Munster have vital targets to hit

Munster 26 Newport Gwent Dragons 5: Two salient points emerged from Saturday night’s Guinness Pro 12 game at Thomond Park.

Munster have vital targets to hit

Of primary importance was Munster’s 26-5 bonus point win that moved them up to 5th in the table and creeping ever closer to the knock-out stages.

The second, however, is that fewer than 6,000 people were at the Limerick venue which means that around 7,000 season ticket holders stayed home at the weekend.

Given this is a results driven business, it is essential Munster qualify for the European Champions Cup next season and ideally make the PRO12 semi-finals.

Saturday’s five-pointer will help massively in the achievement of both ambitions but they still have a considerable amount to do before achieving their goals.

After 45 minutes, it looked like plain sailing. A lot of sweat on a very cold night had been used up before tries by Dave Kilcoyne (2) and Rory Scannell along with two conversions by Ian Keatley had them 19-0 in front. Even a fine try by winger Hallam Amos for Dragons looked unlikely to stem the Munster flow.

But that’s what happened.

As both emptied their benches, the game turned in the Welsh side’s favour and were it not for the judiciously placed legs of substitute James Cronin and the judgment of the TMO, the Dragons would have moved within touching distance.

It took Munster a good ten minutes to escape their own territory and they left it until the 78th minute when a spectacular burst by Robin Copeland led to James Cronin edging over the line for the fourth try. Three of the precious tries had been touched down after a series of mad scrambles within inches of the Dragons line.

The exception was Scannell’s as he chose a lovely line to deceive the visiting defence when the ball was eventually released after yet another forward assault.

It was far from attractive to watch. Coach Anthony Foley painted a positive if not entirely convincing picture on a level of performance that fell a long way short of, say, the manner in which Connacht disposed of Edinburgh on the previous evening.

“We knew the Dragons were going to be tough and physical”, Foley maintained.

“It’s great to have Stephen Archer and Johnny Holland back in the system. At the end of last season, Stephen was one of our quality players and it’s great to have him back. Johnny has been out even longer and was very composed when he came on

“That’s the positive side. On the negative is the feeling that the Red Army isn’t as enthused about supporting the side even if a 7.35pm kick-off on a freezing Saturday night has to be a major factor.

“Whether it’s the players need to identify with the players or the players need to identify with the people, I’m not sure”, Foley mused. “We had 21players from Ireland in our 23 tonight. We have a lot of young Munster players coming through trying to make a name for themselves. Dave O’Callaghan got man of the match, that could easily have been Rory Scannell.

“Supporters need to start recognising them, start understanding where they’re coming from.

“Back in the day, we came through the AIL and were probably more reachable because they would have come to those AIL games, probably had a pint with us afterwards. “Before tonight, we hadn’t won at home in four months, the talk was that we’re better on the road. That’s scary. Our players are as professional as they are rounded. The problem is they probably don’t go out enough.

“There is a big social side to it missing that was there in the past and the supporters got used to it.You have to come to the venue to meet the players, come and see young Irish players. People need to get in behind them”.

MUNSTER:

A Conway; D Sweetnam, F Saili, R Scannell, S Zebo; I Keatley, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan, M Chisholm B Holland capt, D O’Callaghan, T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue.

Replacements:

D Foley for Chisholm half time; M Sherry and J Cronin for N Scannell and Kilcoyne both 49; R Copeland for O’Donnell 51; D Johnston for Conway 56; J Holland for Keatley 60; SArcher for Ryan 67; C Sheridan for Williams 70.

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS:

C Meyer; A Hewitt, A Hughes, A Warren, H Amos; J Tovey, C Davies; P Price, T Rhys Thomas capt, B Harris, C Hill, M Screech, N Crosswell, N Cudd, L Evans.

Replacements:

S Pretorius for Davies, A O’Brien for Tovey, R Landman for Screech, all 49; E Jacks for Evans and R Wardle for Hughes both 51; S Knight for Harris 67.

Referee:

Marius Mitrea (Italy).

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