Munster Rugby focus is clear; their season will be defined by the double header with Saracens in the Heineken Champions Cup. The personnel on duty indicated as much but it represented a big opportunity for those in a Munster Rugby jersey to impress and provide food for thought for management. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the performance.
It was a baptism of fire for Ben Healy. The promising half-back was up against a strong Edinburgh Rugby and they put the pressure early. An early fumble was ominous signs but I liked how the Tipperary youngster embraced the fixture and imposed his will on the game.
There was no sense of fear from Healy, constantly looking to create hitting the line, looking to create with ball in hand and his kicking off the tee was perfect. No fuss, got all with the kick and his long range penalty in the second half was a beautiful strike.
A performance which Ben Healy can looked back with pride. He could have easily felt sorry for himself after the opening exchanges but his contribution to the game thereafter was solid. Exciting prospect; excited to see how the player develops in the coming months.
Shane Daly as well impressed for me last night. Full back berth, was competent under the high ball and looked for line breaks throughout. Daly has been a real positive for Munster Rugby this season; his pace and ability to identify attacking opportunities were seen last night.
Edinburgh win but performance needs to improve
Edinburgh Rugby given their European Challenge Cup commitments were able to hit this fixture with a pretty much first team squad. Their kicking game for the first quarter controlled the tempo and caused massive issues to the Munster Rugby wings to manage.
Richard Cockerill will be the first person to admit that Edinburgh Rugby given the personnel on duty should have been better but the Sau try was a superbly created opportunity; sucked Munster Rugby defenders in and then a deft diagonal kick exposing Wootton out wide for Sau to score.
Pad Gate: Any repercussions?
The pulling up of the pads from the posts in the opening period by Edinburgh Rugby was pretty dreadful, even more so the officiating of the situation. Mitrea was absolutely clueless as to what to do on this scenario; dangerous play but zero action.
Mitrea was emphasizing to Edinburgh Rugby that he would act time and time again (pen count continuing to rise) but no yellow card in sight.
The pads incident is a player welfare issue; the powers that be need to examine this incident and provide clear directives because for such an experience match official, Mitrea was clueless.
Munster Rugby Focus
The positives for Munster Rugby :
The ability to compete against an opposition who were at near full strength. Tommy O’Donnell was a standout in the back row along with cameos from O’Donoghue and Botha who again got through massive ball carrying workload.
Tommy O’Donnell for me must start against Saracens; we are going to need mobility yet aggression at the breakdown to negate the likes of Jackson Wray.
O’Donnell’s form was excellent last night and I think one of the players last night, he is the one that is stating a case for starting inclusion next week.
We have discussed Ben Healy. The attacking running lines particularly in the second quarter were impressive; stretched Edinburgh Rugby defensively and yards were gained. Kicks in behind from the likes of Arnold had the desired effect.
The squad personnel had precious few game minutes before this fixture and there were individual lapses that emphasized this. Squad selection on duty worked tirelessly for each other.
The basics will be refined and improve upon with this playing group. This group of players will be required during the 6 Nations stint of this tournament. Invaluable experience last night. Disappointing result but admirable performance from the group given the circumstances.
The negatives for Munster Rugby:
The restarts have been inconsistent this season and it reared its head with this squad last night. Darren O’Shea looked to take responsibility of the restart (kudos where it is due) but there were fluffed restarts surrendering easy field position to the visitors in that third quarter. It built pressure against Munster Rugby and if finally tolled with the Sau try.
Box kicking and the chase were not in synchronization but you could associate that with the lack of game minutes that the squad on duty have had.
Saracens loom large
The lead up has already started. The focus already set for next week and Thomond Park. Given Saracen’s road trip win over Bath Rugby last night, I suspect that Mark McCall will name a mixture of players who impressed so far in the Heineken Champions Cup and the marquee players just integrated into the squad.
Munster Rugby are fully aware that the Racing 92 performance needs to be improved upon significantly. Can the half backs provide the game tempo and control required? Can the set piece withstand the pressure which is going to be exerted by Saracens? Can our back three manage the aerial assault early?
Nothing to focus the mind than a trip from the reigning Heineken Champions Cup kingpins. Thomond Park atmosphere will be amazing again. Keeping positive. Keeping the faith! Come on Munster!