Decisions, decisions. Anthony Foley was left rueing a few critical ones Saturday.
He spoke in a whisper, but the hurt and anger were clear and his annoyance was obvious at half-time. The main source was the decision to bin James Cronin for an alleged infraction at the scrum.
“If you look at it — and the camera is good on that side of the pitch— Green 3 (Finlay Bealham) collapses and feeds out. BJ Botha done it for years, penalised for years for it, and we get a yellow card and a penalty. Go from there.”
He is asked for others, but the reply is nothing more than a rueful grunt. Even the TMO decision to award the try for Niyi Adeolokun in the second-half despite the fact that he appeared to knock the ball on with a hand off his knee prompts only limited words.
“Massive. Massive. Massive. It’s amazing what you can and cannot see on a video.”
He was entitled to feel aggrieved, but this wasn’t a game lost by a whistle or the lack of it. Munster fell well short despite establishing a solid platform with the game’s first two tries, but he was reluctant to delve into the whys and wherefores as to how that crumbled.
“We came up here with the ambition to win the game. You saw that in how we started and how we went after the game. How the game panned out. Some of that I can control, some of it I can’t. Some of it, you rely on your players, you give them the vote of confidence.
“A lot of them had very good performances,” he added. “Some of them fell off one of two things that we’d like to address, but that’s no different than any other game. We were unfortunate. Things didn’t go our way.”
The importance of what comes next could hardly be exaggerated.
The good news is that Munster are still masters of their own destiny. Beat Edinburgh in Cork in a fortnight and they leapfrog the Scots into that crucial last qualifying spot for the Champions Cup. Follow it up with another win, against Scarlets in Limerick, and they step back from the European abyss.
Easier said than done, of course. Take away the turkey shoots against Italian opponents and Munster have won just one and lost five of their half-dozen PRO12 fixtures stretching back to mid-February. There is so much that needs to be done better.
“We need to look at the penalty count,” said Foley first off. “They’re massive changes in the game. That’s how most teams can shift up and down the pitch. We need to look at why we’re giving away penalties. We need to score points when we put pressure on the opposition.”
“We just need a better performance. You don’t go in beating chests and slapping faces. We have to make sure we’re good at our tackle, that no-one can come through us in defence. Take our points when they’re available. There’s no magic to it. It’s about getting the jobs done. Making sure you get your set pieces, your possession and get your go-forward ball.”
It’s now or never.
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