Sunday 19 November 2017

David Wallace: Hungry Reds can continue winning run

Tight victory in Scotland typical of Munster's new-found grit

Munster's Darren Sweetenham Picture: Sportsfile
Munster's Darren Sweetenham Picture: Sportsfile

David Wallace

You never get complacent about these matches, but the signs are good that Munster can keep up their winning run down in Irish Independent Park this evening, and Dragons are next on the chopping block.

The conditions meant that it wasn't a pretty win against Edinburgh, but it was a victory all the same and, amazingly, it was Munster's 13th win from 14 games. 

Munster started with a lot of young guys with the likes of Calvin Nash getting his debut, but it was great to blood those players, give them game-time, and then be able to call on internationals later. 

It's great to see that Darren Sweetnam is on his way back now. He had played nearly every minute up to his injury, and the rest will have done him no harm. It's a real positive to see guys returning at this time of the year, and the Munster squad looks stronger and stronger even with 14 internationals away.

Ronan O'Mahony just gets better with every game. It was beautiful rugby the way he linked up with Tyler Bleyendaal for his try - perfect timing and execution. Those two players are in a rich vein of form, and O'Mahony was unlucky not to get another try after a great offload from Jaco Taute.

Munster should have too much for Dragons this evening in what will be a welcome return to Cork, and 14 wins in 15 would be another major step in the right direction.

For Ireland, their Six Nations campaign got off to a poor start in Murrayfield last weekend, but Italy and Rome offers the perfect opportunity to bounce back.

It wasn't a great Irish performance but you can't take anything away from Scotland. They played like Glasgow did against Munster, with nine of the Warriors in their team. They were sharp on the tackled player and Ireland were just a metre off every time, Scotland attacked the wide channels and defended ferociously.

The Irish scrum was looking great early on but that was it unfortunately. The rest of the first half Ireland saw beaten in various different areas. Scotland did their homework, the lineout try was a strange one, with the way Ireland set up against it - there was a massive gap, Scotland must have spotted it on tape and they exploited it. Nathan Hines is a shrewd operator and he must have had a huge say in that move.


Stuart Hogg exploited the wide channels well for Scotland, but Ireland will be kicking themselves in the manner in which they defended.

Garry Ringrose got caught out when he was under pressure. And for Hogg's second try, Ireland were down numbers out wide, the spacing wasn't great, and they rushed up. It left a massive job for Keith Earls to take care of. 

Scotland attacked just like Argentina did in the World Cup quarter-final. Ireland were vulnerable in the wide channels back then, and Scotland obviously took note of that.

But Ireland found a way back into the game; the only problem was, they didn't kick on when they were ahead. Ireland made too many errors in terms of knock-ons, and then a number of penalties went against them in the last quarter of the game. 

It was a tough lesson for Ireland. Scotland are a resurgent side; Edinburgh and Glasgow made the knockout stages in Europe, and that filters through. Vern Cotter is an excellent coach and his players are playing with confidence. 

I don't think the three Munster wins over Glasgow in the last few months helped Ireland's cause either. Scotland were hungry and Ireland were up there to toppled, having beaten South Africa, Australia and New Zealand recently. 

It's always tough to play away in this competition, but hopefully Ireland can get back on track in Rome this weekend. The remainder of their matches will be all tough games, at home to France, away to Wales and at home to England. Ireland can get right back into contention but they need momentum behind them.

But this weekend it is definitely the right game for Ireland. They should be winning; not saying it's going to be a cakewalk but hopefully they can get the win and first try bonus point, which will be a welcome result.

Irish Independent

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