Peter O’Mahony has pledged to clean up his act on the disciplinary front and lead by example as Munster bid to reach the Champions Cup quarter-finals at Thomond Park on Sunday.
Munster’s penalty count reached double figures in Paris last weekend as they lost their penultimate Pool 4 game to Racing 92 at the U Arena, two late acts of breakdown inaccuracy allowing the home side to overturn a 30-28 deficit in the final six minutes to win 34-30.
It continued a theme that has seen Johann van Graan’s side fall foul of referees in recent weeks, red and yellow cards costing them on New Year’s Day in their Guinness PRO14 derby defeat at Ulster.
Captain O’Mahony took personal responsibility for last Sunday’s concession of three points just before half-time which undid his side’s good work to come from 10-0 down to get within three points. The flanker conceded a ruck penalty near to halfway but the dissent shown to referee Matthew Carley saw Munster marched back a further 10 metres and into goal-kicking range for Maxime Machenaud, allowing Racing to take a 13-7 lead into the interval.
O’Mahony agreed discipline was an ongoing issue that needed to be addressed with a much-win pool finale against Castres approaching on Sunday.
“Eleven-all (in penalties) at the weekend,” he said. “It is something I am working to get down. Discipline is something I drive but then when I go and not roll away and then an extra 10 metres, it’s not good for me and it’s not good for my team-mates to see that as well.
“That is something I have got to address myself personally and then it has got to filter back down through the team. It’s something I drive hard and continue to do so, but it’s not ideal when I am after giving one away as well.”
O’Mahony recognises that against a team like Castres, flying high in the French Top14 and coming off a resounding 39-0 thumping of Leicester in Europe last weekend, a penalty conceded in the wrong area at an inopportune moment could prove costly, yet again.
“We experienced them a couple of months ago in France (escaping with a draw in round one). Their set-piece is quality. They have a quality lineout and maul, their scrum is massive to their game. They are obviously a team that momentum is a huge factor to the game and it is something that is difficult to stop when they get it.
“The lads will do a lot of video analysis and we know how difficult it is going to be. We are a smaller side and we struggle sometimes with momentum stopping. It’s something we are going to have to address and really put our heads down for this weekend.
“We always go out with the ambition to play rugby and to play ball. Lots of developments dictate what you can and can’t do. We’ll see later in the week what way the weather is, but we will go out on Sunday to play rugby and you have seen the ability of our forwards and backs have to play the game and to play rugby and play ball. Every week we go out and try and take opportunities no matter what the weather. That is what we will try and do on Sunday.”
Munster remain in control of their destiny in Pool 4, leading with 16 points, ahead of Racing by a point and Castres by five with one game remaining. Yet victory in Paris last Sunday could have secured a record 17th European quarter-final a week early and now O’Mahony finds himself in the familiar territory of his predecessors in red, left with a last-day mission to get the job done as was the case on so many famous Thomond Park occasions.
“There’s been so many of them,” he said with a smile. “We don’t like to do things in any way handy.
“Every time you get out of your pool in Europe it’s a huge feat. It’s a massive competition and the games are getting so big and the teams, the quality is incredible. The fact we’ve put ourselves in the position to be in with a shout, it’s in our hands now to go to another quarter-final, it’s something we’re proud of.
“We’ve got to go and win at the weekend and it’s going to be massively difficult because they’re such a good side but you’d bite someone’s hand off for it.”
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