Not good. Not good at all. You’ll recall the caution urged in these pages last week ahead of Munster’s European Cup opener against greenhorns Montauban.
And, despite my not knowing a whole lot about the French visitors, such suspicions
proved well-founded as, despite being understrength, they provided enormous bang for their buck.
Stephen Jones may have offered another condescending assessment of Munster’s
chances (“If he gets injured, forget it”), but it was difficult not to recall those words as the
new dad of two got the champions out of jail.
By the way, did you hear Ronan and Jessica O’Gara were considering ‘Garry’ and ‘Owen’ as names if two boys had come their way?
Just kidding, but it’s one of the many stories that did the rounds at a well-attended but not full to capacity Thomond Park. Well, the fans had to find something to entertain themselves with on another sodden but unexpectedly fraught Limerick night.
Sale’s bonus point win in Clermont
Auvergne 24 hours later has greatly reduced Munster’s margin for error.
They travel to Manchester next Sunday knowing that the minimum return of a bonus point is now an absolute must – otherwise, we’ll be talking about ‘miracle matches’ in the spring.
Declan Kidney was renowned for his prudential pre-match comments, especially against perceived soft touches.
But in a new departure, his successor Tony McGahan vocally aired his hopes for a bonus point, never mind a win, ahead of Friday’s match. But the coach was clearly irked when reminded of a question which, it has to be said, moreorless directed him to such a reply.
“The question was asked do you think you can get five points,” he said.
“Normally, I said if we played to our ability, five points would be there on offer. It’s a completely different answer.”
The errors evident against Glasgow the previous Saturday, many of them, it must be stressed, arising from an eagerness to be positive, were more starkly in evidence against the French.
In stark contrast to previous ERC outings when the team has tried to be expansive, not executed such an approach too well and reverted to pick and drive, Munster opted not to go back to the tried, tested and uglier approach.
There are times when winning rugby means playing the percentages, keeping it tight, working through your pods and eroding the opposing front five in the process.
And when it became evident that feeding the backs ball after ball wasn’t yielding too many dividends, Munster should have opted for the Plan B which has historically proven its Plan A. Such an approach will surely be redeployed at Edgelely Park next Sunday lunchtime.
Eight handling errors in the first 30 minutes next Sunday, such as they mustered against Montauban and the ERC holders will be in big trouble. Lightning surely won’t strike twice. Will it?
Kieran Walsh adds: Chaos was the order of the night as some Waterford fans (along with supporters travelling from Cork) endured a four hour trip to Limerick, less than 70 miles away, in case you forgot. In fact, so bad were some of the delays that fans gave up, turned their cars around and headed for home. Roadworks at Limerick Junction and outside Limerick itself caused enormous tailbacks and while passing, or should one write, crawling through Tipperary Town, one wondered where the Gardaí were.
The expanded stadium itself is undoubtedly magnificent, but there were even some teething problems there too as some electronic turnstiles proved inoperable, we later learned. For atmosphere, it topped many an international match.
As for the result? Failure to land a bonus point already leaves Munster priced at 7-1 to retain their title. Winning the pool is now of course more difficult, but hardly impossible.