Alan Quinlan spoke from the heart on Sky Sports on Saturday when he described Munster’s performance as “embarrassing, humiliating, disgraceful,” adding for good measure: “This whole organisation needs to be dissected from the top down.”
Few would argue against the sentiment having seen the province capitulate in a disastrous second-half as 14-man Stade Francais outscored Munster’s full crew 17-7 to win by 20 points and eliminate the Irish side at the pool stages with two games to spare.
Everything was well below par, from the set-piece — particular the scrum — to the breakdown, from defensive blunders to attacking bluntness. A horror show which Quinny called “borderline disgraceful” and then rowed back a bit. He should have dropped the “borderline”.
There was something fundamentally lacking in Munster’s line-up at the weekend as they were clinically dissected by Stade and heads dropped along with the energy and fight that we once took for granted from those in a red jersey. That was leadership, the cause not helped by the loss through injury of three more senior men when Andrew Conway, BJ Botha and Tommy O’Donnell all left the field before half-time.
Losing Paul O’Connell to Toulon and captain Peter O’Mahony to injury was never so painfully felt as it was on Saturday or indeed over the past weeks when Munster have lost six of seven matches. The pressure has all been piled on to stand-in skipper CJ Stander and few of his team-mates seem to be prepared to stand up and share some of the burden, as highlighted by some of the kamikaze play we saw in that second-half in Paris.
There is no respite for the men in red with Stade coming to Limerick next Saturday with renewed fire in their bellies that they can secure a Champions Cup quarter-final spot behind Leicester.
Head coach Anthony Foley needs the response he has been asking for since his side went down to Connacht at Thomond Park seven weeks ago, a defeat which sparked this sorry run of form.
There is clearly talent in this squad and there are also players who should be looking nervously over their shoulders after a string of poor performances that have cost once-proud Munster their place at Europe’s top table and have placed qualification for next season’s competition via the Pro12 in doubt.
After a man of the match performance in that rarest of wins at Ulster the previous week, Ian Keatley reverted to recent type off the tee, missing two kicks at critical stages in the first-half that would have kept Stade on their toes. He also sent a restart out on the full by some distance early in the second-half and it was Rory Scannell, easily Munster’s best back on Saturday, coolly slotted the touchline conversion.
Munster need someone reliable to get them ticking over on the scoreboard over 80 minutes. How many more points must fall by the wayside before the changes are rung? If the cutting edge is still lacking, at least they could have someone racking up three, six and nine points. At the moment, Munster are failing on both fronts.
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