Graham Rowntree: ‘This is not going to derail us. We have got to be very good next week’
Munster coach Graham Rowntree says a fifth home defeat of the season will not derail his side’s campaign, but they now face into a colossal challenge to succeed on their travels.
Their bonus-point defeat to Glasgow Warriors means Munster must overturn a six-point gap to Warriors or Ulster to play at home in the play-offs. With just two games remaining – both in South Africa – against the Sharks and Stormers, it will be very difficult to turn that deficit around.
With Saturday’s away Champions Cup against Sharks and a possible semi-final in France, Munster must buck the trend of recent seasons and win some crunch, end-of-season games away from Thomond Park.
“We’ll have a look at it. I’m not going to sugar-coat things. They know it, it’s an honest group and they’re hurting. Cold light of day, it’s a few simple things we’ve got to do better. We’ve got a massive game next week,” said Rowntree.
Despite such a poor first half, this game could have been far more devastating for Munster.
They deservedly trailed 28-0 after a below-average first half, only for Calvin Nash to rescue a try bonus point for his side two minutes from time. Gavin Coombes, Craig Casey and Josh Wycherley had also crossed in that second half but a miracle comeback never looked likely.
“The here and now tonight, I’ll keep it very simple as I did at half-time. It was just collision-wise, we just weren’t there,” admitted Rowntree.
“It is a defining moment for us. The key for me is that nothing really changes. When I look back at the week, the warm-up, our messaging, there has been so much good work.
“This is not going to derail us. We have got to be very good next week to beat this team.”
Munster fly to South Africa tomorrow and the coach confirmed Grand Slam winners Peter O’Mahony and Conor Murray, and the injured Antoine Frisch, will be back to boost his squad. Keith Earls remains unavailable.
After such a lacklustre display it may seem that Munster’s hopes are over for the season, but they created a raft of chances in Limerick. They scored four tries in the second half, didn’t kick a single penalty at the posts and will be dismayed by handling errors in attack that cost them in the first half.
But it is in defence that the biggest improvement is required.
“We’ll have a look at all those bits. As I say, factually, we’re better than that. We don’t suddenly become that . . . our defence has been pretty incredible all season,” said Rowntree.
“We have to dust ourselves down, get on a plane on Tuesday night. We’ll have a look at what we can do better. I’m not hiding away from the performance, that wasn’t us.”