Friday 27 April 2018

Huge boost to be home in this battle with old foes

Munster players go through a maul during training DIARMUID GREENE/SPORTSFILE
Munster players go through a maul during training DIARMUID GREENE/SPORTSFILE
Munster’s Andrew Conway shows his ball skills in training at Thomond Park DIARMUID GREENE/SPORTSFILE

Jerry Flannery

It was a strange game against Dragons last weekend because we had our bonus point early in the game, went on to win it, and yet still didn't know our semi-final fate as we waited on the other results to come in.

We scored eight tries but were disappointed to concede four also, but I think that was down to the nature of the game. It was quite an open and loose encounter, and we did some things very well but in other ways we got quite lax, both in attack and in our defence.

It was difficult because Dragons came into the game with their season effectively done and dusted and they would have been happy to throw the ball around with the game opening up, whereas we wanted to play the game with an element of control in getting the job done.

We did that to a point and we got our four tries but then fell into the trap of throwing the ball around like the visitors - we looked to play the ball at times when it wasn't on.

Looking at it plain and simple, you don't want to show teams any vulnerabilities, and in the build-up to tomorrow, Ospreys will be looking back at that game and the four tries we conceded, thinking, we could exploit Munster there.

Winning by one point and not getting a bonus point wasn't going to be good enough for us, so we were all out to get the tries in the early stages of the game and that was evident from the style of rugby we played.

We got drawn into a game that we didn't want to, but in saying that we continued to press on and overall were happy with what we got out of the game in comparison to how Ospreys did up in the Sportsground.

Connacht still had something to play for and they showed a lot of pride with their comeback.

We were being fed down messages from the stands during our game - the fact that Ospreys had three tries so early in the game, we were thinking it was a foregone conclusion, they were going to get the bonus, but luckily for us and credit to Connacht, they didn't allow them.

We were comfortable in terms of getting the five points and securing victory most importantly, but just listening to the other games we didn't know if it was going to be enough.

Glasgow turned it around against Ulster, and the Ospreys game was a few minutes behind our own so they still had time to pick up the fourth try but thankfully they didn't.

As a result we're at home tomorrow for Thomond Park's final game of the season and we're up against a difficult and in-form Ospreys side.

Defensively they are probably the best in the league and on the other side of that their half-backs, Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar, are very dangerous.

Biggar is a really well-rounded out-half. He is constantly offering options, has a very strong kicking game and aerially he can cope as well.

Webb, their nine, is a catalyst for everything good that they do and then their No 8 Dan Baker gives them momentum - he's very powerful going forward.

Then you're looking at Justin Tipuric as their next main threat; if you can negate his influence it goes a long way to stopping Ospreys because he is a quality player as well.

It's massive that Munster have home advantage tomorrow.

Financially for the province and for Limerick it's huge, and from a rugby perspective it's a big benefit for us to have our game in front of our home support.

Saying all that I don't think Ospreys will come over with any kind of fear factor. They've beaten Munster here already this season so it is a big task but our chances of success have greatly increased by being at home.

And I don't think there's going to be much of a bearing from those results earlier in the season - although we'll certainly learn from them and take out what we need to improve on.

We didn't play well against them at home or away this season and they just blew us away in the second game especially, with our penalty tally so high, so we need to make sure we get our performance right and look after what we can control tomorrow.

There won't be any complacency on our part and we know what we need to do - this is knock-out rugby and it's all to play for.

Irish Independent

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