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Munster impressed by Crowley's 'class' performance in Castres

The 22-year-old out-half enjoyed his first European start on Friday night.

Crowley impressed at 10 for Munster on Friday.
Crowley impressed at 10 for Munster on Friday.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Updated Jan 17th 2022, 3:44 PM

IT’S RARE ENOUGH that out-halves feature among a team’s top tacklers and ball-carriers but Jack Crowley’s appetite for getting stuck in was very evident in Castres on Friday night.

On the occasion of his first European start, Crowley led Munster’s tackle charts with 12 and was second on the ball-carrying list with 11 carries, behind only the relentless number eight Gavin Coombes. 12 passes and two offloads showed that Crowley distributed too.

In terms of the numbers, Crowley’s 11 points off the tee were also key in Munster’s 16-13 victory.

He’s not a huge man by pro rugby standards at 6ft 1ins and somewhere around 90kg but Crowley is game when it comes to contact. It’s another green tick alongside his name when one is working through reasons to be excited about his skills.

The Bandon RFC and Bandon Grammar School product turned 22 the night before Munster’s 16-13 win over Castres and he is already a confident and ambitious presence around the province’s set-up in Limerick.

Some of his talents are obvious – his flashes of dancing footwork, the ability to offload and pass, vision, his kicking skills – but those who have worked with him also believe he has the ‘head’ for top-level rugby. 

Crowley is naturally still making his fair share of mistakes – one example on Friday was a knock-on close to the touchline when gathering a kick inside Munster’s 22 – but the playmaker appears to react well to those errors, continuing to play rather than going into his shell.

There is still lots of hard work ahead for him, of course. Friday night was just his eighth senior appearance and third start for Munster. But there is lots of excitement about Crowley too.

Ronan O’Gara tried to bring him to La Rochelle ahead of this season but Crowley opted to sign a new two-year deal with Munster and many people saw his quality at U20 level with Ireland. 

jack-crowley-with-matt-tierney Crowley makes a dart with ball in hand. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It took injury to Joey Carbery and the unavailability of Ben Healy for Crowley to get his first start in the Champions Cup, but the Innishannon man handled the occasion well.

“I’m obviously very happy for him,” said Munster head coach Johann van Graan after his side’s win at Stade Pierre Fabre.

“Before the game, I said to him, ‘Just go and enjoy it, lead us forward.’ Really happy with his performance.

“It was such a difficult night in terms of it being extremely cold, Castres put a lot of pressure on us, they just kicked the ball straight back to us.

“It was a real kicking battle and he kept his nerve. I think the most impressive thing was that last conversion that gave us the three-point lead.

“I am really happy for him to get the 80 minutes and you know, it just shows that he is a class player.

“For the group, what we spoke about inside is that it’s the next man up. These things happen and he and Jake [Flannery, an unused replacement on Friday] will certainly play a lot of minutes in the future.”

Munster captain Peter O’Mahony had similar praise for the young out-half.

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O’Mahony was proud of how 22-year-old replacement scrum-half Craig Casey came off the bench and helped to guide Munster to their late win along with Crowley.

jack-crowley-kicks-a-penalty Crowley kicked 11 points for Munster. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I got a real sense of calmness and composure,” said O’Mahony. “Craig came on, he was very direct in his messaging. Jack was class really for the 80 minutes.

“It’s a cliché, but it’s difficult to come to France and win. It doesn’t matter where you go in France, you’re working hard to get a win away from home.

“To have a young 10 like that, to perform with the composure that he did, particularly when things weren’t going our way.

“He was caught behind the line a couple of times and that can affect a guy’s confidence, do you know what I mean?

“But again, he stayed calm, he stayed to his process, he stayed to what we were planning on.

“We talked about it paying off in the last 10 minutes and that’s exactly what it did.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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