No major gulf between us and European elite, insists Mike Sherry

Munster may have lost home and away to English form side Leicester Tigers but Mike Sherry insists there is no major gulf in class between his team and Europe’s top dogs.

No major gulf between us and European elite, insists Mike Sherry

The fit-again hooker was left bitterly frustrated by a fourth consecutive loss for the province when Munster were beaten 17-6 by the Tigers at Welford Road on Sunday, a result that leaves the two-times Heineken Cup champions on the brink of Champions Cup elimination heading to Paris on January 9 for their rearranged Pool 4 clash with Stade Francais.

Yet Sherry believes Munster were architects of their own downfall in the English East Midlands, enjoying parity in terms of possession and at the set-piece, and looking dangerous in the final third of the field only to squander try-scoring opportunities time and again.

“I would not say there’s a gulf,” Sherry said. “I think people watching the game wouldn’t have said that either. They are a top team, it’s a great place to play rugby and a tough place to win as we found out but there’s definitely not a gulf. They’ve quality players across the pitch but so have we. They took their chances, we didn’t take ours, same story as last week. It’s very, very frustrating.”

It was a theme that ran throughout his post-match debrief at Welford Road, one started by head coach Anthony Foley when he told his players: “Make the most of our opportunities in the 22. You did good work, you need to finish it off.”

It was sure to continue into yesterday’s game review as Munster began preparations for the toughest of re-introductions to the Pro12 when they host Leinster at Thomond Park next Sunday, looking to significantly reduce the 18 turnovers they gifted Leicester.

“Similar to last week, we played it a lot, did a lot of good things and didn’t do the last 10%, which is what wins you games at this level,” Sherry said.

“It’s hard to put your finger on it, possibly composure, a bit of ruthlessness. It’s hard, they’re a good defensive side and they slowed down our ball very well and they turned it over when it would appear we had them on the back foot. So it is very hard to say what’s going on. We’ll review it and hopefully we can get it right against Leinster.”

Sherry echoed Conor Murray’s appraisal last week of Foley’s attacking structures, bemoaning merely the players’ execution of them. “We still have belief in this gameplan. We played with loads (of ball), we just need to finish it off. We still have belief in it, we believe in what we’re doing and we believed we could go over to Welford Road and win. Unfortunately it didn’t happen.

“We did start the game very well, got a few turnovers, linked in with the backs, got a few kicks at goal but we didn’t capitalise. Patience, composure, ruthlessless, all these words you can throw at it we just need to get the job done. It’s the last 10% that wins you games, we’re not doing it at the minute, which is very frustrating and disappointing but the ingredients are there and we still have the belief that we can go to Stade and win.

“We have Leinster and Ulster in the next two weeks so we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing and just bring that extra 10%. Whether we get there I’m not sure but..... yeah, we are very, very close. It’d be more frustrating if we came over here and didn’t play well and got hockeyed by Leicester. I don’t know if I’d feel more disappointed than I am now so it’s a hard one to sum up.”

What was clear to Sherry was the effort made by his front row colleagues John Ryan, making an accomplished job of deputing at tighthead for BJ Botha, and loosehead James Cronin, whose rampaging around the field made him one of Munster’s standouts on a disappointing night in Leicester.

“John was brilliant,” Sherry said. “I’d no fears (about him) coming into the game. He scrummaged really well during the week. He’s a quality player around the pitch, he just needs to show people he can scrummage in a big game and I think he did that.

“He might get the chance next week, I’m not sure but I’ve no fear of John if he plays loose or tighthead. Jamesey and Killer (Dave Kilcoyne), there’s some battle going on there. They’re both psychos. It’s brilliant, whoever comes on for the other, whoever starts, they both make an impact. Jamesey had another brilliant game, he’s just an incredible player and then I’ve known Killer for years so it’s hard to pick one over the other.

“It’s a great competition and I don’t think too many teams have two looseheads of the quality we have.”

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