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30th Mar 2019

Munster made life difficult but they consistently find a way

Jack O'Toole

It’s hard to think of a team that have a bigger discrepancy with their home and away record than Munster.

Johann van Graan’s side were favourites entering the game and they showed why in spades with some very strong play, and some tireless defence, but in many respects they were their own worst enemy.

For all the last ditch defending and fantastic cover defence, Munster made too many elementary errors. Too many times did they fail to secure their own ball with Edinburgh and Scotland hooker Stuart McInally wreaking havoc at the breakdown.

They made basic knock-ons. They gave away scrum penalties when they had all the momentum. They found ways to turn the ball over when it would be easier just to hang on to possession.

They made life incredibly difficult for themselves at times but they ultimately found a way. Without Joey Carbery, without Jack O’Donoghue, away from home, they found a way to get over the line.

To be fair to Munster, even though they squandered possession on numerous occasions, they kept putting themselves in positions where they could set up scores and because their defence was so good, and it’s a huge credit to van Graan and his coaching team, they didn’t need a massive amount of opportunities to punish Edinburgh.

After every setback, every turnover penalty, scrum penalty, knock on, every time they went back 50 metres, they put their nose to the ground and patiently worked their way back to a position where they could threaten the Edinburgh line.

After an entire afternoon of being frustrated by Edinburgh’s ballhawking defence, and with the forwards not finding much joy in the way of bullying their way over the line, Munster scrum-half Conor Murray essentially made something from nothing with a brilliant flick pass to Chris Farrell who put Keith Earls away in the corner for what was ultimately the match winning score.

Murray came under tremendous scrutiny for his performances in the Six Nations, and while he still had his moments against Edinburgh, including an aimless box-kick at the very end of the first-half, he stepped up and produced when Munster needed a moment of quality.

The definition of a world class player.

Munster will need to be a lot better if they wish to threaten the competition’s best sides in the final four but they got by on experience, heart and grit.

Just as it’s cliche to say Munster are so much more comfortable at home than they are on the road, it’s equally as cliche to to say that this Munster team thrives on heart and emotion.

But, they do, and while van Graan has morphed them into a fluid attacking unit over the last two seasons, they still can get by on grinding teams out and outworking the opposition.

Edinburgh were up for the game and the score may have been different if Richard Cockerill’s side had shown more composure and opted for kicks at goal instead of shots down the line, but when Munster needed to pull it out of the fire they found a way and it’s been the one consistent themes of their Champions Cup history.

The win on Saturday was their 14th quarter-final victory from 18 attempts yet this is where they struggle; the final four.

The additions of Joey Carbery and Tadhg Beirne should give them some added quality that they simply haven’t had before, assuming Carbery is fit and available, but Munster are once again back where they belong.

In the business end of European competition in April.

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