Munster head coach Johann van Graan has lauded Rosscarbery native John Hodnett after his man of the match Pro 14 league debut in the runaway 68-3 victory over Southern Kings at Musgrave Park on Friday night.
The 20-year-old UCC student covered acres of ground, supporting, carrying and tackling like a man several years his senior, and highlighted it all with a devastating run to set up the first of his team’s ten tries for Arno Botha, before crossing for a cracker himself in the second half.
“I’m so glad for him, he was eager to get some game time, and he had been excellent against Connacht a few weeks back. That prompted us to put John in again with Jack O’Donoghue and Arno Botha beside him,” said van Graan.
“I thought he was excellent tonight and what impressed me was that before the game he was calm and during the game he had some big moments.
It’s great to get someone like that through the system. He’s from Cork and drives to Limerick a lot while studying down here and it just shows that we have some gems within the province.
Hodnett himself played down the significance of his performance although clearly delighted with the presence in the 6,548 attendance of a number of friends and neighbours from West Cork.
“Yeah, they turned up in numbers with a good few from Carbery Rangers GAA,” Hodnett enthused, although extremely modest about his personal performance.
“I was quite calm beforehand, I had a lot of experience in the under 20s last year of what these kinds of games are like. The first try opened up well for me, Mike (Haley) making the break, and for my own try, I got a very nice pass from Neil (Cronin).
“I suppose I was a little surprised to get the man of the match award because Arno (Botha) scored three tries but maybe because it was my debut, I got the benefit of the doubt.
“This is an important spell in the season with the internationals away and hopefully I might have another chance coming up and all I can do is keep training and do the best I can. There’s a massive amount of competition in the back-row but they are all also so sound and they look out for you so it’s a good environment.
“I have time on my side. I’m still in the academy and in UCC and trying to look after that as well. The AIL games are massively important, I’ve been with College now for the last three years and it has definitely helped me to adjust to this level of rugby as well.”