Sean Farrell reports from Thomond Park
“FIVE POINTS IN Europe, at home, we’ll take any day of the week,” said Johann van Graan, and there was no arguing the issue.
Sam Arnold celebrates the bonus point-sealing try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Yesterday’s five-try win over Gloucester came with more than a few tempering factors, but a return of seven points and control of the pool after two rounds of Heineken Champions Cup action is a solid showing from Munster.
After a deadlock in Devon in round one, the lunchtime kick-offs undeniably swung pool 2 Munster’s way as the Premiership leaders remained winless thanks a powerful home display from Castres – the French champions who are dangerously close to taking this tournament very seriously.
Walking out of Thomond Park, however, there was no sense of glee after a 14-point win over English opposition. Because the 14 men from the west country successfully took advantage when their hosts eased off the pedal, grabbing 19 points in the final quarter.
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“We’re concerned at any point that we concede,” agreed Van Graan post-match.
“Got to 36-10 by (67 minutes) and, unfortunately, I think we conceded quite a few penalties in a row there and we got stuck inside our own 22.
“Credit to the opposition as well, a lot of times with 14 men it actually draws you closer. They fought for that bonus point and I think in the last play of the game we killed it. From our side, in terms of the bigger picture, five points for us and they didn’t get a point.”
Munster lead the way, but this pool is shaping up to be a tight one. And, come round six, quarter-final seedings in Europe have that awkward knack of coming down to the finest of margins between teams’ points difference or tries scored. Let’s hope the final quarter here is easily forgotten.
If the southern province stay on their current course, dampen down Castres’ European interest and somehow pick up a little luck on the injury front, then Munster are well capable of doing just that.
Carbery heads for the sheds. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO
Last year’s semi-finalists are getting immense value from their new recruits and after making the most of limited opportunities in torrid Sandy Park conditions, Joey Carbery made the most of a dry, calm track.
The 22-year-old thoroughly deserved to show a flicker of a selfish streak to shun a two-man overlap and run at the try-line himself, because he had a hand in creating three more Munster tries. From seamlessly connecting a first-half break on the left flank to create a try in the right corner — via Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway — for Mike Haley, to that delicious behind-the-back pass before Sammy Arnold’s score and perfectly-timed delays. His terrific array of passing makes all the difference.
Carbery deserved his man of the match gong, but this was another tremendous outing for Tadhg Beirne. How Wayne Pivac must miss the explosive lock as Scarlets face into mid-season with two European defeats to their name.