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Van Graan pleased with Munster's response ahead of Leinster clash

The southern province recorded a record Pro14 victory over Ulster at Thomond Park last night.

Munster celebrate Peter O'Mahony's try.
Munster celebrate Peter O'Mahony's try.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Ryan Bailey reports from Thomond Park

THIS WAS MORE like it, Munster at their ruthless, domineering best as they put a depleted and sorry Ulster side to the sword, but they know better than anyone that much sterner tests lie ahead.

It’s hard to gauge just how good Johann van Graan’s side were given the players Ulster were without, the fact they then lost Iain Henderson and John Cooney mid-match and the way the visitors meekly surrendered in the face of a Munster onslaught.

But the southern province can take great satisfaction from the way they rebounded from last week’s disappointment in Cardiff, and to register a record Guinness Pro14 victory (64-7) was the perfect response in what turned out to be an underwhelming, and low-key, inter-pro derby.

The hosts ran in nine tries during an utterly dominant display at Thomond Park, as the forwards bullied the Ulster pack into submission and, with the platform to run the show, Joey Carbery gave the Saturday evening crowd plenty to enjoy with another masterful performance.

Dan Goggin and Tommy O’Donnell helped themselves to two tries apiece in the first period, and with the bonus-point already secured, Munster ensured there was no let-up this week as they crossed five times after the break, with the outstanding Peter O’Mahony and man-of-the-match Carbery among those to get in on the act.

Overall, it was a pleasing night’s work for Munster and it left their head coach quietly content leading into the serious business, starting with Saturday’s round six clash against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium. 

“Obviously very happy to put in a good performance from our side,” van Graan said afterwards.

“We asked for a response from our guys and the most important thing was we needed to improve in all areas, and I thought we did. The small things were very good tonight, I thought our scrum and our lineout were very good. Ulster attacked pretty well and kept us in our 22 for multiple phases and I thought we defended pretty well then.

“We were in this position twice [Glasgow and Cardiff], when we’ve had a very good first half and kind of didn’t really put the foot on the accelerator in the second half and I thought we did that tonight.” 

On scoring nine tries to rack up 60 points, the South African added: “You have to be happy with that, although I think we left quite a few out there tonight. But a real positive was the small things, some of the passing was excellent and the decision-making was very good. I don’t think we overplayed or chased the game, even when we were into the 60s, we didn’t try and do anything fancy, we just kind of stuck to what we set out to do.

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Joey Carbery celebrates after the game Carbery was MOTM. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

“We as a team took a responsibility this week after a below-par performance last Friday night. Each guy takes responsibility for his job, and I thought it was a job well done tonight.” 

Munster will get a better idea of where they stand in the coming weeks with that trip to the capital to face the Pro14 and European champions, as well as the opening games of their Heineken Champions Cup campaign against Exeter Chiefs and Gloucester, their first major challenges. 

While a nine-try rout might not be the best preparation for the intensity of next week’s inter-pro against Leo Cullen’s side, van Graan sees it as an important building block for his team.

“You can only play what’s in front of you,” he continued.

“Even when the team-sheets came out on Friday, I didn’t give any attention to it [the mismatch]. Tonight was all about us, our reaction and what we wanted to do, so I can’t dictate what other teams do and don’t. They still had a lot of quality in their team tonight — Iain Henderson, Cooney, Burns, Gilroy, Deysel. Just happy with our performance.

“I think we are also getting a bit of rhythm into our team. I thought Joey and Rory [Scannell] combined pretty well. Very good communication from Andrew [Conway] at the back and I think our forwards are starting to get their depth.

“The frustrating thing is to do it every week. I’m very happy and tonight wasn’t about an individual, it was about 23 guys that I thought played pretty well.”

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About the author:

Ryan Bailey

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