David Corkery on rugby: Munster comeback provides major momentum for Toulouse tie

Reds stunned Edinburgh on Friday night which sets up a massive game at Thomond Park next weekend
David Corkery on rugby: Munster comeback provides major momentum for Toulouse tie

Rory Scannell of Munster celebrates with teammates after scoring in the United Rugby Championship match in Edinburgh. Picture: Paul Devlin/Sportsfile

WHAT a night for Munster: from a catastrophic start to a robust fightback and a glorious ending.

Munster travelled to the Scottish capital knowing that they needed to produce a performance of substance against a very good Edinburgh team to build on their previous two wins. And that is what we got.

Considering Munster’s precarious position in the United Rugby Championship table, Graham Rowntree would have taken a one-point win but his players gave him so much more.

Despite an appalling opening quarter where Munster leaked two silly tries, they circled the wagons, never panicked and showed fortitude and maturity. I use the word mature because lately there were occasions where Munster played and looked like an U18 side who had just met up the week of the game.

Apart from the URC points they received, they now have momentum for the arrival of Toulouse to Thomond Park next Sunday. I don’t think Munster’s woes are a thing of the past just because they won three games on the bounce but winning is a habit. They say timing is everything in sport and if Munster are going to have a good run in Europe, they might just have got their timing correct ahead of the competition that made their name. 

Munster’s Gavin Coombes scores their fourth try in Edinburg. Picture: INPHO/Craig Watson
Munster’s Gavin Coombes scores their fourth try in Edinburg. Picture: INPHO/Craig Watson

I still have massive concerns about the Munster scrum, lineout and Joey Carbery’s ability to lead them. However, if they play as they did in the second half on Friday night, they will easily be able to mix it with the bigger teams in Europe.

Munster were very much underdogs and the side that Edinburgh selected for this game was full of high-quality internationals that would frighten the life out of any opposing coach.

As stated above, Edinburgh started this game with a bang and hit Munster with two very early tries that left Peter O’Mahony and his players scratching their heads behind their own goal line.

A missed tackle and an unnecessary pass by Carbery led to the hosts racing ahead on the scoreboard and it looked as if Munster were going to be in for a very long night.

Having watched the game twice, I tried to identify the catalyst that turned the game in Munster’s favour, but I failed to pinpoint any single incident or play that afforded the men in red the platform to score 31 unanswered points.

Perhaps it was their ability to stay within touching distance of Edinburgh that kept their engine running? Or maybe it was the hosts got a bit cocky after their early scores? Whatever it was, let’s hope and pray that this trinity of wins is the start of a revival that sees the province regain much of the reverence they have lost over the last 13 years.

I don’t know if it is politically correct to thank our lucky stars that Wasps went into receivership and John Ryan was able to return home, but I can tell you now that without his vast scrummaging experience and ability to bend the rules to the point where he has the officials eating out of his pockets, Rowntree and his scrum coaches would be having many sleepless nights.

LET GO

Ryan (34) should never have been let go by former Munster coach Johann van Graan at the end of last season. He was re-signed on a three-month contract when English premiership side Wasps collapsed because of financial circumstances and if his deal isn’t extended until the end of this season, Munster will be in serious trouble.

John Ryan of Munster. Picture: Paul Devlin/Sportsfile
John Ryan of Munster. Picture: Paul Devlin/Sportsfile

Of the other players that will have gained massively from this performance are the likes of Shane Daly who deputised for the injured Mike Haley, Calvin Nash who is very quickly becoming a world-class player and Antion Frisch who seems to be having a big impact on Munster’s ability to make midfield line-breaks.

Craig Casey also had a fine game and he is very quickly gaining the wisdom and sensibleness that he needs to permanently replace the legend that is Conor Murray.

Next week will be an entirely different challenge for Rowntree and O’Mahony to negotiate their way around, but they now have something that no money can buy and no one can offer them. which is summed up in two words. Conviction and purpose.

Conviction in their beliefs and purpose in Rowntree’s game plan.

We might be a bit off winning medals however, there is now light where there was only darkness.

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