David Corkery on rugby: Munster can't feel sorry for themselves away to Ulster

Loss to Leinster at Thomond Park was disappointing but all that matters now is a result on the road this Sunday
David Corkery on rugby: Munster can't feel sorry for themselves away to Ulster

Niall Scannell of Munster is tackled by James Lowe of Leinster. Picture: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

NO REST for the wicked.

With only a six-day turnaround after an uncompromising and no holds barred derby with their closest rivals, Munster now find themselves entering Ulster’s den with many physical and mental wounds that the men from the north will be looking to poor salt on.

The rivalry between Munster and Ulster may not be as intense as that between Munster and Leinster, but it isn’t that far off it either, and as sure as night follows day, you can be guaranteed that if Ulster are given an opportunity to kick Munster when they are down, they will happily take it.

Last Monday in Thomond Park, Graham Rowntree and his players were within a whisker of adding five points to their URC tally.

It would have been a very welcome late Christmas present for all involved had they pulled it off, but in the end they fell short, and Leinster shifted their win needle to an astonishing 12 consecutive victories in all competitions.

In some respects, a win for a full-strength Munster outfit would have only papered over the chasm that exists between the provinces because the team that Leo Cullen opted to field was far from his strongest.

However, when your back is to the wall, you are happy to take any bit of generosity that comes your way and I’m sure Rowntree and company would not be complaining if they had won .

Prior to this latest loss to Leinster, Munster had amassed three out of four wins against good opposition and there were green shoots of possibility starting to emerge.

However, they really needed to win last week if they were going to halt the psychological stranglehold that Leinster currently has over them. Now, because of this latest loss and how it manifested, they once more find themselves in a hole that has no bottom.

For Rowntree and Peter O’Mahony it must feel like they have to start all over again in order to find momentum and some kind of platform to build upon, but as stated above, Ulster will not be offering them any big red hand of friendship until the final whistle is sounded on Sunday.

Munster's Peter O'Mahony wins a line-out against Leinster. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady
Munster's Peter O'Mahony wins a line-out against Leinster. Picture: INPHO/Ben Brady

Last week Ulster dogged out a scrappy 20-22 win away to Connacht and in doing so halted a run of three worrying losses on the bounce.

Of those three losses, Ulster coach Dan McFarland will have had many a sleepless night wondering how it came to pass that English Premiership side Sale managed to amass a 39-0 trouncing of his side in their opening European Cup tie.

On that day Ulster had the majority of their internationals on display and if the truth be told they looked like a side that had their Christmas party the night before the game.

Their defence was a complete shambles, their attacking strategy consisted of running down channels that never existed in the first place and when they did manage to gain some bit of territorial advantage in their opponents’ half, they resembled a group of players that were introduced to the game of rugby union 10 minutes before kick-off.

Ulster have leaked 133 points in their last four games and I’d be pretty sure that Rowntree and his coaching ticket will have analysed every one of those points. That’s an average of conceding 34 points a game and it must give the Munster squad some kind of solace heading into this round 11 tie.

The task for Munster now is to learn from Monday’s mistakes, look at where Ulster are brittle, and come up with a strategy that allows them to further develop their wider attacking approaches.

RUTHLESS

It will also be important that they remain steadfast in their ruthless approach to defending their try line; this has been the strongest facet of their game under their new coaching team.

Discipline will also be a key factor and if Munster can reduce their penalty count and stop giving away needless penalties, they should get their wheels rolling again.

It will be interesting to see if Rowntree stays loyal to Joey Carberry because he did not play well on Monday and the big difference between him and Jack Crowley now is that Crowley is not afraid to step outside the box of conformity and Carberry seems to be playing with the weight of a nation on his shoulders.

With last week’s game poised on a knife edge, and 20 minutes remaining, Carberry was called ashore and Crowley took over the number 10 birth. This is not exactly the action of a coach who has the confidence in his key playmaker to guide his players over the finishing line.

On current form, I would like to say Munster should win this game, but when your confidence is low anything can happen.

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