Sunday 18 March 2018

Solid effort in defence and attack was pleasing to see

James Cronin, Munster, is tackled by Adam Hughes, left, and Phil Price, Newport Gwent Dragons Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
James Cronin, Munster, is tackled by Adam Hughes, left, and Phil Price, Newport Gwent Dragons Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Ian Costello

Last weekend's win over Dragons at Thomond Park was one of those games that you eventually get the reward late on for all of the hard work you put in before that.

It took us until the final minutes to get the fourth try when James Cronin crashed over for us but all of the effort we showed before that meant it was worth waiting for and well deserved.

The five-point haul is most welcome at this stage of the season and it has us back up into the top five as a result. Although we have a game in hand it won't stand for anything if we don't secure the points and that is the battle ahead in looking to close the gap further.

There was plenty to be happy about from the win last weekend, but what pleased us most was that we were able to transfer what we had worked on on the training field into a match-day situation.

In the build up we expected Dragons to come with a strong pick-and-go game and it was important that we were able to absorb the punches. In the end I was really pleased with the way we held our shape in defence throughout. Considering that they just about edged the possession battle, it shows the work that we had to do on the hind foot. The 165 team tackles made indicates a busy day.

It was a very solid performance in attack and defence. We created a lot of opportunities, but we had to absorb a lot and the lads fronted up physically.

The fact that we kept them scoreless - and to just five points in 80 minutes - tells us we had our work done. And while it was disappointing to concede a try, we held solid under so many other periods of pressure from them.

We were delighted with the impact we received off the bench too, and all of the lads left their mark on the game when introduced. All in all, it was a good, efficient performance from the 23.

We got some great news early this week that Jack O'Donoghue had been called up to the Ireland squad for the remaining two Six Nations games and it's a deserved accolade for him.

In recent weeks he has been back playing at No 6 and No 8, and lining out in familiar surroundings has boosted his game. Last weekend for instance he made 19 tackles - only Billy Holland's 20 topped him - but his all-round form has been great.

Earlier this season we asked him to play on the openside, in an unfamiliar role, and while it was a big ask, he is definitely a more rounded player as a result. That experience will stand to him down the line and hopefully he gets the chance to show what he can do for Ireland in the coming weeks.

The Pro12 standings are really starting to look interesting and with just five or six rounds to go and seven or eight teams chasing the top six spots, there is still a huge amount up for grabs.

For us we have just one weekend without a game as we prepare for our game in hand against Cardiff and after that we face Zebre before away games against Leinster and Connacht.

We know exactly how critical these next few games are and we are keen to be as well prepared as we can be because we know that the teams we face will be hungry for points. If every day went like last week we'd take that.

Irish Independent

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