A few days after Munster Rugby went down with their boots on in a 33-40 loss to a Toulouse side who produced an outstanding second half in Thomond Park. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the performance.
Given the results for the Guinness Pro14 sides in this competition, the Munster Rugby performance was probably a standout moment for the league in this competition last weekend given the heavy losses for Edinburgh Rugby and Scarlets who shipped 113 points collectively.
Munster Rugby reaction seen to full effect
The previous weekend saw a Munster Rugby performance which failed to hit any heights. Leinster Rugby untroubled in defensive duties. The team were backed into a corner, there was a performance, punches were thrown.
The warm sunny conditions in Thomond Park was perfect for running rugby. Munster Rugby produced some lovely moves. de Allende prominent with some standout ball carries in open play. Keith Earls clinical in the red zone.
Toulouse were rattled in that opening period. The half time came perhaps a little too soon for Munster Rugby as Toulouse regrouped and their third quarter start was do or die.
Toulouse apply the pressure and tries followed
Jerome Kaino admitted as much in the postgame interviews. They needed to start strong and make something happen. The Matthis try was superbly worked.
Ntamack’s kick in behind exposing Carbery and Matthis used his strength to score. Key score and Toulouse’s confidence started to soar.
Munster Rugby responded courtesy of Gavin Coombes driving over but Toulouse were warming to the task here and their front five started to dominate as Munster Rugby started to lose the collisons, gain line wins for the visitors.
Marchand crashing over with a dominant set of phases. Toulouse were now in the driving seat and as much as Munster Rugby would try, the momentum of the game had shifted.
Toulouse half back produce key contributions
Toulouse’s half backs now given a little more time to orchestrate and the results were devastating. The third try was all about Dupont. He orchestrated the move early and his running line was immaculate. 26-30.
Munster Rugby were under the pump, pressure applied and pen concessions were spotted by Wayne Barnes. The margin extended out to seven points. Ntamack slotted home the pen and then Dupont pounced on a loose ball to close the game out. 26-40.
Toulouse in that final quarter suffocated Munster Rugby. The line breaks that Munster Rugby enjoyed in the opening period were extinguished and the kicking game from Munster Rugby was given the treatment it deserved, it was not accurate enough and Toulouse’s back three became prominent with some standout runs.
Munster Rugby fight to the end
Munster Rugby went to the end. Coombes crashing over as Earls’ setup exhilarated again. 33-40. It was a superb cup fixture but ultimately class and squad depth of Toulouse shone through. Toulouse soaked up the pressure and then gave it back with interest. The game ebbed and flowed.
Where now for Munster Rugby?
Rainbow Cup now to focus on and surely management will look to blood the young players who have impressed this season into the starting lineup.
Dupont’s running lines in open play adds such a dynamic for Toulouse and France in attacking play. Munster Rugby should be learning from this player.
Munster Rugby’s attacking play is caught in transition right now at scrum-half. Murray will orchestrate and box kick vs. Casey who will probe the fringes.
The old Munster Rugby vs. new Munster Rugby style is encapsulated by these two players so the question for head management is what style will fit the side long term?
Munster Rugby can have little complaints on the result. Folks will argue on the officiating calls in that second half but the best team won this tie.
Toulouse’s sheer physicality and force coming off the bench was immense. Munster Rugby could not live with it and it is something that the side do not see much of during Guinness Pro14 fixtures week in week out.
The end of season review will ensue in due course for Munster Rugby. Toulouse are a side on the up, they have the talent but whether they win this European Cup is another question given their defensive cameo last weekend.
Munster Rugby have seen first hand in the last two weeks the defensive and attacking improvements required. The end of season review and improvements from this review is paramount.
The words identity, game plan and brutally honest player assessment will be required. Loyal players may need to give way for the younger guns. Can Salanoa, Knox, Barron, Wycherley really make an impact in the front row selection thoughts?
If we are left in the same personnel persevering in the front row, then the side are in serious trouble. This is only one unit where discussions and player development will need to be discussed.
For Munster Rugby, the young guns need to come to the party even more now and provide overwhelming evidence that they are ready to step up for the side in these marquee games.
Munster Rugby management with their selections have their reservations right now. The young squad players should take Gavin Coombes’ performance as inspiration. The player has shone through, leadership immense on the pitch.
Munster Rugby though can take solace from the performance last weekend. Players continued to standup and fight until the final whistle but that is only going to get you so far.
The skill set, the conditioning (fitness and physicality) need to be upped again. The marquee teams are getting bigger, faster, increasing their skill set and evolving their attacking and defensive game plans further.
Daunting challenge but one that Munster Rugby need to completely embrace to get into position to challenge and get over the line.