Friday 20 April 2018

I expect to see big reaction to festive defeats

Young players will learn from Ulster but another huge test awaits

Simon Zebo arrives at training. Photos: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Simon Zebo arrives at training. Photos: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

David Wallace

It was another tough defeat to take against Ulster this week, but I'm confident Munster can bounce back at the first time of asking against an improving Connacht outfit.

It was a forward-orientated effort in the first half from Munster and they pulverised Ulster to build a brilliant 17-0 lead at Kingspan Stadium on New Year's Day. 

But they were never going to have it all their own way, and things seemed to loosen up after that. They were playing an Ulster side whose director of rugby was under massive pressure, and they had to respond with a big second-half performance. 

The cards certainly didn't help Munster's cause and Ulster took their chances when they came.

Jack O’Donoghue gets help with his GPS unit from strength and conditioning coach Adam Sheehan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Jack O’Donoghue gets help with his GPS unit from strength and conditioning coach Adam Sheehan. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Les Kiss's side spread the ball a bit more in the second half, got Charles Piutau, Nick Timoney and the pack into it and that galvanised their challenge. 

The red card for Sam Arnold was probably a bit harsh, while Fineen Wycherley's yellow was more for repeated infringement than anything else, but when the former Ulster centre went it was a massive blow. 

Ulster were always going to get a fairer crack of it when they were 17-0 down, with a penalty try and disallowed try against them, especially playing at home. 

Munster just shot themselves in the foot a little bit but that's all top six-inches stuff.

You couldn't fault the Munster work-rate or effort, but when you have a team playing with 13 men for a few minutes it becomes a daunting prospect. Munster just needed to be a bit more streetwise in those instances.

It was a very young Munster team out there and they have bags of potential and ability, it's just all about putting that into practice.

There were times where Munster turned over ball and kicked away loosely when Ulster were on the rack. 

They needed to hold on to possession and make the opposition suffer when the chance was there.

They had very little possession and momentum in the second half, so getting a foothold in the game again was crucial. 

Learning

When you are 17-0 up you just need to get a few penalties and add to the score to kill the game. It's a big learning curve to be in that position and let the game slip. 

These inter-pro games are important no matter who you are playing. The Munster and Leinster game is probably the standout fixture because of the history that exists and the amount of international places are up for grabs. And Munster certainly didn't have their attention elsewhere when they travelled to Belfast. 

It certainly doesn't get any easier with a really good Connacht side coming to Thomond Park. We all remember the way Connacht fronted up against Munster in the last game at the Sportsground. That was a typical Connacht performance. They really smother you, don't give you a chance to breath and put you under pressure.

Connacht beat Munster famously in Limerick on their way to the PRO12 title in 2015-16 and will be coming down confident again. But with two losses on the trot to Irish teams, Munster will be a bit wounded. They will be out to prove a point and I can't see them losing to Connacht.

It wouldn't be a disaster if the result was to go the other way but it would be very disappointing and would dent the momentum Munster had built from the Leicester victories. Everything is an easy fix and it's just about being a bit smarter. 

It's cup rugby from here on and Munster must close out these games no matter who the opposition is. That's where Munster fell down last year in the semi-final and final of the Champions Cup and PRO14 respectively. 

Having the game management is a big part of it. Munster need to learn from the last two games. Leinster were cute with how they went about their business. Munster could still have won that game towards the end, apart from an exceptional try from Jordan Larmour and you can't legislate for that. 

That result was tough to take and the Ulster one was another really difficult one to fathom, but I expect them to come back strongly.

Irish Independent

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