After a poor showing by Munster on Saturday night where Connacht outclassed them in Thomond Park, Diarmuid Ryan reviews the five main talking points.
Dear Munster, welcome to the second tier in Irish Rugby, population you.
It was a dour, sterile performance at home, riddled with poor game management and lackluster execution. If they keep playing like that, they’ll have to lock the gates of Thomond Park to keep the fans in. Thomond Park is not the fortress it once was. Teams no longer fear playing Munster at home. Lots of the better teams now ‘fancy’ the challenge of a trip to Limerick. This means that they will come to play. Connacht came to Munster and ‘out-Munster-ed’ them.
Ian Keatley is not up to scratch
Ian Keatley, the hard working warrior that he is, is simply not consistent enough to play at 10. He drops in and out of matches and has poor game management at times.
To be fair, he’s is not a bad centre or full-back when he steps in there as he has a tremendous burst over the first 10 metres, allowing him to shoot through the gap.
Last Saturday though he was completely anonymous. Whether by tactic or by choice, he did not kick enough in a very windy first half for field position or just in behind the Connacht back line. He also slipped off too many first up tackles. I counted four or five occasions when he simply was not at home.
Connacht, if they can manage the squad with injuries etc., will finish in the play off places. Keep in mind the 6 Nations will seriously deplete the so called bigger clubs such as Glasgow, Ospreys, and Leinster. Connacht will be the least affected of the teams by this. They had brilliant attitude, running lines, breakdown competitiveness and set piece. The New Zealand coaching influence is there for all to see. Munster and Leinster should take note. Connacht are no longer the whipping boys of Ireland.
Munster’s stale game plan
The all Irish (and ex-Munster players) coaching ticket for Munster is a busted flush. They are without a plan that does not include sticking it up the jumper and bashing teams around the corner. Teams that cope with that old fashioned ‘Munster way’ completely nullify them in attack.
The first try against the Westerners was a set piece 5-metre line-out maul and drive. The second try was a Christmas present from the referee in the form of a penalty try, undeservedly in this writer’s opinion. To be fair, they started to play a bit like Connacht in the second half, off loading in the tackle etc, but Connacht had too much passion and guile to surrender the lead, even when they were reduced to 14 men.
The wind advantage that Connacht had in the second half meant a spill from Munster was followed by a kick sending them back deep into their own half, having to build momentum again.
CJ Stander is making a serious case for an Ireland place
CJ Stander, the best ‘Irish’ player on the pitch, is awesome to look at, and is really growing as captain also. Jamie Heaslip had another poor showing on Friday. If Heaslip keeps playing like that he’ll make Joe Schmidt’s choice very easy. The Leinster number 8 has a few months to turn it around.
Stander, on the other hand, could even play at centre considering his pace and mobility. He has a tremendous engine and he burrows for the ball like a badger. CJ, for me, is one of the best players in the Pro12 at the moment. He’d better learn the words of Ireland’s Call!
Diarmuid Ryan, Pundit Arena.