David Corkery on rugby: Munster beat Northampton in vital game and signs of progress are starting to show

For me this is progress and now there is light at the end of a tunnel, where once there was only bleak obscurity.
David Corkery on rugby: Munster beat Northampton in vital game and signs of progress are starting to show

Munster’s Jack Crowley fires a pass in Sunday's Champions Cup clash. Picture: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

I think if there was a prize to be awarded at the end of the year to a side that had so much possession and failed to use it intelligently, you would have to say that Northampton would be hot favourites to be giving the acceptance speech.

Camped in Munster’s twenty two for the majority of the second half with occasions of numerical advantage and aided by multiple penalty opportunities, Northampton recklessly failed to convert any of them into points on the score board and in the end suffered the consequences.

After a loss a piece in their opening games, both Munster and their hosts Northampton really needed to win this game if they were to have any hope of reaching the knockout stages and thankfully it was Peter O’Mahony and co that came out on top.

Like the majority of all the English premiership sides these days (Saracens excluded) Northampton have a very soft underbelly and Munster were easily able to expose it and gut them like a fish monger does its raw material.

Traditionally Northampton were never one of these sides who built their playing ethos around any particular facet of the game and when you are a team that depends on all guns to be firing in synchronization, all it takes is for one misfire, and everything falls apart. 

And, trust me when I tell you they had lots of players who failed to hit their target on this occasion.

A view of the Northampton Saints v Munster action. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
A view of the Northampton Saints v Munster action. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Perhaps the absence of their one true quality player Courtney Lawes quenched any hopes of winning for them, but honestly they looked like a side that had never previously played together and their inventiveness started and finished with their one off ball carriers running straight into the anticipating Munster defensive wall, which was very strong and stubborn.

For a game that started at a million miles an hour it very quickly turned into a horrible arm wrestle of sorts where Munster’s superior bulk allowed them gain control on the score board, and either by design or mistake they held their half time seventeen points to six advantage until the end of the game.

This meant that we had to sit through a scoreless forty minutes of rugby that was as exciting as watching a slow puncture on a tractor's tyre and if the truth be told the scuffle which resulted in yellow cards for Jack O’Donoghue and Lewis Ludlam on the fiftieth minute mark became the highlight of the evening.

I’m pretty sure that Graham Rowntree and his coaching staff will heap much praise on his players defensive efforts and yes they were well organised and tackled incredibly proficiently however, if Munster had given up that much territory and possession to a team like Leinster, Stade Rochelais or Saracens they would have had their arses handed to them on a plate and their European assault for this year would be dead in the water.

I guess Munster’s main goal going into this game was to win and win they did, but looking into the new year they will have to realise that their defence alone will not be good enough to see them break their trophy drought. 

This was a game where they should have achieved a four try bonus point win and there will not be too many of them in this competition.

For some time now Munster have failed to unearth a midfield combination that will allow for them to create line breaks that will have defensives scrambling and whilst it was great to see Jack Crowley start the game at first centre, he really doesn’t want to find himself being labelled as a utility player.

Munster's Keith Earls and Alex Mitchell of Northampton in full flight. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Munster's Keith Earls and Alex Mitchell of Northampton in full flight. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

Most players who are capable of playing equally well in many different positions normally end up sitting on benches because of their dexterity and I don’t think that Crowley is this kind of player. 

For me, he is an out and out fly-half and it will be very interesting to see if Rowntree looks to start him at ten for either the Leinster game on the 26th or the Ulster tie on the 1st.

On this occasion Tadhg Beirne was awarded man of the match and he did play well but for me the standout player was once again Munster’s full back.

Setting to one side Mike Haley’s ability to read the game brilliantly and position himself in all the right places, he also offers himself as a proficient broken line runner, a worthy support player and somehow he is now also offering himself as a first up ball carrier that has the ability to power his way past big bruising forwards. 

I don’t think I can ever recall a full back offering so much variety to a team and without him Munster would be a very dull side.

This was a game that Munster had to win and by doing so they have given themselves a strong fighting chance of making the last sixteen.

They didn’t exactly shroud themselves in glory and I doubt it very much that they will come close to winning the competition however, what we a seeing is players like Calvin Nash, Jack Crowley, Gavin Coombes, Alex Kendellen, Craig Casey, Tom Ahern, Shane Daly, Jack O’Sullivan, Paddy Patterson and Edwin Edogbo coming through and competently filling the Munster senior jersey they are being asked to wear.

For me this is progress and now there is light at the end of a tunnel, where once there was only bleak obscurity.

More in this section

Sponsored Content

Echo 130Echo 130

Echo WISA

Read all about the monthly winner’s and more.
Click Here

EL_music

Podcast: 1000 Cork songs 
Singer/songwriter Jimmy Crowley talks to John Dolan

Listen Here

Add Echolive.ie to your home screen - easy access to Cork news, views, sport and more