Munster tactics work to perfection

MUNSTER A stretched their unbeaten run to three games and provided themselves with a perfect boost ahead of their British and Irish Cup clash against Coventry on November 21.

Munster stuck manfully to their task and produced killer blows at crucial stages of a keenly contested struggle.

Given that two former Munster skippers, Mick Galwey (manager) and Anthony Foley (coach), manned the sidelines alongside Ian Costello, it was no surprise that the home pack played a big role in the victory.

But it was more than that; this well-balanced Munster side mixed their tactics to near perfection, and their ability to change from the simple but very effective pick and drive game was graphically emphasised by the creation of a brilliant 32nd minute try for full back Danny Riordan.

That score marked the turning point, with Munster refusing to take a backward step afterwards. They scored a second try before the break and powered on through the second-half despite living dangerously when reduced to 14 men for ten minutes.

For debutant Munster prop Christy Condon, introduced as a 60th minute replacement, the game brought a mixture of emotions. He was shown yellow 40 seconds after his arrival for an infringement at a ruck but then rounded off a fine afternoon’s work when scoring the last try of the game two minutes from the end.

Foley was delighted with the performance. He said: “The boys have been given a licence to express themselves and I thought they played very well. They played it tight when they needed to and showed ambition when the opportunities arose. That was a good Ulster side but we were backing ourselves and that’s what we need to do at this level.”

Munster enjoyed a fruitful start with Declan Cusack kicking the lead penalty after six minutes but were fortunate to survive an Ulster attack spearheaded by a midfield break from Ian Whitten, whose pass to Timoci Nagusa was knocked on by the winger.

Whitten provided a further threat but Ulster had to be satisfied with an equalising penalty from Niall O’Connor after 17 minutes before Cusack missed an instant opportunity to restore the lead from 35 metres.

Munster paid the price for that miss after 23 minutes when another Ulster counter-attack ended with Whitten being sent in for a corner flag try by Tamaiti Horua.

But the home side struck back through Cusack’s boot and then nearly scored again when Denis Hurley was muscled into touch a couple of feet from the line. Hurley was back in action quickly to set up a ruck from which Munster launched a wide out assault before Riordan skipped through for the try that Cusack converted to secure a 13-8 advantage. It got better before the break with the powerful work from a well-drilled Munster pack paying dividends — Damian Varley surging in for a try that gave Cusack an easy target to secure a 12 points lead at the interval.

The opening strike of the second half also fell to Munster with Cusack nailing another penalty; later on, having gathered a fortuitous bounce of a ball in midfield, a further assault yielded a try for Condon and Felix Jones added the points to secure the 30-8 lead.

Foley admitted that Munster’s knowledge of Coventry was limited, but that he would be banking on his charges to do well. “We just have to keep our feet on the ground and make sure that the best game we play this season is the next one,” he said.

MUNSTER A: D Riordan; F Jones,T Gleeson, S Deasy, D Hurley; D Cusack, P Rowley; D Kilcoyne, D Varley, S Archer; I Nagle, D Foley; B Holland, J Coughlan (captain), T. O’Donnell.

Replacements: C Murray for Rowley (51), P. O’Mahony for O’Donnell (60), C. Condon (60, y/c 61). E. Maloney for Deasy (74), M. Sherry for Varley (76), R.O’Mahony for Riordan, K. Essex for Coughlan (both 77). Temporary, Kilcoyne for Holland (61-71).

ULSTER RAVENS: J Smith, T Nagusa, J Sheils, I Whitten, T Seymour, N O’Connor, C Willis, P McAllister, D Fitzpatrick, A Macklin, N McComb (y/c 71), R Caldwell (captain), C Napier, T Horua, D Pollock.

Replacements: A. Birch for Pollock (26, injured), L. Marshall for Shiels (51), I. Porter for Willis, C. Cochrane for Nagus (both 68), Ryan Fisher for McAllister (75), J. Burns for Horua (76) Justin Fitzpatrick for McComb (81)

Referee: A. Rogan (IRFU)

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