Sport Rugby

Wednesday 21 March 2018

Murray a major doubt for rematch as Penney urges Reds to banish errors for trip to 'rabid dogs'

Munster's Conor Murray during squad training
Munster's Conor Murray during squad training
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

WITH Conor Murray unlikely to recover from his knee injury for Saturday's return fixture in Perpignan, Munster head coach Rob Penney will be hoping his prognosis on Ian Keatley's dead leg is correct.

Penney all but ruled out Lions scrum-half Murray for the trip to France after he suffered a knee injury in an 18th-minute defensive ruck during yesterday's comprehensive win over the Catalans.

Keatley was forced off early in the second half with what the coach described as a "corked calf", but the coach was more positive on his recovery.

Cathal Sheridan and JJ Hanrahan are players of great promise, but sending them out together at the Stade Aime Giral would be far from ideal for a team with much to do if they want to reach the quarter-finals.

Already without Mike Sherry, Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo amongst others for the journey to northern Catalonia, the loss of Murray will have a big impact on the province's efforts, despite their five-try win against Perpignan yesterday.

"It's massive when you lose someone of his calibre at any point in the season and we'll have our fingers crossed that it's not as bad (as feared)," Penney said of Murray.

The scrum-half was seen on the touchline with his knee in a brace and using crutches for support.

With a six-day turnaround, it doesn't look good.

His injury was a black mark on an otherwise good day for the province as they ran in five tries against a depleted but game Perpignan side who had chances but couldn't take them.

There was enough to suggest that, with the aid of their renowned home support at their intimidating home ground, they will be a different proposition next Saturday, and Penney is expecting a step up and a reaction all at once.

"Completely, chalk and cheese," he said. "Jeez, they'll be a bit ratty about today, they'll be getting a little bit of a hard time from their home media and they'll be rabid dogs."

Penney was happy with elements of his team's performance, but remained frustrated by aspects.

The line-out was shaky, the passing at times loose and they gave Perpignan chances.

"At times, it was right up there, but we're still hamstrung to a degree," the former Canterbury coach said.

"We get teams on the rack and then, all of a sudden, there's a poor decision made. But we're a lot better than we were 12 months ago, there's improvement made and I thought overall we were terrific.

"Some components were maybe a nine (out of 10) and some were a four. That's indicative of some of the things we've faced this year.

"There were some of the sequences of plays we put together that really put them under the pump.

"Some of the fours and fives (out of 10) were around the decision-making, skill errors, passes going behind people – when we have two- or three-man overlaps and the ball hits the deck.

"Little frustrations like that. This team is much better than that but for some reason they creep in."

Captain Peter O'Mahony took a more critical view of a performance in which Shannon's Duncan Casey made his provincial debut.

"We have to take a good look at our performance," he said.

"There are things we weren't happy with so I think the next 48 hours is going to be very important for us to get a good lead up before we head away for next weekend.

"Our line-out didn't function well, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. And some of our defending was average.

"Probably those two areas will be the two that we'll have a good look at this week," he added.

One area that Munster dominated was the ruck, where they regularly isolated Perpignan ball carriers at key moments.

"Sean Dougall was magnificent, James Coughlan magnificent, Peter O'Mahony... having those three operating as efficiently as they did just denied access at times when we were under a bit of pressure, but also put pressure on their breakdown," Penney said.

"That was an area that was critical to us and those three had particular influence."

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport