It wasn’t pretty – in fact, it was bowling shoe ugly for the most part – but Munster’s yoinked at the death win away to Glasgow Warriors is one of the most significant victories of the season to date. Munster just don’t win in Scotstoun all that much, and a lot of the time we’ve come away on the end of some fairly bruising defeats up here in Boo Town, so this win is really saying something.
It’s not saying that much, given the hodge-podge nature of Glasgow’s team and their questionable depth in the immediate aftermath of the Test Window, but it’s still feels like a real statement of intent. Before hand, I’d have easily settled for a losing bonus point and no injuries so any kind of win is like finding €20 in an old pair of jeans.
But that’s not to say it was perfect – far from it in fact – but it did have a number of elite hallmarks that you look for in a developing squad. Top quality defence for the most part? Check. Rock solid scrummaging? Check. Calmness after going behind? Check.
It was hugely encouraging, yet there’s so much to be improved on.
If we’re being honest, the second half the worst we’ve played since the Cardiff home game. A lot of that came down a nervous second half performance from our halfbacks and our fullback – we’ll get to them in a minute.
In general, our play in the second half was quite poor. We kicked a lot, and badly, without ever really having a purpose in mind other than to set up for another defensive phase. We handed a lot of initiative over to Glasgow and it was only our superb defensive organisation that prevented them from taking advantage. That being said, we still conceded two tries and nobody will enjoy looking at the footage of those on Monday morning – missed tackles everywhere from Taute, Archer, Williams and then Keatley.
Outside those slips, Glasgow didn’t really trouble the Munster line all that much. They played like a side that had “where’s your fucking pride?” drilled into them for the week, and they looked worse off for it.
To be honest, I wondered how Glasgow would react in this game given how gutted they would have been to lose that match earlier in the season. Glasgow were blown out of it in Thomond, mentally and physically, and they played like a side eager to correct the record in the physical stakes. Defeats like that one in Thomond Park can scar a team and, if they’re not careful, the machismo of “revenge” can drag you into places where you’re not comfortable.
Glasgow went to the one out fringe carries quite a bit and came off second best for the most part. They’re not that kind of team, and it showed. For all their venom, it was the kind of physical stuff that a Munster side will usually eat up all day long.
Anger seemed to make them play Munster’s game, and they lost this game as a result.
The Forgotten Arm
In boxing, the “forgotten arm” is the punch you don’t see coming and Munster’s winning score certainly looked that way. Munster had kicked so much ball away in the second half that when we put some dynamic phases together off a lineout maul, Glasgow seemed a little shellshocked.
Keatley’s drop goal was a lovely little driller, even if he had a penalty advantage with a shot right in front of the posts as a back up. As KO blows come, it was traditional, let’s say that. Ugly wins on the road just aren’t the same without a manky drop goal as a cherry on top. It happened in Ulster, and now here. You could get used to it.
From a Munster perspective, this game is a serious tonic. It showed all the hallmarks of dog and belief that characterised Munster teams of the past.
As long as no one picked up any injuries, this will be as perfect a preparation for Leicester as you could get. Top of the Pro12 on Christmas Day? Given where we were last April, I’ll take that all day long and all night too.
Let’s get to the ratings.
Tommy O’Donnell, Duncan Williams, Te Aihe Toma, Jack O’Donoghue, Ronan O’Mahony, Niall Scannell, Billy Holland, Dave Kilcoyne, Jaco Taute, Andrew Conway, Donnacha Ryan, Robin Copeland, Thomas Du Toit
It was a tough game, for certain, and a lot of guys played a level below their best without wildly underperforming. There’s too many to go into individually, but I will mention a few notables.
I felt Tommy O’Donnell was forcing it quite a bit here, and didn’t really reach the heights he brought earlier in the season. Jack O’Donoghue made his tackles and took some decent lineout ball but he didn’t really take the game to Glasgow as maybe he would have liked.
I thought Billy Holland played a bit below his usual reliable best too, and seemed to run a fussy enough lineout in the third quarter.
Andrew Conway took his try well and made some smashing hits in the line but kicked extremely aimlessly in the second half, to almost maddening proportions.
Everyone else was mostly average, without any overtly positive or negative contributions.
Jean Kleyn, Peter O’Mahony, Darren Sweetnam, Rory Scannell, John Ryan, Ian Keatley
The win was founded on the work put about by these lads. Let’s get to the details;
Ian Keatley had a huge part in the Munster win, and when we looked back on the game, he had a ton of individual plus points – too many to mark him as a Reasonably Pleased Wally – but his game management in the second half was pretty poor.
When we needed to kick the corners, he was chipping away possession in our orange zone and kicking long loopy balls to Tommy Seymour. But at the same time, he kicked the winner, put the ball on a plate for the Conway try, made a great last ditch tackle and kicked two penalties. I’ll take that. Get those apple drops and jelly babies into you, Keats.
Jean Kleyn played like the Cloverfield monster in the first half. Absolutely monstrous stuff. He was a secure jumper at the front on our ball and a pest in the middle on theirs. At one point, he waded through a Glasgow maul like they were mannequins. This lad is a huge talent, in every conceivable way.
Darren Sweetnam is a freak. He missed one kick he should have claimed, but beyond that he was superb. Again. The one handed catch will get a lot of reps – and rightly so – but his play for the other 79:58 seconds was just as good. A superstar in waiting, and he just keeps getting better.
Rory Scannell had a good game. He’s just so solid in everything he does, be it attack or defence. He tackled his hole off here, and has a habit of nailing guys and stopping them stone dead, regardless of their size. He made a few excellent kicks too, and looked a real leader.
John Ryan had a bull of a game, the latest in a long line. He was rock solid in the scrum, and a real mobile presence around the pitch. He’s got an 80 minute engine in him, which is staggering given the amount of work he goes through. Really putting his hand up for further Irish honours.
Peter O’Mahony had a good game, highlighted by his compartmentalised work in the lineout and in the tight exchanges. I worried for O’Mahony on Scotstoun’s articficial surface, and it seems Munster did too as the captain avoided carrying when possible. He excelled in the lineout, especially on Glasgow’s ball. He disrupted them constantly, and had two clean steals in shortened lineouts. He’s getting back to his best, and will be a vital presence in the coming weeks.
When you consider that we have Conor Murray, Tyler Bleyendaal, CJ Stander, Simon Zebo and Keith Earls to come back into this side for the Tigers game, you realise how promising this season is beginning to look. But promising is all it is until it’s done. Winning this game was a good start, but there’s a long road left to run for this Munster side. As opening sprints go, winning in Scotstoun is about as good as it gets, and the belief we’ll take from this will be valuable.
Let’s see how far we can push it, eh?