Flannery setback mars fine Munster victory
Munster 35 Ulster 10
JERRY FLANNERY is bracing himself for bad news today when the details of his latest injury breakdown are disclosed.
The injury-prone 32-year-old cut a dejected figure as he was helped from the field 28 minutes into his Munster comeback during Saturday's victory over Ulster at Thomond Park.
The source of concern was once again a calf muscle, although not the same one which has curtailed his involvement for much of this season already.
Flannery was taken for a scan yesterday and the results should be known by today.
Speaking after the match, coach Tony McGahan gave no indication as to the severity of the situation, but confirmed that it was a fresh injury and not a recurrence of his old problem.
"He's quite upset and everybody is feeling for him," said McGahan. "He's worked really hard to get back to where he was, and there's no doubt that he'll get back from this one as well."
Flannery's injury was the biggest blight on an otherwise satisfactory night for Munster, who extended their lead at the top of the Magners League table to nine points.
A bonus-point victory had looked unlikely in the first half as Ulster showed all the attacking promise en route to an early 10-point lead.
TJ Anderson scored a well-worked try and Ulster could have been out the gate by half-time had the outstanding Paul Marshall managed to creep over the line following a close-range snipe shortly after.
Ulster coach Brian McLaughlin cited that moment as the turning point in the match. "If it had gone to 17-3 then we might have had a chance," he said.
"But Munster came back strongly as they always do; they are the masters of doing the simple things really well. They put you under ferocious pressure, they choke you, and they put us away in the end."
Munster's response was gradual, rather than instant. Paul Warwick helped rein in the Ulster lead with three penalty kicks before a try by Denis Hurley shortly after half-time gave the hosts a 14-9 advantage.
That was how the scoreline remained until a frantic endgame saw substitutes Tommy O'Donnell, Barry Murphy and Lifeimi Mafi all cross over for converted tries to give the
final result a skewed appearance.
McGahan was understandably delighted with the finishing touches, and particularly so in the case of Mafi's try in stoppage-time which emanated from a crossfield kick by Denis Leamy to Warwick on his own goal-line.
"That's certainly not in Denis' repertoire," smiled the Aussie coach. "He picked that out from his junior days I'd imagine.
"Look, the players have the confidence in each other to be able to do that from 100 metres away and they showed great confidence and great skill set to get the ball over the line.
"This week was a step forward," he added, "but we certainly realise that there are parts to our game which aren't up to scratch and we need to improve on them, otherwise we won't progress any further."
High up on the list of disappointments was the scrum, with tight-head Peter Borlase and replacement Tony Buckley both experiencing some difficulties at the engagement.
"We never thought our scrum was the finished article by any stretch of the imagination," admitted McGahan.
"We certainly had made progress from pre-season through to the last period of games, but we've gone backwards to an extent.
"But it's an ongoing thing like the rest of our game -- the line-out, back play, breakdown -- it's something that we're constantly working on and we're certainly giving it the time that it needs.
"You would like to have a lot of continuity to your game with regards to selection and players. We went for five weeks without our whole forward pack basically.
"That's certainly not an excuse. We just need to get better, that's the bottom line."
Discipline was also an issue for Munster's management, with Doug Howlett the latest recipient of an injury-time booking.
"Yellow cards are certainly a concern," McGahan said. "Whether they've come from (repeated) infringements or one-off acts of stupidity. It's an issue we are addressing."
Next up for Ulster is a home match against Treviso on Friday night, while Munster host Glasgow in Cork 24 hours later.
Both managers, however, will have their sights firmly set on crucial upcoming Heineken Cup fixtures.
For Munster, McGahan's selection against the Warriors is likely to mirror the side which he sends to Toulon the week after, with a full complement of players available to him.
Loose-head prop Marcus Horan will return to training this week and could also come into the equation ahead of the trip to France, along with the returning Paul O'Connell.
MUNSTER -- S Deasy; D Howlett, K Earls, S Tuitupou (L Mafi 55), Denis Hurley (B Murphy 76); P Warwick, P Stringer (T O'Leary 52); W du Preez (Darragh Hurley 72), D Varley (J Flannery 52), P Borlase (T Buckley 50), D Ryan, M O'Driscoll, B Holland, N Ronan (T O'Donnell 72), D Leamy.
ULSTER -- J Smith (D McIlwaine 70); T Seymour, I Whitten, L Marshall, S Danielli; P Wallace, P Marshall; B Young (D Fitzpatrick 60), R Best, D Fitzpatrick (T Court h-t), T Barker (N McComb 41), R Caldwell, TJ Anderson, W Faloon, R Diack (C Henry 50).
REF -- D Philips (IRFU).