Friday 23 February 2018

Players are flourishing in new regime

Bleyendaal and Ryan lead way as Erasmus and his improving Red Army prepare for battle

Jacques Niebar, pictured with Rassie Erasmus, will be delighted with Munster’s performance. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Jacques Niebar, pictured with Rassie Erasmus, will be delighted with Munster’s performance. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

David Wallace

There were plenty of positives again in the win over Dragons. The forwards as a unit are really going from strength to strength and becoming a dominant force. Once again John Ryan was immense and thoroughly deserved his man of the match award.

I spoke about him last week, and his performance justified everything I said. He stepped up again. His scrums were not only solid but they were dominant and it's a testament to how he, Niall Scannell and James Cronin are performing in the set-piece.

Niall Scannel during training last week
Niall Scannel during training last week

Around the park, Ryan is leading the team with some great carries, and defensively he is really strong, along with his breakdown capabilities.

Munster deserved their win, although Dragons stayed in the game with that Hallam Amos intercept try. But Munster were the standard-bearers and they took the game to the Welsh.


Amos was the only guy who was threatening to break that strong Munster defence, and he got that against the run of play. Other than that, Munster held all the cards.

Defensively, Jacques Nienaber will have been delighted with the performance. Over the last few years we haven't seen the dominant Munster , and that is definitely back now.

It's hard to be dominant with one-off low tacklers. Munster seem to be hunting in packs and now you have two or three tacklers going in at once and that makes a world of difference to the speed at which the opposition can recycle the ball, if they can at all.

Munster look very comfortable when other teams have the ball and the opposing defence can seem uncomfortable because they are just getting smashed time and again.

It was a shame that Keith Earls had to cry off. It would have been great to see him back out on the pitch again.

And it did leave Munster with a very inexperienced midfield pairing. Dan Goggin and Collie O'Shea did well together but the lack of preparation came against them.

There was a bit of pressure on them organisationally, but like the rest of the team they put their hands to the pump and that was crucial to Munster's win.

If Munster do get on the front foot they can do so much damage. Against Dragons they only went for one or two trick-plays, and that one where Cian Bohane touched down was brilliantly executed. Darren Sweetnam was almost left red-faced but the movement coming up to that was fantastic.

At half-back, Conor Murray's class is constant, and it's really good to see Tyler Bleyendaal performing whenever he gets the chance now.

That was their first game together at half-back, but despite a tendency to kick away possession in attack, I thought they coped very well, and the former New Zealand U-20 captain just grows into his pivot role with every game.

Some of his cross-field kicks were excellent against Dragons and nearly led to tries.

His defence is another huge asset to have especially in that area. He patrols and sets the tempo of the line like an extra back-row and that's invaluable in the modern game.

Added to that his tackling is dominant, and he has shown glimpses of his running threat and that is an extra string to the bow of an already dangerous Munster attacking unit.

It's great to see that he hasn't lost his confidence after all his injury problems.


But this weekend the most important match-up will be in the scrum where Ryan et al will find it tougher against the likes of WP Nel, Ross Ford and Rory Sutherland.

Edinburgh have had a poor start to the season but their class is undoubted, especially in their pack where there is plenty of strength in depth. They may be going through a bit of a transitional phase but that's sometimes when teams can surprise you.

They are never an easy game - I remember Anthony Foley's first game in charge of Munster was in Thomond Park against Edinburgh. Munster lost that day, and I'm sure that one will still be gnawing away at them.

Irish Independent

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