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‘There is so much potential for growth there’ – Dave Kilcoyne on Munster's growing pains

Munster – 21 Zebre – 5


Zebre crossing: Munster’s Niall Scannell celebrates after scoring his side’s third try on Saturday PIARAS Ó MÍDHEACH/SPORTSFILE

Zebre crossing: Munster’s Niall Scannell celebrates after scoring his side’s third try on Saturday PIARAS Ó MÍDHEACH/SPORTSFILE

Zebre crossing: Munster’s Niall Scannell celebrates after scoring his side’s third try on Saturday PIARAS Ó MÍDHEACH/SPORTSFILE

Graham Rowntree was asked post match in Musgrave Park about the possible impact of the Emerging Ireland tour to South Africa.

Munster had nine players suited and booted and whipped away to Bloemfontein for a ready-up competition to tick a few boxes. An open door then for the coach to use this as an excuse for Munster’s inaccuracy and shortcomings and inability to fire a shot in the second half for the second week running?

Not a chance. Munster are not in the business of biting the hand that feeds and the IRFU are holding that particular spoon. So Rowntree got his positive hat on and went upbeat.

“Yeah, it was good for them,” he said of the Bloemfontein boys. “They all played well, didn’t they? They get to work with the guys and the coaches in a different environment.”

The interesting thing was the degree of cohesion and teamwork achieved by the Emerging Ireland side against keen and physical opposition playing in their comfy altitude home.

Munster in Musgrave Park, meanwhile, looked just like they have done over the first two rounds of the URC: disjointed and poor and short on the basic skills of catching and passing.

If, for example, you were to juxtapose the Munster who missed out on a bonus point against Zebre with the Munster who had one sorted after 44 minutes in Parc y Scarlets last season – coincidentally the anniversary of that game is next week – against Scarlets, you’d have wondered how there is such a gulf.

Rowntree points to all the different bits and pieces they are trying to put together in training under this new coaching set-up.

Maybe those shifts and readjustments are at the root of the current malaise? “No,” Rowntree insisted. “It’s coincidental.”

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But three tries up at half-time against a side who are so hopelessly out of touch at the lineout, and who had lost their starting centres inside roughly half an hour, surely looks like an open goal with bonus point painted across the bar?

“Yes, it does. It does,” he said. “And then we go and lose two of our own lineouts through our own inaccuracy when we’d got them camped in their own 22. And we need to look at that as well.”

So much to look at. Loose head Dave Kilcoyne, looking fitter than ever, was also frustrated by the poor return in contact.

“We needed to win more collisions,” he said. “That affected the handling errors. I personally thought we’d put a bonus on after half-time.”

That, of course, would require getting over the line, and for the second week running that was a barren period for Munster.

So the improvement at the maul, the quicker speed to reload and get into attack shape, the higher tempo and greater intensity at training are, so far, failing to produce the rhythm and harmony required on match day.

“It felt like an NFL game out there with all these water breaks,” Kilcoyne said of the tedium of a game that went on and on but not with any continuity.

Referee AJ Jacobs is relatively new to this and, with respect, he might try and hurry things along a bit on his next date in the URC.

Kilcoyne bounces into training every day and says it’s a great environment, and that it will all come good.

“I think there’s real areas of growth that we can capitalise on,” he said. “It’s just going to take a little bit of time. There’s so much potential for growth.”

Certainly, there seemed to be lots of potential for a big win when Munster mauled and grunted their way into a handy lead in the first half, keeping the Musgrave crowd of 6,485 onside.

Niall Scannell got over for two and Keynan Knox got the other as Zebre paid a high price for their calamitous lineout.

Yet somehow they got the only score of the second half. The usual whipping boys of this competition gave the crowd pause for thought: if they could skate over with a dubious enough try for Lorenzo Pani, maybe they could pick up where they left off in rounds one and two by piling on high scores through mad adventure?

No, it didn’t go that far. But at least there was game time for a clatter of young lads to advance their cases in red.

“It’s excellent, just excellent for their development,” Rowntree said.

“The senior guys in this club are very good at pulling those guys along, not singling them out in training but pulling them with them. That’s one thing that’s coming through quickly and what I’m looking to force through, is the youth. We’ve got a good academy and I’m looking at putting these guys through as quickly as possible.”

Munster – M Haley; C Philips, M Fekitoa, D Goggin (R Scannell 60), P Campbell; B Healy (J Carbery 50), C Casey (C Murray 50); D Kilcoyne (J Loughman 50), N Scannell (S Buckley 50), K Knox (S Archer 47); F Wycherley (E Edogbo 58,), T Beirne 5; J O’Donoghue, J O’Sullivan (R Quinn 74), P O’Mahony (capt).

Zebre – R Kriel; P Bruno, E Cronje (F Smith 13; N Casilo 37 HIA), E Lucchin (capt) (L Pani 31), J Trulla; T Eden, A Fusco; J Pitinari (L Rizzoli 53), G Ribaldi (L Bigi ht), I Neculai (M Nocera 53); G Venditti (27-37), L Krumov; D Ruggeri, I Fox-Matamua (J Furno 59), MJ Pelser (J Bianchi ht)

Ref – AJ Jacobs (SA)

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