Last Saturday’s 26-13 Champions Cup win over Stade Francais was fuelled by a perfect storm of emotions following the previous week’s humiliating 27-7 defeat to the 14-man French title holders in Paris and a desperate run of results that had brought just one win since mid-November.
Anger, embarrassment, and determination to atone for past wrongs delivered a bonus-point victory at Thomond Park, the emotion of the occasion more than compensating for the still apparent shortcomings in Munster’s performance.
Holland acknowledges reaching that fever pitch week in, week out, is an impossibility but the second-row forward, who put in an impressive shift at blindside flanker, in just his second game back following a summer ankle dislocation on Emerging Ireland duty, believes improved skill levels will instead be needed to redress the balance, starting this weekend in their final Champions Cup pool game.
“We need to improve technical aspects of our game such as scrum, lineout, and not losing possession. There were several matches where we’d be attacking the opposition 22, like against Leinster and Leicester, and next thing we’re under our own posts,” Holland, 30, said.
“The emotion is one thing and the technical side is another aspect of it. You can’t get that emotional every weekend, it’s impossible, we needed to last weekend because we were in such a hole. It’s another European game this weekend and we need to get it right and then do well when you go back to the PRO12. We had a 16-game block and you can’t get that emotionally charged every weekend.
“So your skills and technical ability has to come out again and it hasn’t. Last weekend the technical side wasn’t right but we got the emotional side spot on. (This week) we worked on the technical side and that needs to come forward for us.”
Striking the perfect balance is an improbable ideal but Holland said Munster needed to get the blend right as much as possible to maintain the intensity levels required for a successful second half of the season in the league campaign.
“It never all clicks at once. Rarely will you get a massively emotional performance and a technically perfect performance. What we need to do is get to a place where… we can’t get that emotional every weekend so the technical side of it has to be right so you can fall back on it. A bit of both - a balancing act - is what’s needed.”
Meanwhile Sean Doyle’s brief and unfilled stint at Munster was all but written off yesterday when the back rower was de-registered from the province’s Champions Cup squad ahead of Sunday’s final pool game in Treviso. The 26-year-old Australian, signed from the Brumbies on a three-month contract last October as injury cover for Tommy O’Donnell, will leave Munster at the end of the week, having not represented Munster at senior level.
Fit again fly-half Johnny Holland replaced Doyle on the European squad. It all but marked the end of former Ulster flanker Doyle’s involvement with Munster that saw the Sydney-born player make five British & Irish Cup shows for the A side, scoring one try.
Head coach Anthony Foley explained Doyle had arrived having been conditioned to play sevens and had been playing catch-up ever since.
“He got a couple of A games, the Stade game was called off, it didn’t go his way selection-wise in the Connacht game week and from that point on it became harder and harder, and he picked up a back injury in and around the Leicester games. He was a fella we wanted to get over because of Tommy’s injury. We were told that would be February, Tommy came back in December, which was good in one respect but from Sean’s point of view, it wasn’t great for him.”