Billy Holland doesn’t believe complacency contributed to Munster’s downfall against Scarlets last weekend.
The province had built up an apparent impregnable 21-3 lead at Thomond Park, before eventually going down 30-21.
Holland accepts Munster fell “sound asleep” during the game, but hopes the defeat serves as a wake-up call and a warning that a great campaign so far could easily come unstuck.
“People will say that Munster have had a great season, but the business end of the season is coming now,” Holland warns.
“It is all well and good playing well between November and February, albeit it is important. You need to be playing well to get into position and kick on to another level.
"The best teams ratchet it up another gear at the business end of the season when you are talking about getting to play-offs, quarter-finals and finals.
“If you want to get into the top four of the PRO12, you need to ratchet it up another gear.”
That being the case, Munster can’t allow another sub-standard half-hour to be their undoing when they take on Cardiff Blues on the synthetic Arms Park pitch on Saturday evening next.
“Regardless of the result, we always look back at a game and judge it on the performance,” says Holland who was rewarded for a series of outstanding performances with a first Irish cap last November.
“There have been a few where we have won games in the last few minutes. For the first 20 minutes against the Ospreys we were awful and we were told all about that last week.
“Maybe for 40 minutes we were good against the Scarlets and in the last 5-10 minutes we played quite well too. We just made a few crucial errors. We were sound asleep at the steering wheel for 15-20 minutes and against a team of the Scarlets’ quality, you are not going to survive that.
“I don’t think complacency played a part but our discipline wasn’t great. We conceded six penalties over in the Ospreys. We conceded 11 last weekend. Of that 11, the vast majority came in that 15-20 minute period where we conceded three soft tries.
"There were a lot of individual errors too from a lot of different players. It is something we have looked at, we will continue to look at it and we will move on from there.”
Since qualification for the European Cup has depended on a top six finish, the PRO12 has become a hotly contested competition. Holland relishes that intensity.
“It’s brilliant, isn’t it? We may be third but at the same token, we are just two points off the top spot. It is a very tight league. Cardiff this weekend are in a real battle. They have Glasgow within touching distance and so have a lot to play for to get into the top six.
“Some of the rugby being played in the PRO12 this season is fantastic compared to some of the other leagues. To have been top for a while is good but we need to move on. We have been going in the right direction, despite last weekend, the team and personally as well.
“Last weekend was a hiccup. We are enjoying it. You cannot win every game, of course you want to, but it is particularly hard to take when you lose at home in front of the fans who have been fantastic, all the time, and in particular in the last five to six months.
“We were 21-3 up and didn’t score again for 55-60 minutes. We have had a few reviews and there are more to come. There are several reasons for why we lost. We are going to work now on rectifying them. We were very good in building up that lead but Scarlets are a good side too. They are fourth in the league.
“They have had a few great scalps recently and we sat back, rested on our laurels a little bit. We were close to getting a bonus point with a third try and next thing you know, they score three tries in 15 minutes and their tails are up.”
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