Friday 23 February 2018

David Wallace: The PRO12 is just the beginning for this Munster team

Rock-solid defence makes Rassie's troops hard to beat

Dave Kilcoyne (right) and Stephen Archer take a breather. Photo: Sportsfile
Dave Kilcoyne (right) and Stephen Archer take a breather. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

It doesn't get much bigger than this. The Aviva Stadium will turn red again tomorrow and hopefully it's the Munster shade that leaves with the Guinness Pro12 trophy on Saturday evening.

In the end it was a good win against Ospreys last weekend, especially considering they had a lot of possession and territory in the first half but never looked like scoring. Every time they had the ball Munster were in control and pushing them back, and it reminded me of games in the past against the old foe.

In previous years, Ospreys had their share of possession but you always felt comfortable and it gave you a huge confidence boost because you could trust your defence, get off the line and hit them back. On the flip-side of that Ospreys became more and more frustrated as the games went on.

The lasting memory from the semi-final was Simon Zebo's score - one of the tries of the season. Munster were trying to bash their way over the line, but got turned over and Ospreys kicked down-field.

Keith Earls' work-rate to get back was phenomenal, Francis Saili showed great feet… back to Earls and then Conor Murray's sublime pass in the middle of it, before Andrew Conway got the ball to Zebo, and his ability to hold onto the ball and keep going without breaking stride put his trademark all over it.

Conway's try was a different style but his ability to get in and beat two guys on a postage stamp with his feet was also from the top drawer.

One of the most encouraging things from the game was that Ospreys didn't score a try. Saili's work-rate to stop Keelan Giles when the game was over was outstanding. Going forward into Scarlets, that sort of attitude will stand to Munster.

Scarlets will wonder, how will they break this team down? They never give up. It will hopefully sow a seed of doubt in their heads, and give Munster even more confidence that they will work hard for each other no matter what.

Scarlets struggled to get out of their half and control the game against Leinster. They were down a man, but there were times they needed to execute better and get out of there.

But you look at guys like Liam Williams and Jonathan Davies, two phenomenal players in attack. They are at the top of their career and will be very dangerous. Scarlets are packed full of guys who are able to make those line-breaks and open up teams.

In effect Munster have home advantage this weekend, and they won't be underdogs, although they would like to be. You would like to think with all of the talent Munster possess that they can really attack Scarlets, and use the momentum the crowd gives them.

Scarlets will target Munster at the break-down. When you think back to Saracens, that is their forte, and they slowed Munster down, stole their ball, and turned them over. Munster must be wary of Scarlets' threat in that facet of the game. In a final, the breakdown is always so important and it's up there with your defence in terms of being a key-attribute to winning a match.

It's about that work-rate of getting on a guy's shoulder to resource the ball, fronting up in defence to ensure nobody gets through. Finals are always stand-out because any chink can be the difference between winning and losing a game.

This Munster team are certainly in massive transition after coming from where they have over the last few years and now they have found their confidence and trust in their own game. That has been a massive part of the season, it's going to be more important than winning silverware.

The players and coaching staff deserve it. They have come through adversity, heartbreak and tragedy in the last two seasons, to find that form and resilience when so many things were thrown at them.

For us as supporters we just want to see them get their just rewards.

In terms of where they are going you would like to see them win but even without silverware it would not be the be all and end all for this team. This is still just the beginning.

Irish Independent

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