Munster 28 Edinburgh 14: “The performance was really, really average”.
Such was how head coach Rassie Erasmus succinctly summed up Munster’s Guinness Pro12 League victory over Edinburgh as he tried hard to conceal his frustration at a game that lasted for an incredibly long and tedious 2 hours and 10 minutes as the injury toll mounted on both sides and degenerated into something of a fiasco as uncontested scrums became the order of the day.
Just about the only worthwhile talking point from the game was the nasty injury sustained in the 19th minute by Munster flanker Jack O’Donoghue, the victim of a very reckless head/shoulder charge at a loose ruck by the visitor’s second-row Frazer McKenzie. The Scot escaped with a yellow card.
“It was foul play and a guy got knocked out, if we allow that to happen, then a lot of guys will get knocked out”, reasoned Rassie Erasmus. “The referee is in the middle of the field and he sees it on the big screen. He called in the TMO. It’s tough to see if he (McKenzie) bound with the arms or didn’t. I will leave it to those guys (TMO and Citing Commissioner) to decide.
“Jack went to hospital and is now back in the dressing room looking very sore and stiff so hopefully it’s not too serious. When it affects the neck and head, you have to be very careful. But we shouldn’t have to rely on the opposition’s foul play to play well. We got four tries so that’s a positive but the negative is all the stupid errors we made. It was a frustrating bunch of events that happened one after another.”
The problems at scrummaging time began before the Scots arrived in Limerick at all with the decision of coach Alan Solomon to rest his number one props WP Nel and Ross Ford. In the first couple of minutes, tight head prop Kevin Bryce was badly injured as his scrum retreated at a rate of knots leading to the first of numerous lengthy stoppages. The Scots’ miseries continued at scrum time resulting in a yellow card for Bryce’s replacement Chris Dean after 19 minutes that in turn left them without a tight head prop and led to uncontested scrum, a situation, ironically, of far greater benefit to the visitors.
Munster’s total supremacy in the earlier tight forward exchanges (where John Ryan added considerably to his growing reputation) helped Conor Murray to a couple of tries for which he didn’t have to move more than one yard and another for replacement Conor Oliver, all converted by Tyler Bleyendaal. Munster were 21-7 ahead two minutes after the interval and apparently set for a runaway win.
However, the yellow card for Dean followed on 49 minutes and with uncontested scrums, whatever momentum Munster had generated disappeared from their game. They didn’t score their bonus try until 67 minutes through Dave O’Callaghan and immediately Erasmus made wholesale changes, most notably in withdrawing half-backs Bleyendaal and Murray.
The trend of the game changed completely and Erasmus even admitted to a degree of uneasiness when an Edinburgh try by John Hardie converted by Blair Kinghorn reduced Munster’s advantage to 28-14. He didn’t have to worry and was happy to have given a number of fringe players some game time.
“You can’t take away from the seven minute injury delay, then there were two yellow cards, then uncontested scrums, then another seven minute injury break that felt like 20, then we got the four tries and we made the subs, then we lost a lock and a loose forward”, he reasoned.
“But I have to accept that, it’s what happens, and through that we didn’t have composure to not let it affect us. We can’t just look at the score board, we have to look at the quality we produced. But there were positives and a lot of guys got some game time so when the big guys come back, we know what we can bank on.”
I Keatley; D Sweetnam, K Earls, C Bohane, R O’Mahony; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan, B Holland capt, J Kleyn, D O’Callaghan, J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
C Oliver for O’Donoghue (20); D O’Shea for Kleyn (43); D Casey for Scannell (55); J Cronin for Kilcoyne (59); A Wootton for Bleyendaal (58); S Archer for O’Callaghan (63).
G Bryce; D Hoyland, M Allen, C Dean, T Brown; D Weir, S Hidalgo-Clyne; R Sutherland, K Bryce, S McInally capt , F McKenzie, B Toolis, M Bradbury, H Watson, C Du Preez.
Dell for Bryce (4); J Cosgrove for Du Preez (52); B Kinghorn for Weir (52); N Cochrane for McInally (59); S Kennedy for Hidalgo Klyne (64); L Carmichael for McKenzie (68); J Hardie for Cosgrove (59); R Scholes for Allen (72).
B Whitehouse (Wales)
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