Sunday 17 February 2019

Reds will need buckets and shovels for trip to Sandy Park

Referee Ben Whitehouse. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Referee Ben Whitehouse. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The coaches at Exeter Chiefs and Coventry Wasps were surely shocked by the derby fervour.

Munster versus Leinster could easily have passed for the first of the Autumn Internationals. Leinster play Wasps on Friday and Munster take on Exeter, the English champions, on Saturday next. Tough games both, but especially so for Munster who travel to Sandy Park, where the tide is always coming at you.

Conor Murray is still out injured and Jonathan Sexton was rested in the stands. He was only dying to get at his father's people.

The absentees are very much in the frame for World Player of the Year but the standard of play by both sides was of the finest kind.

Ferocious The hand-to-hand combat was ferocious. This game was played at a relentless pace, without a tea break, and the skill-sets were excellently executed in the no-fly zone, against all-day rush defences .

But Exeter were excellent for 40 or so minutes in their game against Bath. They were awful in the first half but then they turned on that type of All Black power-hosing that would wash the paint off a tank.

The Exeter coach Rob Baxter is the best in England. Ireland should shortlist him if Joe goes after the World Cup.

Rob is cute. Exeter fooled the referee and several of his many officials. Rob referenced an old Warren Gatland playbook from his time at Wasps. The Exeter outside defenders moved to the Bath side the very second the scrum-half passed the ball. The Chiefs were waiting in an outlandish, fiendish tomahawk-brandishing (offside) ambush. Sorry about the overuse of alliteration and assonance in the last sentence but I gave the most of Saturday night listening to two strolling poets, whose every sentence was a simile.

I was even going to write the Chiefs should have been sent for an early shower against Bath but thankfully common sense prevailed.

Munster should have a word. With the ref that is. There's no point in trying to stop American poets once they get rightly going. Did you know rump rhymes with Trump?

Referee Whitehouse didn't quite reach Trumpian levels of irrationality on Saturday night at the Aviva, but he did make some marginal calls which altered the course of the game .

Keith Earls suffered twice. He was binned and Munster were penalised with a penalty try for what should have been no more than a contribution to the poor box fine. Then poor Keith went over for what could have been a breakaway try.

I did notice a Munster player holding on to the ankle of a Leinster player like a wife who is begging the husband not to leave her. But there was no chance of catching Earls.

Devin Toner rode his bike into a Munster player with no hands before the James Lowe try. No one noticed.

Lowe is the best buy since America bought Alaska from the Russians for $7.2 million dollars back in 1867, but he did his best to raise a row.

He was constantly talking to the Munster players. It was hardly, "What way were the spuds by ye this year lads?" or, "Is there 'ere a swallow left in Thomondgate?"

The referee was kindly, to Leinster at scrum time. He got no great help from his quorum but collective responsibility does not apply .

If I wasn't a Munster man, I wouldn't begrudge Leinster this big win in a game that flew by, like all great games do.

One of the many advantages of not being a politician or a Pope is one is allowed to admit a mistake. Last week I decided because the World Cup was only a year away that players would ease up. But there was no let-up.

The Leinster defence was courageous and smart. This culture of structured defensive defiance is now part of the Leinster way.

The province are still the best collective in Europe. Ross Byrne was deadly accurate. He will almost definitely appear in the green jersey at some stage during the Autumn Internationals, most of which take place in November. Ross has a way to go but he is calm and one senses Leinster chose to keep him.

Recycle Joey Carbery was mostly excellent. What impressed me most was his ability to recycle when he was tackled. Joey can make scores from broken-down ball like no other ten. He is a salvage hunter and a Greengrass.

Jonathan Sexton and Ronan O'Gara took around 20 caps to reach where they needed to be. And Jack Carty is in the form of his life.

The good news is that Munster bossed the scrums against Leinster. Our new scrum-half Alby Mathewson is on a four-month deal. I would keep him for good.

Leinster should beat Wasps at home and a bonus point would be a bonus.

Munster and Exeter have the two best packs in Europe. The battle of Sandy Park will be won by the best at shovels and buckets.

Munster might just give the travelling fans a lovely day out at the seaside, just when we thought the beach days were over for another year.

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