The David Corkery column: It was great to see Munster perform with a bit of flair

The David Corkery column: It was great to see Munster perform with a bit of flair
Munster's Conor Murray had one of his best games in a while against Racing 92. Picture: INPHO/Tommy Dickson

THIS was the most encouraging performance in a while.

Just for now, try to forget about the result and concentrate on the process and how Munster elected to play in this game.

I know that results are the only thing that are deemed important in professional sport. However, if you are not mentored and encouraged to evolve with how the modern game is governed and be conscious of how the officials will favour the more adventurous sides, you will end up like Munster and remain trophy less for nearly a decade. May 28, 2011 to be exact, was the last time any Munster captain felt the warm tingle of silver cross his hands.

Forwards interlinking with forwards, backs working frantically to stay on their feet and keep the ball alive, quick line-out throw-ins, quick tap penalties and most importantly the entire team looking to play a positive brand.

Munster must never forget its celebrated traditions however, time changes everything and the time for change is long overdue. The last time any Munster side played with this amount of flamboyance was back in the 90s against Rumney RFC in a preseason tour where they were lucky to win. FYI Rumney is one of those districts in Wales where time has stood still since the turn of the 19th century and even the Welsh folk avoid traveling there if possible.

They say the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago and the next best is today.

The absence of any Munster presence on this current coaching ticket is something I was critical of initially. However, looking on from the outside maybe, just maybe it might be exactly what the doctor ordered and with a bit of time, patience and careful grooming this coaching trio might grow into one of those Californian redwood goliaths.

All three of the main coaches, Johann van Graan and especially Stephen Larkham and Graham Rowntree have no ties with Munster and it looks like they are not going to be curtailed by the province’s historical values to play 10-man rugby.

Maybe van Graan might have learned a lot by watching how Ireland imploded during the World Cup with their none adventurous and mundane style of play and decided that was not the way to move forward, or maybe it is the arrival of Larkham and Rowntree to his coaching staff.

Either way, I don’t really give a fiddler’s, but it is now so important that they remain loyal to this fresh and adventurous style and not revert to the crash, bang, wallop and kick the ball in the air approach that has driven us all demented over the last nine years.

Both sides will feel that they left the win after them and maybe Racing deserved to be the outright victors on the night.

Constantly looking to play the game a pace, Simon Zebo and his teammates clearly opted to try and run Munster off their feet and were it not for one or two trivial handling errors, the Parisians could well have left the hallowed turf of Thomond park with a bonus-point victory.

Scottish international Finn Russell proved to be a complete nightmare for Munster’s defence and kept at least three red jerseys honest every time he took responsibility for the ball. Scoring one magical touchdown and creating numerous other line breaks, Russell showed he is still of international standard and unlike Ireland’s brain-dead rule where you cannot play for your country unless you play your rugby with one of the four provinces, Scotland will be using him for their next Six Nations campaign.

Oh sorry, that rule is not applicable if your name is Johnny Sexton!

Apposing Russell on Saturday was JJ Hanrahan who has promised so much and delivered so little ever since he returned home from his two-year stint in the UK with the Northampton Saints.

Formally a product of the Munster Academy the now 27-year-old probably had his best game ever in a senior Munster jersey as he positively and assuringly steered his team up and down the field.

Having been tipped as the next best thing since the slice pan after leaving school, the county Kerry native got disillusioned with his lack of opportunity to play first-team rugby with Munster and decided that a change would not do him any harm.

Ultimately, he was wrong and when the phone call came to return home, he jumped at it. He might have returned a bit wiser, but he also returned carrying a few extra pounds and the sharpness that earned him such a highly acclaimed reputation was nowhere to be seen.

Thankfully that spark seems to be reignited and with age on his side he has a massive opportunity to stake a long and lasting hold on that much-coveted number 10 jersey.

One of the areas that Munster will need to work on is their line-out.

Winning your own set-pieces is a must especially when your playing at home and if your own put-ins, be it in a scrum or line-out is compromised, you will find yourself having to live off fragmented bits of possession. Not exactly what you want when you are trying to dictate the pace.

With the game very much in balance on the 60-minute mark, it was very surprising to see Conor Murray being called ashore.

Murray has not been firing on all cylinders for some time now and whilst he looked a whole lot sharper then he has in recent times, he is still hesitant at the breakdown. Perhaps his natural ability has been coached out of him and it will take a bit of time for it to be re-trained.

He is a vital cog in the Munster machine and there is an old cliche that reads 'form is temporary but class is permanent' and I would tip him to be back winning man-of-the-match awards very soon.

It would have been nice for Munster to have robbed the win at the end however, they just as easily could have lost the tie and if that were to be the case, their chances of making it beyond the pool stages would be slim.

Two points in the bag and move on with the knowledge that everything is moving in an upwardly direction with their faith firmly in their own hands is a very positive position to be in, and as a player or coach, you really can’t ask for anymore.

I know that one swallow doesn’t make a summer, however, I really believe that Munster are moving in the right direction and as long as they continue to remain faithful to their new approach of keeping the ball moving and in hand, the void in the trophy cabinet will soon be occupied.

It's back to the Guinness Pro 14 on Friday (home to Edinburgh in Musgrave Park) before the two crucial back to back ties against Saracens and it will be the outcome of these games that will undoubtedly determine Munster fate.

Fortune favours the brave and would encourage Munster to be very brave and not be afraid to make mistakes.

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