Wednesday 23 January 2019

Time for us to finish the job and take the Pro12 honours

Munster head coach Anthony Foley, left, technical advisor Mick O'Driscoll, centre, and scrum coach Jerry Flannery in conversation
Munster head coach Anthony Foley, left, technical advisor Mick O'Driscoll, centre, and scrum coach Jerry Flannery in conversation

Jerry Flannery

We've been in cup rugby mode now for a few weeks and last week was crunch time for us in Thomond Park.

It was great to see that the players really stood up for us with the likes of CJ Stander, Stephen Archer and Paddy Butler all having exceptional games.

Overall, it was a good performance, although we kept Ospreys in the game by coughing up some easy tries and not taking points that were on offer. But we created opportunities for ourselves and that was the most important thing.

A team needs to be able to create those moments so that they can put points on the board and we did that at times against Ospreys last weekend.

Obviously going forward we need to be more clinical in taking all points on offer and not be so loose in our defence.

We gave them the chance to pull it back at the end of the game and it was tough to watch when we saw their prop making a final break.

It was like watching in slow motion from the sidelines, especially after witnessing the previous knock-on. We thought it was knocked on, but we could be sure from that distance, and thankfully referee Nigel Owens called it and made the correct decision.

In defence we had individual errors that cost us a few points; we would score and then concede an easy score ourselves and against good sides like Ospreys and Glasgow you can't afford to let them back in by presenting them with chances.

We can't give points away so easily and we need to make the opposition fight for what they get.

Yes, the pressure would have been off if we had taken the points on offer, and for Ian (Keatley) he wouldn't have been happy with his performance from the tee but we all know what he is capable of. He has got us to this stage of the season and we wouldn't question his ability.

Tomorrow we will be looking for everyone to stand up and deliver and I believe we have a number of leaders across the squad who will take charge. We saw that again last week when Denis Hurley took over the captaincy role with Peter O'Mahony injured in the second half.

I was involved when Denis first broke in to the team as full-back against Gloucester in the quarter-final of the European Cup, and I've seen him mature as a player and grow into a really important leader within our squad.

He is certainly a guy that players respect and look up to and he is a really good role model for everyone that is coming through at Munster. He has put all this hard work into switching positions and undoubtedly it is paying off with him being one of our stand-out performers this season.

Another one of those leaders is without question Paul O'Connell. He continues to be the standard-setter, and I'd have to agree with what CJ said about him at the weekend. He's a man's man. He's a leader. He's the guy you look to, to set the standard in everything. And if this is to be his swansong he wouldn't want any distractions, with everyone just focused on the job at hand tomorrow in Kingspan.

It is important that we don't get carried away tomorrow; we need to play the game and not the occasion. It has been four years since we won silverware and it's a first final for most of this squad. We are up against a Glasgow side that were at this stage last season and for them to be on top of the league this year just shows how consistent their performances are. They are very comfortable playing an unstructured game.

In the pack, look at Josh Strauss - he gets plenty of go-forward ball and is a main point of attack for them. Then there's Leone Nakarawa, he is one of the highest offloaders in the league and we can't allow him to get his hands free in the tackle. Whenever he carries he draws in a number of extra players and is difficult to stop.

Their quality continues across the back-line with Finn Russell putting in big performances this season, Niko Matawalu as dangerous as ever, and Stuart Hogg leading from the back.

It's going to be a huge battle and we just need to be mindful of our own performance and focus on that. Our season ends in Belfast tomorrow and we need to give it our all for the full 80.

Irish Independent

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