MUNSTER FELL TO a surprise 29-23 defeat in their Heineken Cup opener this afternoon, as Edinburgh deservedly won out at Murrayfield.
Sloppy handling errors, a malfunctioning lineout and a defense that conceded ground with ease were just some of the worrying aspects of Munster’s disappointing performance. Munster’s entire approach was underpinned by an apparent lack of basic concentration and motivation.
The build-up to this game was dominated by predictions of a bonus point for Munster, and they were justifiably favourites for the Pool 6 clash. While it is impossible to know exactly how the players approached this game mentally, there was a distinct sense that Rob Penney’s men had bought into their favouritism. Edinburgh were the team who showed the greater focus, aggression and clarity.
When Munster got over the gain-line and provided scrum-half Conor Murray with clean possession they looked excellent, but it happened too little. There was a lack of directness in the away side’s attack, with lots of crabbing towards the sideline. The use of two attacking lines is dependent on the play makers using the front line players to smash it up on occasion, but Munster were predictable in sending passes out the back door regularly.
That meant the Edinburgh defenders could shift across the pitch, shadow Munster towards the sidelines and then force the handling errors that occurred so frequently. Of course, credit must go to Edinburgh who lifted themselves wonderfully after half time, led by the fierce Greig Laidlaw. But overall, Munster’s sloppiness allowed the home side to look better than they are.
The defense allowed Matt Scott and Nick de Luca to run at them, sitting off and giving up ground too often. A more aggressive, proactive approach next weekend against Gloucester would be welcome. Another area Munster need to be improve is the back row, where Niall Ronan’s poor run of form continued. Getting the explosive ball-carrying of CJ Stander into the team from the start looks like a necessity if Munster are to get over the gain-line more regularly.
Elsewhere, the line-out and scrum will need to be reviewed, with the former particularly poor at Murrayfield. Taking positives from this display is difficult, but before we get carried away with negativity, it is worth remembering that Munster are only a single game into their Heineken Cup campaign.
Penney’s men will be hurt by their own failure to bring the intensity of the performance against Leinster last weekend into the European competition. They simply must get back to that level for the Gloucester game at Thomond Park in a week’s time.
What were your thoughts on Munster’s performance? What areas of the game do they need to improve ahead of the Gloucester game? Would you make changes to the team for next weekend? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section…