Sunday 19 November 2017

David Wallace - A huge battle awaits Munster against in-form Warriors in Scotstoun

 

Defence coach Jacques Nienaber talks to the players. Photo: Sportsfile
Defence coach Jacques Nienaber talks to the players. Photo: Sportsfile
Simon Zebo shooting hoops. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

Three games down and three wins, and Munster perched top of Conference A in the PRO14, but if they take their foot off the pedal slightly tonight, Glasgow will dish out the ultimate punishment in Scotstoun.

Munster were going well in the first half at Liberty Stadium last weekend and could have been further ahead were it not for a couple of missed penalty opportunities.

The conditions didn't lend themselves to match the victories against Benetton Rugby and Cheetahs.

But it was great to see fearsome South African youngster Jean Kleyn get over for a try again. He is in a great vein of form and has had such an impact with four tries in three games this season.

Then, when you think of the players coming back in: Peter O'Mahony, CJ Stander and Conor Murray after a brilliant British & Irish Lions tour, while Keith Earls and Simon Zebo will filter back too.

Zebo has played in a couple of matches but with all of the options on the wing guys have taken their chances.

Alex Wootton might have not have scored in Wales after his four-try salvo the previous week, but he has shown the well-rounded game at his disposal now.

Munster could have lost the game late on but it was Wootton and Zebo who showed the work-rate to get back and make the try-saving tackle on the flyer Keelan Giles, and that was a huge high point of the game.

Up front it's all about the rise and rise of Liam O'Connor. There is an embarrassment of riches on that side of the scrum especially with James Cronin and Dave Kilcoyne waiting in the wings too.

Not only that, Rhys Marshall has been brilliant instead of Niall Scannell in the first few games at hooker, and Stephen Archer is re-born on the tighthead side of the front-row too.

The squad is getting stronger and that will help with injuries going forward. Guys won't be over-used and towards the end of the year Munster will start to see the benefits of that.

Tough

It's from one tough trip to another this weekend and Munster will find it tough away to Glasgow at Scotstoun - a Glasgow side who will be looking for revenge after Munster got the better of them on all four occasions last season.

Glasgow began their campaign with a solid away victory against Connacht, hammered Ospreys in Round 2 and secured a hard-fought victory away to Cardiff Blues last weekend.

They are still missing a few of their big international players and British & Irish Lions with Stuart Hogg still on the sidelines, but out-half Finn Russell will be a key component for them tonight.

He kicked two conversions and two penalties as Glasgow overcame a ten-point deficit to win 20-19 at Cardiff Arms Park in Round 2. That was a warning shot for Munster - Glasgow are a gritty team that won't be beaten easily. 

Glasgow will be determined to maintain their 100pc record this season and seeing Munster arrive at Scotstoun will only fuel their fire after last season.

It won't be easy but if Munster can use their powerful midfield to break their line, and Tyler Bleyendaal is on form from the kicking tee, they should have enough to stay top of Conference A.

The new system with the two separate conferences does detract slightly from the competitiveness of the league.

Three teams will go through from Conference A and Munster and Glasgow have already opened up a big gap there.

Munster are top with 14 points, Glasgow have 13 in second position, and the 2015-16 champions Connacht are third way back on six points.

With just three rounds of rugby gone it is a big gap already but Munster won't care and if they secure a win in Glasgow tonight it will be the perfect start to Rassie Erasmus's final few months in charge.

The Munster players say they want to give him the perfect send-off, and their results so far have spoken volumes for that.

Irish Independent

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