Wednesday 21 February 2018

Still lots to achieve as we focus on the Pro12

Munster players (l-r) Gerhard van den Heever, Dave Foley and Mark Chisholm in training ahead of this weekend’s Pro 12 game against Zebre. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE
Munster players (l-r) Gerhard van den Heever, Dave Foley and Mark Chisholm in training ahead of this weekend’s Pro 12 game against Zebre. Picture credit: Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Jerry Flannery

It's funny when you leave a game with a taste of dissatisfaction after picking up four tries and five points. And while we started really well in Treviso, the general feeling was that we were a bit off the mark at times and that we didn't follow some good early work with a ruthless performance.

We felt that we needed to kick on another step from what we had done in the last few weeks. There is no point in being up and down, then up and then down again.

At the end everyone was a bit disappointed. We got the maximum rewards, but ultimately we didn't hit the heights we wanted regularly enough for our liking.

It was the kind of game where it was very tough to identify a few lads that stood out - other than Ronan O'Mahony, who was excellent. He worked really hard, took his tries really well and was a real danger for us throughout.

Francis Saili definitely looks like he is starting to grow into the team now. At times he sparkled with ball in hand, his quick 22 drop-out and break showed his nose for a gap, and he seems right at home in that shirt now.

And that's really promising for us for the weeks to come: he is such a dangerous player.

On the down side I thought we kicked aimlessly at times, and once again we came out the wrong side of the penalty count. It was eight-two at half-time and I didn't think we deserved to be that far behind on the penalty tally.


A few of the calls in the scrum, lineout and breakdown, I thought could have gone the other way. But sometimes that can happen when you are away from home.

Those conceded at the scrum were particularly annoying. As a basic rule we go into games trying to scrummage legally. We did very well on our own ball and came out with a 100pc return from that, but the referee's calls frequently went against us on the Treviso put-in.

We felt they were trying to get an early shove in there and were pretty clever in how they did that, but it's something we need to work on.

In the Pro12 we have the second best scrum on our ball in the competition; in Europe we are joint fourth on our own ball, so that tells us we are doing an awful lot right at the set-piece.

But still, we have conceded penalties on opposition ball even though we are trying to do everything legally. Sometimes you see the scrum set, the opposition will chase their feet, get some momentum and then the ball goes in.

That shouldn't be happening according to the letter of the law. Maybe the referees give the benefit of the doubt to the team with the put-in, but it is really frustrating.

At times in Treviso our lineout went really well, and the two tries we scored off first phase show what sort of a platform it can be for us. But we also had a few lost possessions there - like everything, we still have work to do there.

We're on the road to Italy again this week to face Zebre and these kind of games in international weeks are really hard to predict.

We can only guess what players will be made available to Zebre from the Italian squad - we'll be in the same boat from the Ireland camp for much of the week too - so all we can focus on is hitting our required standards in this game.

We'll have plenty of work done on what to expect from Zebre with regards to the set-piece and some of their set-ups, but we have by and large tried to work on our own game this week.

We'll miss a few lads for sure, but we think we will be ready for whatever 23 they end up with.

It is nice to be going back into the Pro12 after what was a tough time in the Champions Cup. Mathematically there was a chance for us to go through even up to the last week, but deep down we knew that wasn't going to happen.

We are pretty happy with where we are sitting in the league, and after a couple of weeks of regaining some pride and rebuilding our reputation, we feel we are in good shape heading into the rest of the season.

This is the last game of this 16-week batch and I'm sure lads will switch off after this one. It's been difficult for everyone: preparing for games, playing and then going straight into it again, but if we put in a performance and get a win tomorrow in Italy, we'll all have earned a few days off.

Irish Independent

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