Not the perfect performance but the ideal springboard into Europe.
That was the way Conor Murray saw Munster’s victory over Connacht ahead of the trip to Gloucester but the province will wait anxiously for today’s medical reports on a number of frontline stars as they begin preparations today for Friday night’s must-win Heineken Champions Cup pool game at Kingsholm.
A third successive week of physically intense interprovincial derby action in the PRO14 saw Munster emerge with a second victory in a row but the 31-24 bonus-point win in Galway on Saturday night was not without its costs.
Johann van Graan’s side lost tighthead prop John Ryan to a Head Injury Assessment on the stroke of half-time while the head coach also reported knocks for captain Peter O’Mahony and all five of his starting outside backs Keith Earls, Andrew Conway, Alex Wootton, Chris Farrell, and double try-scorer Dan Goggin.
None were considered serious in the immediate aftermath, with van Graan forced to chuckle at the length of the potential injury list before adding: “But we’ll reassess on Monday and then do our planning from there.”
It took a little of the gloss of Munster’s best performance of the season, one which also caught the eye of Ireland scrum-half Conor Murray, who made a rare appearance off the bench, with Alby Mathewson an impressive starter during his 50 minutes in the No.9 jersey.
“Yeah, impressed with what I saw,” Murray said.
“It can be a tough game against Connacht because they do attack a lot. They like to counter-attack, they’re dangerous.
“Never the perfect game but a really good performance to build into Europe.” Murray added: “Those three interpros over Christmas, and rotations in the squad, a lot of lads who are close to the team get a bit of gametime and who knows what will happen next week with
selection, with injuries or whatever, so I think the Christmas period was really beneficial for our squad.”
Head coach van Graan agreed with his scrum-half but declined to take too much encouragement from Munster’s move to the top of the PRO14 Conference A following Glasgow’s defeat at Benetton Rugby in Treviso.
“It just shows though, they’ve lost one or two close ones and dropped a few points and we’ve dropped points and I think the good thing is there’s a lot of competition, especially our pool. I saw Ospreys won again and I think the next one is Cardiff against Glasgow if I’m, not mistaken so this will go right down to the wire until that last game of the season, and then we play Connacht again at home.
“So really happy that we are currently in first place but we’ll pretty quickly look past that and go into Gloucester because that’s where we want to focus on next and we have to get a few points next Friday night if we want to stay in Europe.”