Munster suffered their first defeat of the 2018/19 Guinness PRO14 season on Friday night when they fell to a 25-10 defeat to the Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun.
Although it’s only two games into the season, the manner of the defeat will be what concerns Munster supporters. Here we discuss some of the key talking points from the game.
At the end of the first half, the Glasgow Warriors had 71% possession and 85% territory. Essentially, if Munster got their hands on the ball, they were merely attempting to clear their own lines.
This surrendering of possession and territory was the result of poor discipline and a malfunctioning set piece. In fact, it was almost a carbon-copy of the first half Munster played in their final preseason game against the Exeter Chiefs where the English side dominated the ball for the first half.
The southern province conceded 22 points in that opening period and as we have seen from this side in the past, when they give up that kind of lead (semi-final against Racing 92 last season), it’s too much of a task to claw back.
The only positive in this regard is the impact Fineen Wycherley, Stephen Archer and Rhys Marshall made to the set piece, especially the scrum, as Munster at least restored parity in this area in the second-half.
No team wants to concede 25 points in a game but on reflection, Munster’s defence was excellent when you consider the amount of pressure they were under in the first half. They repelled numerous multi-phase attacks from their hosts. A mistake from JJ Hanrahan and a superb grubber kick to Stuart Hogg were two tries the southern province could do little about.
However, when you are under the pump for so long in a game, the cracks are going to emerge in some way and they did on Friday night.
The main positive takeaway from the Scotstoun performance was the impact which Munster’s replacements produced in the second half. Joey Carbery brought some energy to Munster’s attack with his ability to run flat to the gain line, he also filled in at scrum-half on a few occasions to keep the tempo high when Munster were on the front foot.
Munster’s front-row replacements; Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer and James Cronin added some real aggression to Munster’s play and they were even able to win a scrum penalty, something which was inconceivable after the opening 40-minute performance.
Tadhg Beirne also earned his first appearance in red and his presence was felt as he smashed into rucks and also showed some lovely feet to make a line-break.
Munster sides of old, when they enter the ‘Red Zone’ i.e. 5-10 m from the opponent’s try line, you would almost always expect them to come away with points.
However, for all the good work the southern province did in the second half on Friday night, unforced errors such as knock-ons and conceding turnovers at crucial times killed any momentum that they had generated.
You could put it down to early season rustiness but Munster will need to be a lot more clinical and ruthless if they are to have a successful season.
Johann van Graan
Munster’s South-African head coach has always come across as a positive and a ‘glass half full’ type of guy, even in losses. However, his post-match interview with Eir Sport after last night’s loss showed just how frustrated he was with the performance as he grimaced through the interview.
Perhaps some tough-love is needed going forward and Monday’s review session should be uncomfortable viewing for the Munster players.