Saturday 24 August 2019

Foley will ensure he keeps the emotions in check

Munster 32 Treviso 7

Simon Zebo, Munster, is tackled by Ludovico Nitoglia, left, and Ludovico Nitoglia, Benetton Treviso
Simon Zebo, Munster, is tackled by Ludovico Nitoglia, left, and Ludovico Nitoglia, Benetton Treviso
Simon Zebo, Munster, is tackled by Marco Barbini, Benetton Treviso
CJ Stander, Munster, is tackled by Enrico Bacchin, Benetton Treviso
Munster’s Simon Zebo, is tackled by Treviso duo Matteo Zanusso (left) and Ornel Gega
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

On the face of it, a bonus-point victory in the opening pool game would leave few complaints but Munster's performance against Treviso on Saturday hardly sent out the kind of warning signal that will have anyone in Europe worried.

Admittedly, the horrendous weather conditions wreaked havoc with the game as a spectacle as both teams struggled for any sort of pattern of play but it is important to put into the context the level of opposition that arrived in Thomond Park.

Treviso are without a win outside of Italy since 2013 and indeed have not won a game since last February and although they were completely rudderless in their play, a ragged Munster still managed to struggle to break them down.

It wasn't until the 76th minute that Simon Zebo sealed the precious bonus point that had looked a certainty from as early as the fourth minute when BJ Botha crossed the whitewash.


That over 5,000 supporters, who had already purchased tickets (season-ticket holders included), decided not to attend on a miserable night is another story but the 12,348 who did brave the elements were made to sweat until the death.

Despite their struggles, Munster stuck to the task at hand and just like they have been doing all season in the Pro12, they managed to eke out what could prove to be a crucial bonus point in a pool that is likely to go down to the wire.

A tougher test unquestionably lies ahead against Stade Francais in Paris on Sunday and in the aftermath of Friday night's tragic events, Anthony Foley is wary of keeping his side's emotions in check.

"You often hear that we live in a different world than most people but everyone was touched by what happened," Foley said.

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"You try and keep a ban on Twitter and stuff but I think a lot of people were quite open about the shock that they had at what was going on.

"It's about getting a focus on the job, you do understand that it's not the most important job in the world. It's not like that but we've got to go and represent our people on Sunday and make sure that we do it in the right manner and go about getting it done.

"We'll probably have one media day during the week and there'll be a lot discussed at that but other than that, it'll probably be the only day that it's mentioned within the group."

Botha celebrated signing a contract extension (until June 2016) last week by getting Munster off to an ideal start with a try that Ian Keatley converted and he almost got over for the second time in four minutes but he knocked the ball on over the line.

The home side were in control and you sensed that it could be a long evening for Treviso but they were gifted a way back into the game when Keatley's lazy clearance was charged down by Braam Steyn who still had work to do to score. Jayden Hayward slotted the conversion and suddenly the Italians were level.

Munster were dealt a blow when Mike Sherry, who was making his first appearance in Europe in more than two years, was forced off after he jarred his knee.

The hooker will be monitored over the coming days as will his replacement Duncan Casey who scored a try before damaging his pectoral muscle and retiring late on, leaving Munster to finish the game with 14 men.

Keatley added a penalty to leave Munster 10-7 in front at the break but his side's predictability was making it too easy for a Treviso outfit who offered very little threat.

Keatley fired over another penalty seven minutes after the restart before he began to settle. CJ Stander, who again led by example, got Munster's second try before the hour mark as they pushed for the bonus point.

James Cronin and Dave O'Callaghan, who put in a good shift, were stopped short before Stander barrelled his way over.

Casey then scored after a powerful rolling maul - a weapon that Munster used to good effect - as the crowd found their voice and their team duly responded.

Referee Matthew Carley showed remarkable patience with Treviso despite their repeated penalty concessions and he eventually showed replacement prop Matteo Muccignat a yellow card with eight minutes left on the clock.

Andrew Conway cleverly stepped off the wing and Zebo was on hand to waltz through a gap in a defence that was, at that stage, out on its feet.

Once again, Munster had made it difficult for themselves but Foley credited the character that his side showed.

"It's in their nature. They don't whinge, they don't moan. They get on with it," Foley insisted.

"Last year when we got to the final, we had up to 17 players unavailable but fellas get on with it and they see it as their opportunity.

"I'm probably fortunate enough I know most of the lads since they were 19. We would know each other very well and there's a comfort in that.

"We don't ask them to do anything that we don't feel they can do. They seem to be very comfortable in doing that but they're trying to push on outside comfort and are trying to get to a level that they can achieve.

"A lot of them are excellent rugby players and it's about marrying that and making sure that the attitude that they have, the psychical abilities that they have, and the skill level, and try and make sure that they have the mental toughness to go through this.

"You are going to get challenged in a whole spectrum of ways. It's about being there and stepping up to those challenges.

"We're in a place we want to be. We're sitting second in the Pro12. We've got a bonus-point win in Europe in very trying conditions and we know what's going to face us when we play the French champions over in Paris this weekend.

"It'll be an emotional occasion and it's about playing a game of rugby," he added.

An entirely different challenge lies ahead in Paris and any kind of performance like the one Munster served up on Saturday against one of the worst teams in the competition will bring them crashing back down to Earth.

Munster - A Conway (L Amorosino 77); K Earls, F Saili, D Hurley, S Zebo; I Keatley (R Scannell 77), C Murray (T O'Leary 77); D Kilcoyne (J Cronin 50), M Sherry (D Casey 28), BJ Botha (J Ryan 72); D Ryan, M Chisholm (D Foley 69); D O'Callaghan (R Copeland 57), J O'Donoghue, CJ Stander (capt).

Benetton Treviso - L McClean; L Nitoglia (S Smylie 57), J Hayward, E Bacchin, T Iannone; J Ambrosini, E Gori; M Zanusso (M Muccignat 72), O Gega (D Giazzon h/t), R Harden (F Filippetto 50); D Naudé (D Budd 50), J Montauriol (M Zanusso 79) ; F Minto, A Zanni (capt) (M Barbini 50), B Steyn (A De Marchi 79).

REF - M Carley (Eng).


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