What to make of Munster after two rounds of the Guinness Pro 14? There is promise aplenty but the side have not being seriously tested by either Benetton Rugby or the Cheetahs as Munster stood out to a comfortable 51-18 victory over the South Africans. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action.
All about the boy Alex Wootton
The game will be remembered for the performance of Alex Wootton. The former Northampton Saints recruit has taken his opportunity superbly this season to lay down a berth in the first team squad. His four tries yesterday will have not done his cause any harm at all, clinical try scoring execution throughout and his overall game stood out. When you consider Scannell, Earls, Zebo, O’Mahoney are all yet to start for Munster yet this season, the back line depth looks decent. Dan Goggins will come back into the equation later in the year. Exciting times.
Game over at half-time
This game was pretty much over at half-time as Munster’s pack flexed their muscles at will to setup the platform to create endless attacking opportunities. The pack were instrumental in the opening try of the contest. The impressive Jack O’Donoghue providing composure to pass to the perfectly timed run of Tommy O’Donnell who was not going to be stopped from three meters out. It was the indication of further angst for the Cheetahs who were second best in contact, kick game albeit their passing game at times was easy on the eye.
Wootton was benefiting from excellent work inside where Farrell, Taute and Conway when hitting the line were creating space out wide. His second try of the afternoon emphasized this point. Great work from Keatley, Taute and Sweetnam to create the space out wide for Wootton who had plenty to do but his pace was enough to score. It was a superb score, created with excellent work at the breakdown, incisive passing.
As expected, the South African teams have struggled for cohesion early doors in this tournament. I expect both the Cheetahs and Southern Kings to be different propositions in this tournament particularly at home as the season progresses. The Currie Cup competition is in progress; the South African internationals are away from the club.
The Cheetahs showed their passing game is going to be a massive weapon as the season progresses; their wonderful try after the interval evidence of this. Great hands and the finish from William Small-Smith was sublime. The kicking game needs to improve; backs need to adapt to NH kicking game, too many times Cheetah back field players were exposed by Munster kicks deep to the corners.
The Cheetahs and Southern Kings personally are good additions for the league; next weekend will be key in how the South African rugby public in Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth receive the league. This was a humbling experience for the Cheetahs but required to reset the team’s focus for the rest of the tournament. Tough road schedule start. Hope for better next weekend.
Hard one to quantify right now. The ease at which Munster Rugby have beaten Benetton Rugby and The Cheetahs suggests that form is good within the camp; players like season are getting adequate game minutes. Liam O’Connor and Sean O’Connor again were impressive after good cameos last weekend. The prop forward looks an interesting prospect; his scrummaging was on point and had the Cheetahs in all sorts of trouble early doors; instrumental in the O’Donnell opening try.
It was a first chance for many to see Munster center Chris Farrell and the former Grenoble player did not disappoint with an excellent outing on his Thomond Park debut. Abrasive in ball carrying, tenacious in tackle and defensive play but the attribute to the fore was his ability to pick a line break and use his speed and pace to create. His try showed off these talents superbly, identified a gap in the Cheetahs defense inside and used his pace to run unopposed for a try. Farrell looks an astute piece of business from Munster; good age profile, all the attributes and the player who will continue to improve throughout his Munster tenure.
After seeing off their first two Guinness Pro 14 opponents with ease, it is fair to say that Munster should be evaluated more after the trip to the Ospreys next weekend. A fixture which is always hard fought and competitive, the hosts will be keen to get back on track after a 31-10 loss away to Glasgow Warriors this weekend. Looking forward to the contest as the first two games have being one way traffic fixtures. If Munster can defeat the Ospreys, then it will be a superb start to the season for Erasmus’ side.