Penney changes begin to bear fruit

Munster 31 Glasgow Warriors 3
Beating Glasgow put Munster back into the play-off berth but coach Rob Penney will take more pleasure from the signs that his reformation project is starting to click ahead of the Heineken Cup meeting with Saracens.

The victory in Thomond Park on Saturday night may have unearthed the Penney-era back row, with CJ Stander, Tommy O’Donnell and James Coughlan producing a spectacular performance.

The outcome left Penney excited given the Warriors came into the game having conceded an average of just 12 points a game and he managed to smile as he described the result as “a really good confidence booster” ahead of Saturday’s Saracens game.

“If you had said to me before the game that the scoreline would have been such I would have been really blown away given the quality of Glasgow’s defence,” said Penney.

The coach was less surprised at the contribution of the back-row trio, however.

“Tommy has been good for us all year. I thought he had a blinder against Cardiff where he took a bit of a knock. He has had a tremendous month and I hope he can keep solid, he has a bit of an ankle injury going on.”

“He [Stander] exploded a couple of times and ripped them up, showing what genuine pace can give you when you’ve got that in your back row. James [Coughlan] was coming off the back of eight weeks without any footie. He got through 70-odd minutes and the numbers on the GPS indicated he had a massive work load which was an obvious credit to that guy.

“The back row functioned really well and both Paddy [Butler] and Billy [Holland], when they came on, added very real value to the effort, which is what you want off the bench.”

Clearly Penney was delighted with the bonus point that pushes his side back into the top four and compensates somewhat for the disappointing loss to Scarlets in Cork last week. However, he attached equal significance to the fact his side held firm in defence.

“Yeah, Munster teams of old would probably tell you they pride themselves on scrambling defence and their support for one another. Our defence has been building for a long period and that has been a pleasing aspect of this evening to see a little bit of edge with people wanting to defend and help their mates. That is again timely given the fortnight we’re heading into.”

There was some frustration in Munster’s inability to build on a significant 24-3 half-time lead, being one try away from the bonus until the awarding of a penalty try late in the match.

“We were our own worst enemies in the majority of those situations where we just either had a whoopsie at the set piece or we might have pushed a pass or didn’t push a pass when we needed to,” said Penney.

“Still I thought we were still building opportunities of pressure. We have talked amongst ourselves about the little lack of ruthlessness. The first half went okay and we probably capitalised on every opportunity that came our way.

“In the second half we didn’t but the positive was that we were building pressure throughout that period and we defended well.”

Duncan Weir gave Glasgow an early lead with a penalty via an upright, but from there it all went Munster’s way. Stander got his two tries, O’Donnell had one and Ronan O’Gara was inch perfect with the boot with three conversions and a penalty.

On a night when referee Ian Davies appeared to vary his ruling on scrum penalties every second turn, Munster finally found favour when he awarded a 73rd-minute penalty try.

The bonus point could ultimately be important in the race for semi-final spots but Penney will put that aside to reflect on the good things.

He said: “There were some good things and it’s not a fluke that on the back of good discipline, on the back of building pressure, on the back of less unforced errors that you have a successful night. I think there is a nice little message in that for all of us.”

Scorers for Munster: Tries: CJ Stander (2), O’Donnell, Penalty. Cons: O’Gara (4). Pen: O’Gara.

Scorer for Glasgow: Pen: Weir.

MUNSTER: F Jones; D Howlett (captain), K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; R O’Gara, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, D Ryan; CJ Stander, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan.

Replacements: P Butler for O’Donnell (48), D Varley for Sherry (51), I Keatley for Jones (59), P Stringer for Williams (60), C Laulala for Zebo, W du Preez for Kilcoyne (both 64), S Archer for Botha (66), B Holland for Coughlan(74).

GLASGOW WARRIORS: P Murchie, S Lamont, S Hogg, P Home, Dth Van Der Merwe, D Weir, H Pyrgos, R Grant, D Hall, M Cusack, T Swinson, A Kellock (captain), R Harley, R Wilson, J Barclay.

Replacements: J Strauss for Wilson, N Matawalu for Pyrgos, S Wight for Weir (all 49), P McArthur for Hall (54), B McGuigan for Van Der Merwe, G Araoz for Grant (both 61), J Eddie for Swinson (64)

Referee: I Davies (Wal).


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