Friday 20 September 2019

Erasmus grounded as Tigers left with red cheeks

Peter O’Mahony of Munster wins possession in a line-out ahead of Leicester’s Ed Slater at Thomond Park on Saturday. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Peter O’Mahony of Munster wins possession in a line-out ahead of Leicester’s Ed Slater at Thomond Park on Saturday. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Smiles all around on another glorious day by the Shannon; the air almost always smells sweeter for the locals when the English are tamed hereabouts.

Munster 38 Leicester 0

Suitable time for a Limerick from Limerick.

Duncan Williams of Munster is tackled by Brendon O'Connor of Leicester Tigers. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Duncan Williams of Munster is tackled by Brendon O'Connor of Leicester Tigers. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

"When Munster displayed all their class, and Leicester none of their pizzazz, CJ Stander and friends helped fulfil, to keep the English to nil, which gave Cockerill a pain in the ass."

The rhyme does not lie.

"We came here and got our arses smacked good and proper," said the Tigers' chastened director of rugby Richard Cockerill. "There's no getting away from it. I'm not going to shy away from the fact, I watched the game as well as you guys and we got our arses smacked."

Red cheeks all over the place, then.

CJ Stander of Munster is tackled by Tom Youngs of Leicester Tigers. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
CJ Stander of Munster is tackled by Tom Youngs of Leicester Tigers. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Submission was the theme; Leicester were acquiescent. Munster didn't refuse the opening invitation to take a step upon the front foot; thereafter they retained it on the throat of their startlingly off-colour victims.

"Can I go home now?" Cockerill pleaded. It would take an impolite host to suggest that they had never really arrived in the first place.

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Hard to fathom that this side lie fourth in England and reached the semi-finals of this competition last term after completing a double against Saturday's storied rivals.

Or that Ben Youngs would get the shepherd's crook, as did Manu Tuilagi, albeit for attempting something a little more violent to the neck area with a swinging arm.

Keith Earls of Munster in action against Sam Harrison of Leicester Tigers. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Keith Earls of Munster in action against Sam Harrison of Leicester Tigers. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Little wonder Cockerill deviated into mild profanity once more.

"I will never concede the pool but it will be difficult to qualify," he added ahead of next weekend's return clash in Welford Road.

"We need to play for pride and get back to playing well. I'll be buggered if we are going to roll over now, this is not what Leicester is about."

We are slowly discovering what Munster are about. This was a seventh successive win and the first of a devilishly tough two-month stretch that continues next week with the first of successive away games which will define this European campaign.

While last season's dismal double setback to Leicester confirmed their departure, a win next weekend in the English midlands will set them up for a genuine tilt at securing a pool from which it is certain only one team will progress.

Glasgow, courageous victors in Paris on Saturday, have now revived their chances too.

"We've been here before, we've won six out of six Heineken Cup pool games and lost quarter-finals," said Munster captain Peter O'Mahony.

"You've really got to live in the week. Things can happen, things can go against you.

"All you have to worry about is the week you're going into and the team that you're up against that week. If you start looking down the line, and you'll be turned over, especially against sides like Leicester."

Recent events have taught us the simplicity of such an approach; there is a new sun every day.

Pre-judge

"When we started, we said we don't have targets, we just want to maximise potential," added coach Rassie Erasmus, who refuses to pre-judge the outcome of this pool.

"And if we do that then we might win a few games and do better than last year. We'll always keep on doing that because you can't forget where we were last year and where we are coming from.

"We have one or two new players and a few changes in the coaching set-up and we'll have to do so many things right to get through the pool stages.

"We've played two home games so we've a lot of away games to play and one really tough home game against Racing. . . so obviously there are some realistic chances of making it but still some hard work to do."

Still, Munster folk could be forgiven for getting a tad carried away; 38-0 is Leicester's record margin of defeat in Europe, and holding an opponent scoreless always goes down well.

Effecting the age-old Senior Cup strategy (3-6-9) Munster dominated physically and a succession of penalties allowed Tyler Bleyendaal's boot to give his side plenty of leeway.

An inevitable binning for the visitors created the opportunity for Simon Zebo's well-crafted opener and even before the half-time, there were murmurs of a bonus point.

If Leicester were flat in the first half, they flat-lined in the second; Springbok Jaco Taute sprung twice and was denied a hat-trick when George Worth hauled him down as he was about to score (or so Romain Poite assumed).

Even Rasmus was getting carried away, ever so slightly; days after explicitly confirming loanee midfielder Taute was returning home on January 1, the coach declared that he was open to pursuing a further extension.

The player himself told this newspaper that he was returning to the Stormers and, with Munster's other overseas international star, Francis Saili, returning from injury at Christmas, the idea that the IRFU would sign off such a deal is ludicrous.

"I'd be lying if I said I didn't want Jaco to stay," said Erasmus of the illusory prospect of Munster facing the Dragons in March with an All Black/Springbok midfield partnership. David Nucifora, doubltess, is already spitting cornflakes as he reads this. It just won't happen.

"I haven't even gone down that route because Francis is coming back and Sam Arnold is coming back and we've got another three weeks to make a decision on that and we've got to talk to the Stormers, to the IRFU."

Munster - S Zebo (A Conway 68); D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, K Earls; T Bleyendaal (I Keatley 74), C Murray (D Williams 64); D Kilcoyne (T Du Toit 59), N Scannell, J Ryan (S Archer 66), D Ryan, B Holland (J Kleyn 58), P O'Mahony (capt), T O'Donnell (J O'Donoghue 58), CJ Stander.

Leicester Tigers - G Worth; A Thompstone, M Tuilagi, O Williams, P Betham; F Burns (J Roberts 54), B Youngs (S Harrison 54), L Mulipola (G Bateman 54), T Youngs (capt, G McGuigan 60), E Genge (P Cilliers 77), E Slater, G Kitchener, M Fitzgerald (L Hamilton 43), B O'Connor, L McCaffrey (W Evans 69).

Ref - R Poite (FFR).

 

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