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'It shows what we can do when we all show up' - Carbery

Joey Carbery says Saturday’s win over Exeter Chiefs was a reminder of the potential in the Munster squad.

Joey Carbery with Johann van Graan after the game.
Joey Carbery with Johann van Graan after the game.

JOEY CARBERY SAYS Munster need to use Saturday’s 26-10 Heineken Champions Cup win over Exeter Chiefs as a benchmark for the rest of the season, as the province continue to fight it out on two fronts.

An 16-point win at Thomond Park saw the province qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup on a 34-23 aggregate scoreline, with Carbery playing a central role in the victory.

The out-half scored the first of Munster’s two tries and added four penalties and two conversions from the boot, scoring 21 of their 26 points on the day.

Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the performance was the flashes of quality Munster displayed in attack following their well-documented struggles in that department recently.

Carbery showed good feet to finish his try while in the second period, Simon Zebo’s stunning offload sent Damian de Allende through to steal an important win in style. 

“I think it was huge, the last two weeks have been disappointing, and it’s good to get back and put a proper performance down,” Carbery said.

I think the last two weeks we didn’t perform probably to the best of our ability. Now that kind of puts a platform that hopefully we can spring on from, and just shows exactly what we can do when we all show up.”

That last part in the crucial bit. Too often this season, Munster simply haven’t shown up.

Before Toulouse make the trip to the Aviva Stadium, the province take on Ulster and Cardiff in the URC, two fixtures which offer Munster an opportunity to build on the momentum created by Saturday’s defeat of Exeter.

Even amid a much improved display on Saturday, there will be elements of the performance that Munster will pick apart and look to improve on in the coming weeks. Against a stubborn Exeter side, Johann van Graan’s team only saw 39% of the possession and once again leaned on a huge defensive effort, making more than twice as many tackles (213) as their visitors (104).  

Munster will need to produce more if they are to go deeper into the tournament, with reigning champions Toulouse now waiting in the quarter-finals. Sunday’s news that the game will be played in Dublin appears to make Munster’s task even more difficult, with the Exeter game a reminder of the power an energised Thomond Park crowd can hold.

“Look, it keeps us alive in Europe,” Carbery continued.

joey-carbery-celebrates-after-scoring-a-try-with-mike-haley Carbery celebrates his try. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We move on to the quarters now and I think it puts a foot down of where we can get to. It is good belief for us as a squad to know that when we show up on the day we can go out and put our foot forward. We all know we can do it, and we just need to go out and show it like we did today.”

It felt like an important day for Carbery too. Injury struggles have held the gifted out-half back in recent seasons, and the form of Ben Healy has put even more pressure on the 26-year-old to deliver every time he takes to the pitch for Munster.

Yet on Saturday he was a key player in a big Munster win. He would have liked to get the ball in his hands more often – making just five carries in an 80-minute performance – yet his decision making was sound in important situations and he was flawless from the tee, nailing all six kicks at the posts despite a swirling wind.

“There were obviously dark days with the injury so I am just delighted to be able to go out there and do my thing,” he added.

It is so enjoyable to be out there in front of that crowd and to be with that team. Obviously we are delighted with the result, but I think the memories that we take from days like today, it is incredibly special, playing with some of your best mates, going out there and being able to put a great performance down and move on. Yeah, it’s incredibly special.”

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Plenty to work on for Munster, and plenty to work on for Carbery, who is taking more confidence from every outing in the red jersey. Saturday represented just his sixth appearance for the province this season, each game an opportunity to generate more of an understanding with his teammates. 

“I am always trying to build on my game. Playing with the players around me, you kind of get the feel of how they like to play.  

“Playing with someone like Damian De Allende, he has tonnes of experience so being able to chat to him in the week and then little comms on the pitch here and there, he is telling me how he wants the ball, so that hopefully indicates how I will do my job, so little things like that working together in a unit has helped me a lot. 

“I think playing space, playing heads up rugby is something I have been OK at, but I want to get a lot better at, so being able to do that with guys and bringing them with me. Then some guys like Doogs (De Allende) and Zeebs (Simon Zebo), they can see space and all I have to do is that I know is trust the call and I know they have made the right call, so being able to trust them is a big thing.” 

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Ciarán Kennedy

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