Tuesday 25 April 2017

Still lots to improve on and Scarlets will test us

Despite trailing, Munster players recognised what they needed to do during the game in order to grind out victory against Ospreys with Francis Saili, above, scoring their second try. Photo: Sportsfile
Despite trailing, Munster players recognised what they needed to do during the game in order to grind out victory against Ospreys with Francis Saili, above, scoring their second try. Photo: Sportsfile

Rassie Erasmus

Last weekend's win against Ospreys was a very satisfying result for us, but the manner in which we played at times during the 80 minutes shows we still have some things to work on in the weeks and months ahead.

It was a nervous end to the game for us as we had to defend the halfway line to hold on to the lead, but I thought the way in which the boys stuck to their tasks, did their jobs and worked together was excellent.

With the ball kicked dead for the end of the game, we all had to wait for the TMO's decision on the possible high tackle. It was very much in a kickable position for a kicker like Sam Davies, but thankfully the decision went our way and we took the four points.

The result went our way, but the manner in which we started the game was very disappointing. We managed to get off to a decent start with an early penalty, but for ten or 15 minutes after that we didn't hit the standards that we have done in recent months. When you go to the home of one of the top teams in the league, where they have been unbeaten all season and scored plenty of tries along the way, you have to expect to be tested to your limits and that they will put you under severe pressure.

It was a period that we were a bit off where we needed to be physically, and as a consequence that created gaps in our defensive set-up that the Ospreys punished. But the pleasing thing for us is that the players realised during the game what they needed to do to get back in contention. From the time we conceded the second try, we were much better across the park and battled back into the game.

Satisfying The period before half-time was very important and the tries from Jack and Frankie gave us something to battle for. We performed well in set-piece and on the back of that we managed to run some plays close to their line for the scores.

The second half was satisfying for us too, although we slipped a small bit further behind early on. For the most part we dominated territorially and we came very close to scoring our third try on a few occasions, especially when Tyler almost crossed for us. But it was a great feeling when Killer managed to get over the line - even though we left it a bit later than we'd like - and then Tyler kicked the conversion for the win.

Last week I spoke about the different combinations that we had against Dragons and it was the same again last weekend, with people like Darren Sweetnam back from injury on the wing and Ian Keatley playing at full-back for the first time in a while. And once again, the impact we received from the bench was vital for us, with the early introductions of Conor Oliver, Andrew Conway, Dave Foley and Kevin O'Byrne bringing a lot to the action.

It is pleasing to stay top of the Pro12 table after the win in Swansea, but we are well aware that there is so much rugby to be played before the end of the season. For sure, nobody in the province is getting too carried away with our winning run.

And tonight in Thomond Park we will be really tested once again against an in-form Scarlets side. They have won all four of their Pro12 games in 2017. They have beaten Glasgow twice this season, have beaten both Leinster and Ulster, and we remember the challenge they gave us in the first month of the season when we played them at Parc y Scarlets. That day was one of our best performances this season, but it was needed to take the win from Wales. We'll need to reach those levels tonight to win against them again.

I think we will have to be prepared for a well-balanced side who defend well, kick well and run well with the ball. It's a different challenge to what we have faced recently, so we have to perform well across the pitch.

Tomorrow we will all be tuned in to see our Munster boys representing Ireland against France at the Aviva Stadium. It has been exciting to tune in and see the competition at close range having so much personal interest in how the players go, and I'm looking forward to the game.

But before that we have our own exciting game to play. Thomond Park has been such a special place for us this season and I'm sure the Munster crowd will play their part again. With it being the last Friday night game in Limerick this season there is sure to be a warm atmosphere and we hope to match that passion on the park.

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