This was the most dominant 3 point win that we’ve had all season.
Make no mistake, Glasgow showed up to scrap here. They rocked up to Musgrave Park almost fully loaded – they were only missing three men that started against Sarries last weekend – and badly in need of a result. They played like it too. This was exactly the kind of physical, narky, tough as a €2 steak game that you’d expect from what has become the biggest rivalry in the Pro12 outside of local derbies.
That’s four games against Glasgow – a serious, serious side – and four wins. Whatever way you slice it, that’s impressive.
When Munster have beaten Glasgow this season, the manner of the win has been broadly the same outside of the Axel game in October – Munster stopped Glasgow’s pack on the gain line and then soaked up their attacks down 12 and 13.
It’s the long and short of what happened. Glasgow kept the ball well enough – often for 10+ phases – but they never really threatened Munster in ways that stressed the defence too badly. It wasn’t easy, far from it, but it was more comfortable than I think many expected. Munster’s defence was smothering at times, to the point where we felt more comfortable without the ball for large periods of the second half.
Glasgow seemed to overdo midfield carrying, often running into red walls with no respite. Finn Russell has to take a lot of the heat for this from a Glasgow perspective. Munster seem to have his patterns timed up after three intense games. To illustrate how many times Glasgow went to the well in midfield, Taute and Saili had 35 tackles between them. It paints a familiar picture of attacking frustration for Glasgow when they’ve faced red jerseys this season.
Come to mention it, attacking frustration is something that Munster will hear all about this week.
Make ‘Em Pay
Munster were a good 15 points better than Glasgow here. That this didn’t reflect on the scoreboard was down to some individual errors, the referee’s whistle and injury disruption at 10. Rory Scannell found himself slotting in at 10 for a lot longer than what he would have hoped and that hurt our work with ball in hand. Scannell’s a really good inside centre but doesn’t have the control or creativity of Bleyendaal at flyhalf.
We lacked incision with our passing once the ball went beyond 10 too, and some of the passing from Taute and Saili left a lot to be desired. We made some good inroads up front and made some decent dents in Glasgow’s line but the accuracy wasn’t there when it mattered. Nothing personified this more than O’Mahony’s error in grounding the ball in the second half. That will stick in his craw for some time and won’t have done his knockout rugby prospects any favours.
It’s something that will need a bit of work going forward, especially in a scenario when we find ourselves without a specialist 10.
But that’s for another day. At this time of the year, it’s kill or be killed. On Saturday, Munster had a chance to kill a rival’s season stone dead and they did it. Glasgow wanted it, they stacked themselves for it, and went away with another loss.
Munster’s gutsy, aggressive defence won this one and with it, put a home semi final within reach. You could get used to it.
James Cronin, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Jack O’Donoghue, Rory Scannell, Jaco Taute, Francis Saili, Darren Sweetnam, Ronan O’Mahony, Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan
You don’t beat Glasgow without a lot of guys playing decently, and that’s certainly how these guys fared. Here’s a few of the guys that stood out;
Rhys Marshall had a quiet game by his recent standards in the loose exchanges, with a few bad passes and offloads to nobody. He did the job in the tight though, throwing a flawless lineout all evening.
Jack O’Donoghue had a very quiet game – something that’s become a trend this year. It happens with young forwards, especially when they’re carriers. His experiences this year should stand to him though, as he’s still very, very young. He didn’t really have a massive impact on this game, but made a few good carries and some decent ruck interventions. A reliable lineout option.
Jaco Taute and Francis Saili didn’t have much going for them with ball in hand – a symptom of the disruption at 10 – but hit everything that came down their channel in defence.
Rory Scannell came on in the 8th minute and soldiered away in a position that he’s growing away from. He kicked an awful lot, especially in the second half, to mixed success. Scannell’s still very much our #1 inside centre and his distribution was missed there. He deserves massive credit for coming in, ploughing through and kicking the winner from a tough angle.
Stephen Archer didn’t do much in the loose but handled Gordon Reid comfortably enough at scrum time. A decent day out for him and a performance he needed. James Cronin, too, was very solid.
Darren Sweetnam had a quiet game by his standards and never really got going. A few errors in the air, a few missed tackles and some nice cuts were the story of the game for him.
Ronan O’Mahony blotted his copybook with a poor knock on when he’d done the hard work in getting over the line. Other than that, he was quite good, especially in defence but scoring tries is your bread and butter as a winger. He’ll be disappointed with that.
Overall though, pretty decent. Enjoy those bullseyes.
Billy Holland, Donnacha Ryan, Peter O’Mahony, Dave O’Callaghan, Jean Deysel, Conor Oliver, Duncan Williams, Andrew Conway
Billy Holland and Dave O’Callaghan had two very good games in the engine room. Holland was Mr Reliable, as per usual, and Dave O’Callaghan worked like a dog. Donnacha Ryan and Peter O’Mahony came on and helped grind out the win in the tight exchanges. Quality.
Duncan Williams had another quality game – quick service, mostly accurate passing and a reliable box kicking. He’s playing with real confidence. Disappointed all the ditch hurlers waiting for their “Told You So” moment and long may it continue.
Andrew Conway won’t be happy with the flub that led to Hogg’s try and a skittish last 10 minutes, but other than that he was excellent. Strong aerial work, good running lines and always a dangerous presence.
Jean Deysel. What can you say? An impressive debut. He’s very much an impact player, but what an impact he has. His early carrying was like something out of the Avengers. He carries the ball like you’d dream it as a kid and tackles like a concrete bollard tackles a road bike. He dropped off in the second quarter, but showed his value.
Conor Oliver had a breakout performance. Man of the match on the night and deservedly so. At times, you’d wonder how many Conor Olivers there was out there. He was everywhere. He was Munster’s best forward carrier while also nailing twelve tackles. All while being a constant menace at the breakdown, with two powerful jackals a real highlight. He even managed a line out take.
This was the kind of performance that will make the general Munster fan base sit up and take notice of this young man’s skills. When you consider the lads he was up against (all capped internationals) this was a very strong display of what he can do.