Tuesday 22 October 2019

Van Graan hails Carbery as Munster up the ante

"The try they scored after half-time was 35 phases and even though they scored the try that actually made us stronger in terms of our belief," Van Graan said. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

The recurring image from Kingsholm on Friday night oddly enough was not Joey Carbery standing over the tee before banging over another successful kick, rather it was of David Humphreys. The former Ulster star became to go-to man for the tv director. So every time Munster scored, we got to see Humphreys standing at the back of the coaches' box looking increasingly frustrated.

In fairness, he had lots to be frustrated about. The levels of embarrassment in the Gloucester organisation must have been acute. True, they were up against brand leaders in this competition, anchor tenants from the old days who have fallen off the pace from the heady heights after the turn of the century. Still, to get so much so wrong on such an important night was truly depressing for them.

Not that Johann van Graan will be too bothered. As Munster progress in this competition - the exact scale of that climb will be clarified by the result of Exeter and Castres today in Sandy Park - the coach will be faced with an interesting question: to risk a little more adventure or to stick to the policy of safety first.

The awfulness of Gloucester should not be taken into account in making that call. Set alongside Munster's extraordinary efficiency across the board, there was a gulf between host and visitor. Even when the Cherry and Whites managed to get over the line through Ollie Thorley after his forwards had done everything bar take Munster's front door off the hinges, it didn't feel like Munster were threatened in any way.

"The try they scored after half-time was 35 phases and even though they scored the try that actually made us stronger in terms of our belief," Van Graan said. "We'll take this bonus-point win away from home."

After the struggle in Castres, it was perfect for the Munster story that Carbery should waltz away with the man of the match award.

"I think he capped it off with a special performance and if I'm not mistaken, he didn't miss a goal-kick again. That's three weeks in a row. That's what wins you games," added Van Graan.

"I thought he and Conor [Murray] really played well together tonight and I thought they combined well with Scans [Rory Scannell] and Chris Farrell. I thought Mikey [Haley] at the back was really good and Andrew [Conway] and Earlsy [Keith Earls] pounced on the opportunities that came their way. A really good team performance."

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The importance of Farrell to the team was evident from early in the game. Although still working his way back from injury, he made a significant contribution. His size and strength clearly help in the close-quarters stuff but his work-rate in contact, and awareness of when to offload, mark him out as a player with a long Test career ahead of him - if he can stay fit.

If you combine a powerhouse pack, where the front five dismantled Gloucester, with that kind of guaranteed go-forward in the wide channels, it will always be a down-payment on winning. The trick now is to give Carbery licence to explore from closer to his own sticks.

"If you're a 10, you're going to take some criticism but we knew from day one that he's here to learn and here to be part of a team," Van Graan said of his out-half.

"I thought he'd played really well over the last three weeks and to me, his decision-making - when to run, when to pass, when to kick, when to show - I thought that was excellent tonight."

With the right adjustments, there's a lot more to come.

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