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Dublin: 3 °C Saturday 23 March, 2019
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Van Graan hails 'pure class' Carbery after he kicks Munster to quarter-final

The Athy man stayed cool is a red-hot atmosphere to keep Munster’s winning run at Thomond Park in tact.

Carbery post-match in Thomond.
Carbery post-match in Thomond.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Sean Farrell reports from Thomond Park

REPUTATIONS IN MUNSTER are are made on nights like that.

‘The Fields’ rang out, the pressure told in ever-increasing roars and then silence enveloped the entire stadium and Joey Carbery held his nerve, icily drilling three penalties to give Munster the edge in a contest where absolutely nothing came easy.

In nailing his three kicks off the tee – two of which were far from straightforward – Carbery pushed Munster into the quarter-final stage for the 18th time. But he also ensured that his most difficult evening in red was not a defining one for this campaign.

Since missing three penalties in a bad-tempered affair in Castres – a match which ought to have brought two red cards for the hosts  – the 23-year-old has been utterly flawless off the tee.

His 100% record in Gloucester made everyone sit up and take notice of his hot-streak. And, last night, 17 in a row ticked on up to 20. With each passing crisp, clean strike his confidence in the skill seems to be bulletproofed a little more.

“Yeah,  pretty happy with it,” says the 23-year-old out-half post-match.

“But obviously I wouldn’t have been in the position if it wasn’t for the work of our team. Happy to get the opportunity, just lucky it went over really.

“Delighted to get the win, it was a bit of a battle. We knew it was going to be close, when the groups were announced we knew this  game was what it was going to come down to.

There was a lot on the line today, so I’m absolutely stoked with it.”

Carbery will swap out his Munster gear for Ireland garb this week. The coaches and team-mates he leaves behind in UL will begin picking the bones out of a hard-fought win over Exeter and also take a look at their quarter-final opponents when they are confirmed this afternoon.

That is the next Munster fixture that will dominate Carbery’s focus. He isn’t sated by this season’s run as a starting 10 and the massive responsibility that comes with it.

“It’s obviously great to get (a quarter-final) but there’s still nothing won, there’s still nothing accomplished this season.

“To be honest, I’m just doing my job. Helping the players around me so that they can benefit from it. We’ll take good confidence coming in, we’re in a good position now but then we got to keep building every day and keep learning and improving as a team which I think we’ve done really well over this Christmas period. 

He adds: “I suppose the more we progress in this competition, the harder it’s going to get. So, the more we can learn from games like this, influence it into our game, then the better we’re going to be.

“So, the better teams we play, the better we’re going to be. It’s a learning curve.”

Joey Carbery and Joe Simmonds Carbery cuts by his opposite number Joe Simmonds. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Head coach Johann van Graan has been suitably impressed by Carbery’s progress along the learning curve this season. At times, particularly when working in tandem with Chris Farrell, the attack has sparkled. But his reliability on the tee has been a comfort through the Christmas inter-pros and closing rounds of the pool phase.

“To come back and kick 20 out of 20, that’s incredible,” says Van Graan.

That’s a sign of pure class. His willingness to learn, his willingness to improve is an incredible trait of a very young rugby player.

“There was a lot of expectation when he came to Munster, but the way he’s handled himself… he is a special man and a special player, I’m proud to be his coach.”

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Sean Farrell

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