Munster 28 Gloucester 17
The 4,299 Munster supporters at Thomond Park on Saturday evening left the stadium on a high, eagerly looking forward to more of the same after seeing off Gloucester in the Seat Series friendly.
The game itself was of little significance in the long term but it demonstrated the Munster panel is currently in a very healthy state and there is certain to be massive competition for places this season.
"You have to turn up at every training session and every match knowing there are five or six guys at the moment looking to take the jersey off you, but that brings out the best in us, because we know if we don’t perform, there are plenty of people who will put their hand up and be able to jump into the jersey no problem," said team captain and No 8 James Coughlan.
None of the big guns took part, but 33 Munstermen were involved over 80 minutes and all looked eager to remind coach Rob Penney of what they were capable of.
New recruit Andrew Conway flew down the right wing on a couple of occasions before getting on the end of a perfect cross-kick by Ian Keatley to scorch over for the first of Munster’s four tries. The fact the two Leinstermen, who may well be crucial to the team’s season, should have looked so sharp on a miserably wet evening was of particular satisfaction for Penney.
"We knew last year that Keats had a lot of potential and so we’re very pleased with him and JJ [Hanrahan], two young 10s with big shoes to fill," said the Kiwi. "They don’t want to be wallowing in the shadows. They want to step out in the sunlight. Conditions like today are a nightmare for nines and 10s and they all contributed well."
Conway suffered a dead leg in crossing for his try and Penney said it could be anything between one and three weeks before he is fully fit again. The coach played down the promise displayed by the former Blackrock schools star but was quietly pleased with his debut, and even more so with the form displayed by Laulala.
"I was very happy with him," said Penney. "He had a terrific second half to our campaign last year and he has just taken it up another notch. I suspect this was as good as we could have expected. It was our first time dealing with the new scrum laws. It’s hard to gauge just yet because we’re still feeling our way but I thought the delivery of the ball, especially in the first half, was superb and on the back of that our attack at times I thought was pretty classy."
However, he also dismissed any notion that the game held any significance in the long term as the teams return to Thomond Park for Heineken Cup action on October 19.
"I think we’re in a reasonable position for numbers and quality," Penney said. "The key is to develop depth across the park and it was lovely to be able to give an opportunity to guys from the club environment in Munster like Mikey Kelleher, Willie Ryan, Danny Kenny, Niall Kenneally, Paddy Ryan that we want to have a look at.
"There are going to be some very tough decisions as the season unfolds.
"There were a number of guys who weren’t even considered for today’s game who have come back into the frame. Next week [Munster play London Irish in another Seat Series friendly at Musgrave Park on Friday] we will be refining the group for the games coming up against Edinburgh, Zebre and Treviso."
Scorers for Munster: Tries: A Conway, D Hurley, JJ Hanrahan, CJ Stander; Cons: I Keatley 2, Hanrahan 2.
Scorers for Gloucester: Tries: J Cowen, K Britton, S Reynolds; Con: B Burns.
MUNSTER: D Hurley; A Conway, C Laulala, I Dinneen, J Murphy; I Keatley, D Williams; J Cronin, M Sherry, J Ryan, D O’Callaghan, B Holland, CJ Stander, N Cotter, S Archer. Replacements: P Ryan, I Nagle, D Foley, D Kenny, W Ryan, S Buckley, B O’Mahony, C Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, J Holland, C Bohane, M Kelleher, N Kenneally, R O’Mahony.
GLOUCESTER: S Reynolds; C Sharples, T Molenaar, R Mills, J Simpson-Daniel; J Bentley, J Cowan; D Murphy, D George, Y Thomas; E Stooke, W James; M Cox, A Hazell (capt), G Evans.
Replacements: All used.