Sunday 18 March 2018

Penney's men fully entitled to start thinking big

Gloucester dismantling proved this side possess all qualities required to keep good times coming

Munster captain Peter O'Mahony
Munster captain Peter O'Mahony

Denis Leamy

While most Munster people expected the Reds to win in Gloucester last weekend, few would have anticipated the way they would carve out victory and that is what is probably giving most cause for optimism.

Gloucester are not the formidable side of a few years ago and their form this season, especially at home, has fallen well short of what would be expected of them.

And yet, conversely, Munster knew that they would raise their game and would lay their lives on the line last Saturday. And, in fairness to them, that's exactly what Gloucester did. They had nothing to play for but pride -- although that is exactly when sides like Gloucester thrive.

That's why people think they are like Munster. There is a standard expected and if that is not achieved then the least people expect is that players will give every last drop they have pursuing it.


There was a huge Munster following over there and I believe they were outside the ground four hours before kick-off. In fairness to the Gloucester support, they turned out in big numbers too and created a very hostile environment.

That's why it was so important that there was a big Munster contingent present as well; that can be a huge boost to lads, not just when you score but when you turn over a ball and the only people you hear are the travelling Munster supporters.

Munster should be very happy with what they achieved. They are beginning to show real maturity and are now able to start raising the bar in terms of their own ambitions.

They showed against Gloucester that they can live life right on the edge and yet play smart and disciplined rugby. They are in a very good place at the moment.

The display after half-time in not only containing all those attacks but not giving away penalties was crucial. It must have killed Gloucester to put so much into it and come away with nothing.

In fairness, they had given themselves a chance with that try before half-time, but as those minutes ticked on after the restart it was becoming obvious there would be only one winner.

I thought the Munster pack was outstanding. You still have Paulie leading the way and with Damien Varley mopping stuff on the ground, you had the likes of Peter O'Mahony and Paulie using the choke tackle to great affect.

Leinster's success in recent years has been built around that ability to hold teams when they are in full flow -- and then come away and hit them with big scores. Munster had around twice as many tackles as Gloucester and that shows how much pressure the hosts applied, but at the end of it all Rob Penney's men came away with a win by more than double scores.

It's hard to believe that Gloucester didn't get a single score in all of the second half. That will give Munster a lot of hope and that's the sort of form they will need to show if they are to push on.

But with two players available for nearly every position, this is a good time for Munster and you can see why people are starting to think big again. There is still a fair bit to do and if anyone needs a reminder then just look at what happened when they played Edinburgh in the opening game of the pool.

The Scots had been on a terrible run of form and yet turned Munster over in Murrayfield. That left us with a long road to travel and no margin for error. It is to everyone's credit, then, that a quarter-final place is already wrapped up before the return match on Sunday.

The real incentive now, of course, is to get a home draw. I don't think guys will be spending too much time working out what needs to be done. It's simple really: get a win, preferably with a bonus point, and see if that is enough.

You would wreck your head trying to work it out beforehand and with a few games to follow later on Sunday it is just impossible to know what may be required.

I think it was the great Liverpool manager Bob Paisley who once said to a young striker, "if you are in the box and unsure what to do with it, just stick the ball in the back of the net and we will discuss the options afterwards."

That is the approach Munster will take on Sunday.

Mind you, the fact that Edinburgh still have a place in the Amlin to play for will send alarm bells off all over the place -- but Munster are in a really good place at the moment and that place should get even better by Sunday evening.

Irish Independent

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