Sport Munster Rugby

Monday 26 June 2017

Realistic Erasmus not getting carried away

Munster 50 Connacht 14

Jack O’Donoghue of Munster beats the tackle of Cian Kelleher of Connacht on the way to scoring his side's second try. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jack O’Donoghue of Munster beats the tackle of Cian Kelleher of Connacht on the way to scoring his side's second try. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Neither Rassie Erasmus nor Pat Lam learned a great deal about their side in Munster's thumping victory over Connacht but it was the South African who left Thomond Park quietly content with matters.

While Munster's director of rugby was satisfied with the manner in which a largely second-string side put 50 points on Connacht, he was quick to put the facile win into perspective.

Jack O’Donoghue of Munster is tackled by John Cooney, left, and Finlay Bealham of Connacht. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Jack O’Donoghue of Munster is tackled by John Cooney, left, and Finlay Bealham of Connacht. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

That Conor Murray came through almost half an hour of his comeback unscathed was a major plus to add to the fact that Munster leapfrogged Leinster at the top of the table to set up a home semi-final meeting with the Ospreys and in turn avoid Scarlets - the only team to have won at Thomond Park this season.

For Connacht, they will eagerly watch Friday night's Challenge Cup final between Gloucester and Stade Francais because if the English side are crowned champions, they will take Northampton's play-off place and thus Lam won't get an opportunity to take the Westerners back to his old stomping ground.

Evidence

The reward for Connacht should they come through the semi-final is a home final at the Sportsground but based on the evidence in recent weeks, it will take something special for them to be playing in the Champions Cup next season.

There were plenty of positives in Munster's seven-try stroll, particularly in how the performances of their younger players like Jack O'Donoghue, Conor Oliver and Alex Wootton again pointed to a bright future.

Conor Murray of Munster in action. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Conor Murray of Munster in action. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

But it's the past that Erasmus feels he has learned the most from and in particular the defeat to Saracens. You get the feeling that regardless of what happens between now and the end of the month, that will be the game that the majority of the focus will be on over the summer.

"You learn a lot against a team like Saracens because that's a pressurised game and if you lose that specific game you are out of the mix," Erasmus maintained.

"A league game like this where you have already qualified, the pressure is off. You don't know what is going on in the other camp. The coach is leaving, it's your last game. There are a lot of emotions. Sometimes that pushes you, sometimes it pulls you down a little bit. It's difficult to read a lot into today's game. I'm glad for the guys who are not regular starters.

"The Saracens game, Saracens sometimes make you look like you're playing very conservatively but it's sometimes a result of pressure. When I say pressure, it's not a mental pressure, it's just a game pressure, a situational pressure.

Conor Murray of Munster is tackled by John Cooney, left, and Sean O'Brien of Connacht. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Conor Murray of Munster is tackled by John Cooney, left, and Sean O'Brien of Connacht. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"So sometimes you can look very one-dimensional against Saracens but that's not a result of your planning, it's a result of their effective pressure they put on you.

"It's very realistic to say that when that game was finished 'Oh, this is what it's about. That's why teams struggle so much against them. That's what they do really well.'

"So we are trying to take a lot from that, trying to apply that in games going forward. I'm not saying in any way that we are going to be successful doing that in the semi-final but we certainly learned a lot from playing Saracens, little things that sometimes don't catch the eye, even by coaches doing analysis during the week, which you see on a Monday, post-game during the review where you think 'the things they do there are just extra special'.

"We just accept that they were better than us, let's move on, we're playing in the Pro12 now."

Billy Holland echoed Erasmus' sentiments saying: "It was a tough one to take but a lot of the time when you lose a semi-final you have the whole summer of mulling over it which is a horrific place to be but luckily we have a semi-final in two weeks and there's a massive carrot at the end of this for us. We can get back to the Aviva and that would be something really special for us.

Conor Murray of Munster is tackled by John Cooney, left, and Sean O'Brien of Connacht. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Conor Murray of Munster is tackled by John Cooney, left, and Sean O'Brien of Connacht. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Over

The game was effectively over by half time with Keith Earls, O'Donoghue and Andrew Conway scoring the first of his two tries for a 24-0 lead.

The bonus point was wrapped up a couple of minutes after the restart through James Cronin and even though Cian Kelleher and Naulia Dawai responded with consolation tries, Conway, Francis Saili and Oliver completed the rout, with Ian Keatley, who was making his 150th Munster appearance, contributing 15 points with the boot.

Connacht now face a huge two weeks to get themselves right before their away semi-final as Lam looks to ensure that he departs the province with them playing amongst Europe's elite next season.

"It's important, it's our minimum goal," he insisted. "For me it would be disappointing if we don't make it through. We are good enough."

Munster - A Conway; A Wootton (T Bleyendaal 47), J Taute (F Saili 58), D Goggin (Taute 70), K Earls; I Keatley, A Lloyd (C Murray 52); J Cronin (D Kilcoyne 58), R Marshall (N Scannell 58), S Archer (J Ryan 58); D O'Shea (P O'Mahony 58) , B Holland (capt); J Deysel (T O'Donnell 64), C Oliver, J O'Donoghue.

Connacht - T O'Halloran (D Leader 69); C Kelleher, T Farrell, C Ronaldson, D Poolman; J Carty (M Boshoff 66-70), K Marmion (J Cooney 59); D Buckley (JP Cooney 59), S Delahunt (D Heffernan, 62), C Carey ( F Bealham 59); Q Roux (S O'Brien 52) , A Browne; E McKeon, J Connolly (N Dawai 52), J Muldoon. Ref - D Wilkinson (IRFU)

 

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