David Corkery: James Cronin and co deserve to sign off with a Munster medal

Reds survived a scare against Cardiff but there's still work to be done to lift the Rainbow Cup
David Corkery: James Cronin and co deserve to sign off with a Munster medal

Munster's CJ Stander and James Cronin after the win over Cardiff. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

LIGHT at the end of the Rainbow Cup for Munster rugby, but what a horrible way to finish the game against Cardiff on Friday night.

I absolutely realise the rules are the rules, and CJ Stander was fully intitled to use his captain's challenge. However, to end a very entertaining game with a review on something as insignificant as the ball being harmlessly nudged three inches forward with a Cardiff boot seems to betray all that rugby stands for.

I think most would agree with me that if you were to look at every single ruck or maul in slow motion, you would easily find some kind of illegality. While I think the captain's challenge is a good thing, it should only be used for foul or dangerous play.

It is absolutely brilliant that Munster won the game and even better that they managed to do it with a four-try bonus point. What would have topped it off would have been if they managed to do it without the intervention of someone sitting in front of a TV monitor.

In terms of value for money, this tie was by far the best the competition has offered since it commenced and there was much to admire from both teams. That said, Cardiff were by far the more adventurous side as they relentlessly endeavoured to keep the ball alive and off the ground.

Both camps were crystal clear that a loss would 100% signal the end of their medal-winning hopes for the season, but you did feel that Munster had way more to lose if the result did not go their way.

After their shocking loss to Connacht two weeks ago Munster heaped a massive amount of pressure upon their weary shoulders and despite having to rely on their traditional forward-based style, they were able to turn their slender territorial advantages into successful try-scoring endeavours.

Two maul-tries from five-yard line-outs and two from pick-and-gos around the base of the ruck might not exactly had us all spellbound, but this was a game that had to be won and it really didn’t matter how the Munster players went about achieving it.

Niall Scannell of Munster scores his side's third try. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Niall Scannell of Munster scores his side's third try. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

With three long-serving and loyal players gracing the hallowed turf of Thomond Park for the last time, I’m fairly sure the emotions would have been running very high in the dressing room before kick-off. Judging from the way Munster started the game, it looked as if this had left all the players completely drained of energy.

It would be impossible for me to illustrate the kind of dense and poignant atmosphere a Munster dressing room creates, and when you have a player knowing they will never have the privilege of adorning it again, it can leave you in a very emotional and lonely state. These three players will be leaving behind a unique kind of family unit that they will never be able to replicate.

Even though the final outcome was very close, it would have been a crying shame for Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander and James Cronin to have finished up their time with the province on a losing note.

All three played well and are fully deserving of the various plaudits they will receive. To have served for so long and potentially leave with no medals is such a shame because I’ve seen players in other clubs with half their commitment and a portion of their skill, finish up with buckets of prizes.

Across the corridor in the Cardiff dressing room, you can also be assured that the visitors were feeling the pressure and to lose a game that they could have easily won, is not the best way to end the season.

Cardiff clearly came to Limerick with a view to playing an expansive brand of rugby and their backs easily won their individual battles with their opposing numbers.

Between switching the direction of play from ruck to ruck and running some very inventive and smart lines of support, the men from the Welsh capital will feel very aggrieved to have lost this game. However, they only have themselves to blame and will rue their lack of composure and incompetence when trying to disrupt Munster’s maul.

Even though Munster managed to win this game with a bonus point, their fate will still not be decided until the final round of games.

Their last game is going to be away to Zebre on June 11 and unless they completely implode and lose the run of themselves, you would think that they will notch up another bonus point win in this game.

Do I think they could win it if they did manage to reach the final?

Not on the evidence of this game or their season to date. They are just too inconsistent in their performances and against a team like the Vodacom Bulls, their forward power would easily be matched.

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