Wednesday 24 January 2018

One more big effort to save season

Edinburgh win has confidence high for showdown with Scarlets

Munster’s Billy Holland wins possession in a lineout ahead of Sean O’Connor. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster’s Billy Holland wins possession in a lineout ahead of Sean O’Connor. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster’s Johnny Holland shows his kicking skills during training. Photo: Sportsfile

David Wallace

It was a more composed and clinical display from the Munster team that we saw get the better of Edinburgh last weekend, but there's no time to admire what was a very hard fought victory. They need to put their best foot forward against Scarlets tomorrow at Thomond Park.

Beating Edinburgh was always going to be just part one, Munster know they are in pole position for sixth spot now, but they must get the job done against play-off chasing Scarlets, to ensure there won't be any close calls.

There has been so much hurt already this season, so I know the Munster players will be leaving it all on the field tomorrow. They won't want to experience anything other than a win in Limerick - the ramifications of getting overtaken are just too great.

It's great to be back in this situation, Munster always had their destiny in their own hands, but with one game to go, it seems far more achievable now.

It was a more comprehensive display from Munster - there was so much pressure but the lads just went out and played. And I thought they did very well to cross for the fourth try late on. The final try epitomised their determination.

They had three tries on the board but still were only one point clear. It was obvious getting a bonus-point win would be massive, and everyone knew the significance of scoring a fourth try.

They just put their head down and grinded out the fourth. The maul was a huge weapon for them all day. Francis Saili did well to carry, but when he looked in danger of being held up in a choke tackle, the urgency of James Cronin and Jack O'Donoghue to latch on, and drive him over the Edinburgh line was brilliant.

It was great to see Simon Zebo among the tries, Rory Scannell was brilliant again and got the try he deserved, while Andrew Conway - my man of the match - was outstanding and was involved in all of Munster's threatening attacks out wide.

But the most encouraging thing about that display was Munster's cohesive effort throughout. There were a few instances where it looked like Edinburgh would grab the initiative in that game but Munster kept up the intensity levels and it eventually paid off in the end.


It would have been disastrous had Edinburgh nipped in to score a try instead. But Munster were relentless and they will need to bring that into tomorrow's game.

Scarlets were once the main force in Welsh rugby, and after a few years where they were in the doldrums a bit, they seem to be coming back to form. This season they have been really good, and they will want to finish in the top four just as bad as Munster want to finish in the top six.

They have threats all over the pitch, and they build their game from a quality scrummaging unit. They have a number of internationals up front, and their back row is one of the best in the Pro12. John Barclay and James Davies are great foragers for them too, and they have the ability to cause Munster plenty of problems at ruck-time.

In the backline Scott Williams is the stand-out player, he has become a star for them and Wales in recent seasons and Scannell and Saili will need to be on their toes against him if they start in the centre.

Liam Williams is another fantastic player, as is Haleigh Parkes, and overall they are a formidable outfit to come up against when you need to get a win like this.

Munster will be favourites in their own back yard on the last day of the season, so hopefully Scarlets don't come to Limerick and upset the apple cart.

If Munster can get parity at scrum-time they can build their game from there, and the Munster backline is on fire at the moment. If they can do what they did to Edinburgh, again this weekend, it will do their chances the world of good.

But as in any game, it's all about getting the basics right, winning the battle in the trenches and earning the right to go wide. In weather like this Munster will have the confidence to go through the phases and then if the passes stick, off front-foot ball Munster will do damage.

Irish Independent

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