Man of the Match as well of course.

He is in flying form and that's only going to benefit Munster when these lads come back after the Six Nations leading into the Champions Cup.

All in all, the signs are good for Irish rugby, and when they get back to action next week and face off against France next weekend I expect them to get another valuable win at home.

But for us it's the Guinness Pro12 and our sole focus in Munster is the Ospreys game tomorrow.

It's such a huge game for both sides and it would be massive to get our 14th win in 15 games to keep the confidence and momentum flowing but we know a tough task lies ahead.

Irish Independent

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