Foley: Munster have room to improve

It wasn’t perfect, but Munster’s overall display at Musgrave Park on Saturday was a whole lot better than the previous two weeks and good enough to reward them with four RaboDirect Pro12 points to keep them on course for a semi-final spot.

There were flaky moments and young Glasgow star Stuart Hogg helped himself to a hat-trick of tries, the last in injury time to claim a losing bonus point that could yet be crucial.

It made the win bittersweet for forwards coach Anthony Foley.

“At one end of the pitch we were going for a try to make it a 5-0 victory [bonus point] but we end up 3-0 instead. When you’re in these situations you try to gather as many points as possible. It’s an opportunity missed but we’re happy to get the win that keeps us in this competition.”

There were a lot more positives than negatives and Foley was delighted the way Munster played with ball in hand.

“The way we attacked, we kept fluidity in our game. Maybe we should have kicked a bit more than we did because Glasgow had 14 fellas across the pitch and we tried to keep playing; we came away from the game with three tries but it could have been a whole lot more for us.”

On a night when Donncha O’Callaghan celebrated his 200th Munster cap with a storming performance, Foley could enthuse generally about the wholesome effort from his pack against a big Glasgow outfit.

Moving to number eight, Peter O’Mahony produced a man-of-the-match performance, but Foley also hailed skipper Mick O’Driscoll, Donnacha Ryan and younger brigade Stephen Archer and Mike Sherry.

O’Driscoll, for his part, accepted there were things Munster could have done better but was happy to take the win.

“I’ve said this before, we’re our own worst critics, we don’t need anyone to tell us what has gone on in the last couple of weeks. It wasn’t good enough but I think we bounced back nicely in this. There’s still a league to be won, hopefully we can go on and do that, tonight was a starting point.”

He wasn’t quite as concerned as Foley about conceding a bonus point to Glasgow, determining that victory in the remaining games — against Llanelli Scarlets and Ulster — will keep Munster in control of their position.

“The bonus point doesn’t affect us if we win the next two games. The worst case scenario is that we finish in third, so we will certainly finish in the top four, destiny is in our own hands and we believe that we’re good enough to do that.”

First-quarter penalties by Ruaridh Jackson and Ian Keatley had the sides level before Munster stormed into the lead when Luke O’Dea was sent in for the score courtesy of a looped pass from O’Callaghan.

The scores continued with Jackson kicking a penalty, Keatley responding and then converting a fine try from O’Mahony to secure a thoroughly deserved 18-6 half-time lead.

Stuart Hogg pulled the lead back with an early second-half try, the first of a hat-trick for him, Keatley responded with a penalty for a 21-11 lead but Hogg grabbed another Glasgow try.

Keatley (two) and Duncan Weir (two) exchanged penalties to leave the score 27-22 at the mid-point of that second half.

From there, Munster kicked on, with Keatley kicking a 70th-minute penalty and Conor Murray scoring the third try to establish a 35-22 lead, only for the home side to make a late handling error and Hogg scored a try that Weir converted.

MUNSTER: F Jones, L O’Dea, J Murphy, L Mafi, S Zebo, I Keatley, T O’Leary, W du Preez, M Sherry, S Archer, D O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll (capt), D Ryan, T O’Donnell, P O’Mahony.

Replacements: C Murray for O’Leary, M Horan for Du Preez (both 55), D Varley for Sherry (65), B Holland for O’Driscoll, P Butler for O’Donnell (both 70), I Dineen for O’Dea (73).

GLASGOW: P Murchie, F Aramburu, S Hogg, A Dunbar, C Shaw, R Jackson, C Cusiter, J Welsh, P MacArthur, R Gray, A Kellock (capt), R Harley, J Beattie, C Fusaro.

Replacements: R Grant for Welsh, H Pyrgos for Cusiter (both ht), D Weir for Jackson, D Hall for MacArthur (both 55), T Ryder for Gray (66).

Referee: N Owens (Wales).

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