David Corkery on rugby: Scott Buckley was a standout for Munster

Kinsale and CBC graduate Buckley impressed our analyst, while Patrick Campbell also caught the eye
David Corkery on rugby: Scott Buckley was a standout for Munster

Munster's Scott Buckley celebrates after scoring a try with Conor Murray and Daniel Okeke. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

IN THE build-up to this game, folks were suggesting that if Munster could manage to scramble a win it would possibly be their greatest achievement to date.

It certainly was special, against the odds away to Wasps, particularly with the strong Cork influence, but it wasn't the best of all-time.

Yes, Covid had thrown a right spanner in Johan van Grann's preparations for this tie and the Munster management did a great job in piecing together a team. However, Wasps were also in dire straits because of injuries and players not being available due to their participation in England’s Autumn Internationals. 

And to make matters a whole lot worse for the Londoners, just before kick-off they receive news that two of their backs and both their starting second rows had been withdrawn because of positive Covid tests.

Having only won three out of their nine premiership games in this year’s Gallagher Premiership, Wasps are hardly the force they once were however, like Munster they had a core of seasoned players running through their side and were not going to lie down to have their bellies tickled.

When you consider that Munster had over 475 international caps amongst nine of their starting fifteen, four British and Irish Lions, one World Cup winner, over 1,300 combined Munster appearances and a host of Irish U21 stars in their starting team, I think it is fair to assume that the media probably got carried away with the size of the task that this Covid-influenced Munster had to tackle.

Peter O’Mahony of Munster rises high in the line-out. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Peter O’Mahony of Munster rises high in the line-out. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

In saying that for Munster to have left the Coventry Building Society Arena with a bonus-point victory was incredible.

The red card brandished by referee Romain Poite towards Wasps captain Brad Shields for a dangerous high tackle on Dave Kilcoyne had a major impact. And when the hosts were reduced to 13 players for 10 minutes just before half time, Munster seized the opportunity by scoring two tries.

Wasps, who did manage to score two tries in the game will be a very different side for the return tie. Doing well in Europe will not be their priority this year though as they look to stay away from the relegation zone in their domestic league.

WORRY

The injury picked up by Joey Carbery is a very big concern for the Munster coaching ticket.

Carbery, who has had a miserable run of injuries, will undergo a scan to determine the exact extent of this arm injury. Apart from his absence being a major blow to his fellow players and coaches, I really hope the results will read favourably for him, not only for his own physical status but more importantly, for his mental state.

Another long-term injury for someone who has already gone through his fair share of disappointments will not be good for their psychological wellbeing and for someone who has put so much effort into reaching the Everest of the game, he deserves a bit of good fortune.

On the plus side, van Graan should be welcoming back some of the players who were unavailable for this game while also having the added bonus of knowing that many of the younger players who deputised on this occasion, did so with flying colours and certainly did not look out of place on a European stage.

Joy for Patrick Campbell. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Joy for Patrick Campbell. Picture: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Whilst all five of the debutants James French, Scott Buckley, Eoin O'Connor, Daniel Okeke and Patrick Campbell passing their tests with high grades, the two that stood out for me were Buckley and Okeke. Special mention must also go to John Hodnett who was just magnificent in all he did, especially at the breakdown where many of the games played today are won or lost.

Hooker Scott Buckley, awarded Man of the Match, will be smiling for weeks to come and so he should. 

Not only did the 21-year-old score a try, he performed all of his fundamental duties to the highest of levels. All in CBC and Kinsale RFC will be delighted with him.

Daniel Okeke hails from Limerick and plays his rugby with Shannon and showed glimpses of what he can do with ball-in-hand. When you consider he is only 19 and is built like a tank, Munster must look sign this up on a very long-term contract before someone else comes in.

Okeke is exactly the kind of player that Munster need and I really hope we see him on a more consistent basis.

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