Tuesday 23 July 2019

David Wallace: Munster's irresistible maul and dynamic back play can sink Ospreys

Munster’s Donnacha Ryan leads a maul during squad training in Limerick
Munster’s Donnacha Ryan leads a maul during squad training in Limerick
Munster’s Denis Hurley in action at Thomond Park DIARMUID GREENE / SPORTSFILE

David Wallace

There was a job to do against Dragons last weekend and considering Munster had the bonus point secured inside 25 minutes, they must have been very satisfied.

From that point on, the focus then was not to lose the game, and overall it's a difficult match to take anything from moving towards the semi-final.

They were two very different teams on show: Munster were going bull-headed for a bonus point and Dragons had little to play for. It may have been difficult to watch Dragons run in four tries but it was a loose game and the main thing was to secure the bonus point.

That allowed them to take off players as well and free things up a bit. It was a banana skin for Munster but I think they were confident they would get through it alright.

It was good to see the attack clicking once more - after they lost at Saracens in the Champions Cup, Munster seemed to throw off the shackles a bit and have been playing a very good brand of expansive rugby ever since.

It also coincided with the return to form of Keith Earls - he adds so much to that backline. They are playing with a lot more width now and it's exciting.

The players seem to be revelling in it too, but now it comes to knockout stages, we might see them go back to a tighter game-plan.

Their maul worked quite well at the weekend; any time there is a bit of a lull in their attack play, they revert to that.

It has been quite strength for them again in the last couple of months, and it gives them that momentum and the ability to get back into games and keep the scoreboard ticking over.

But certainly their backline seems to be thriving on the style that's being asked of them and that can only lead to better things.

On the flip-side, the defence was a little bit shaky but these things happen when your replacements come on and the game has opened up like that.

That's always a trap you can fall into when the stress coming into these games is released after the bonus point is secured.

Munster won't be at all complacent going into this game. Ospreys are one of the form teams in the Pro12.

Their No 8 Dan Baker is a serious operator - he can move and has all of the skills to be a real threat off the back of the scrum, or in fact any part of the field. They will be backing themselves to knock Munster out.

I don't think their two meetings so far this season will have much of an impact on the outcome of this game because it's effectively cup rugby from here.

Both teams can play similar styles involving the backline, even though Munster are still quite forward-orientated.

Things might contract a little bit this time around and when it comes to cup rugby, the margin for error is so much smaller and any slip-up can lose a game for a team.

It will probably be a little bit tighter and there will be more structure to the game in contrast to what we have seen in recent rounds.

I would think the first half will definitely be all about getting dominance up front and playing field position, but with the way these two are playing recently you never know what will happen.

I am pretty confident. It's not often Munster come up short in big games at Thomond Park, especially against Ospreys.

They'll just be too strong. Ospreys are playing that bit looser and as a result I think they will get caught out.

I've been really impressed with Munster up front in recent games. They are giving the backs a great platform to work off. Donnacha Ryan is back; they are missing Tommy O'Donnell but you have the likes of Paddy Butler and Jack O'Donoghue, who has come on leaps and bounds to provide back-up, so there's a good squad of players there.

They are scrummaging really well also. They did a massive number on Ulster and their maul is a weapon that very few teams can compete against.

Irish Independent

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