Thomond Park on a Saturday night with home fans back in the stadium. All good vibes on opening night as Munster Rugby opened their league campaign with a good 42-17 over the Sharks. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects.
Sharks will improve
The Sharks in this opening fixture showed moments of potential which suggests that this side will be a tough proposition for any side who travel to Pretoria when their international players are back.
Sharks started the game here quite brightly; controlled tempo and possession early but significantly did not put points on the board. This will be a good lesson for the Sharks to learn for the rest of the season.
They will be disappointed with the opening try; a loose pass latched upon by Simon Zebo on the side-line to score his first try of the night. A try out of nothing.
The pack after starting well then went backwards. A yellow card issued; the game was out of the reach at half-time.
The standout try for the Sharks was from Penxe with ten minutes to go; lovely hands but the sheer pace and power of the winger to score was impressive. There is potential in this Sharks side.
Munster Rugby show potential in their attacking game
An opening fixture performance which had misfires (expected) but there were encouraging signs with ball in hand.
Craig Casey firing off ball from the rucks at breakneck speed. Joey Carbery in the pocket orchestrating and allowing his back three to get front foot ball.
The aerial kicking game used at the right times to secure field position. The back three looked sharp all night with ball in hand. Zebo may have scored twice but Andrew Conway was a menace for the Sharks throughout.
The set piece was decent, tried a few trick plays at lineout time with no result but it showed ingenuity and the belief in the players to try new things during the contest. It bodes well for the rest of the season.
The final try saw some superb hands and a lovely kick in behind from Dan Goggins to set Zebo on his way for his second try.
The image of Thomas Ahern neck in neck with Simon Zebo to touchdown tells you all you need to know about the youngster, a second row with a fabulous athletic acumen. Ahern for me is a star in the making.
What do Munster Rugby need to work on?
Stormers come to Limerick at the weekend. Stormers come off the back of a narrow away loss to Benetton Rugby, a game where they defended superbly until the final minutes.
Nel and Pretorius scored tries early but Stormers lost the territory battle and it proved decisive. Abrasive pack with good ball carriers in the back line, Munster Rugby will need to step up from a defensive unit perspective.
Fourteen missed tackles on opening night will be punished by better teams. 86% tackle success was fine from eighty-four tackles. Sharks went through one hundred and twenty tackles during the eighty minutes, only missing nine of those.
The pen count was one way traffic. Munster Rugby conceded only seven as Sharks started to increase the pen count from the second quarter on and finished up with seventeen penalties conceded.
The video analysis for Munster Rugby at the start of the week was a nice mix of good work and work to be improved upon. A good season opener to focus the minds.
Early Team Thoughts
It will be interesting if Johann van Graan looks to give other squad members game time to impress this weekend against the Stormers. It was a theme early last season where squad members got adequate game time.
Will we see the likes of Loughman, Knox, Barron, Ahern get game time? Healy, and Nash will be eager for game time as well.
Each squad member will want to feel that they are contributing to the success of the team so suspect that there will be a couple of starting line-up changes. Snyman could feature but suspect that this will be another cameo off the bench.