Munster find their ruthless edge in attack at the right time

Graham Rowntree’s side have taken their chances in the last couple of games.

THIS IS A perfect time of the season for your attack to start bringing a ruthless edge. That’s what Munster have been getting in recent weeks.

In their win over the Bulls in Pretoria, they had 10 entries into the Bulls 22 and scored four tries, which meant a return of 2.40 points per entry. 

But a week later against the Lions, Graham Rowntree’s side only had six entries into the opposition 22 but still managed four tries, meaning an excellent return of 4.00 points per entry.

And last weekend against Connacht, things went even better. Munster had 10 entries and scored seven tries. Their return of 4.70 points per entry is elite.

While these things tend to be up and down, Munster’s attack is clearly in a good place. They tailored their game plan in South Africa, using their kicking game more and targeting fewer of the long passages of possession they’re renowned for.

Against Connacht, it was more like the familiar Munster but they also continued to be more purposeful with their set-piece attack, looking to score early whenever possible. They look like a team who have been spending more training time on their set-piece attack.

Whatever the specifics of the plan, Rowntree’s men brought a clinical edge against Connacht as they drove towards the URC play-offs. If the defending champions can keep this level of attacking output up, they will be difficult to dethrone.

Connacht made Munster work hard for the opening try but the southern province eventually cracked the visitors’ resistance from a five-metre tap penalty play.


Niall Scannell taps and immediately passes left to Jeremy Loughman, who targets the left edge of the bunch of Connacht forwards.

RG Snyman [white below] sets up to the left of the breakdown, shaping to carry again on that side, with Connacht folding two forwards around the corner [red] to deal with that threat.


Jack O’Donoghue initially moves left looking like he’ll support Snyman on that side but the plan is to swing back under the breakdown late and carry to the right.


As Stephen Archer makes sure Jack Carty can’t get away from the breakdown, Connacht prop Peter Dooley [yellow] is suddenly in a one-man tackle situation, a relative rarity in the tight this close to the tryline.

That’s also partly due to Peter O’Mahony [red below] having taken up a position to the right-hand side, drawing Finlay Bealham away from potentially contributing to a tackle on Snyman.


And so, when Snyman swings back under to take Scannell’s disguised pass – which deflects off the referee – he is in a one-on-one situation, with O’Donoghue also in close support.

Snyman has the power to smash through Dooley’s tackle attempt and stretch out to score.


This play is credited to Leicester Tigers, who scored from it in the 2022 Premiership final.

Several Irish teams have copied it since. Just last weekend, Leinster also used this play – which they call ‘Leicester’ – to score against the Ospreys, while Ulster were held up over the Scarlets’ tryline in another instance.

Snyman is the ideal strike weapon to use on this play, as he showed against Connacht.

The second Munster try was also of the set-piece variety but from much further out and off a scrum. Connacht are still down to 14 men with back row Shamus Hurley-Langton in the sin bin and the eight-man Munster pack take full advantage.


Loughman gets a nudge on the loosehead side as Archer also edges up and though the scrum shifts at an angle infield, Munster are going forward, leaving the ball on a plate for scrum-half Craig Casey.

While Connacht scrum-half Caolin Blade initially has to position himself close to the scrum to defend there, he is obviously keen to be an active defender when Munster pass away from the scrum too.


The quality of Casey’s pass makes life difficult for Connacht.

Watch how the accuracy and velocity of Casey’s pass, out in front of Jack Crowley and inviting him onto the ball, immediately means Blade is struggling to get out to Crowley.


Casey’s bullet of a pass makes Connacht out-half Jack Carty briefly doubt whether Blade can get to Crowley.

And so Carty holds his feet ever so slightly as he worries about the threat of Crowley running rather than instantly jockeying onto Munster centre Seán O’Brien…


… which in turn means Bundee Aki has to ever-so-slightly hesitate as he considers having to tackle O’Brien if Carty can’t jockey off Crowley…


… which seems to contribute to Connacht outside centre Tom Farrell briefly being more concerned about front-door option Alex Nankivell [pink below] than back-door option Calvin Nash [black], who will receive the ball from Crowley.


Crowley, O’Brien, and Nankivell do a good job of running square, posing genuine threats to the Connacht midfield, and that’s an important part of the linebreak that Nash makes outside Farrell.


The Connacht outside centre – who is set to join Munster this summer – will have been very disappointed to get beaten like this.

Because he initially bites inwards onto Nankivell, Farrell then finds it very hard to turn back out in time when the ball instead goes to Nash.

The Munster blindside wing gets the ball into his left hand, ready to fend with his right, but doesn’t even need that fend as his slaloming run takes him away from Farrell. 

Connacht right wing Shane Jennings might have looked to bail Farrell out here and at least force Nash into making another pass, but he has already committed out onto Munster fullback Simon Zebo, presuming that Farrell will get to Nash.


Nash scorches through and then has the pace to finish into the left corner as Connacht left wing Byron Ralston [pink below] belatedly gets on his bike across the backfield.


Because fullback Tiernan O’Halloran [yellow above] is closing up on the right edge of the Connacht defence to cover Munster left wing Shane Daly, Ralston probably needs to be further across the pitch at this stage.

As it is, Nash has a headstart and enough pace to finish.


It’s rare to see a first-phase try from so far out at this level of rugby, which underlines how disappointed Connacht will be with their defence here.

That said, Munster have been sharp on set-piece attack recently. This is a standard play with Crowley needling a pass in front of O’Brien and behind Nankivell but it’s done with accuracy and intent, meaning attack coach Mike Prendergast will have been happy.

Munster’s third score just after half time was a breakaway try from Nankivell after Connacht put the ball down in attack, the impressive Kiwi centre sprinting home from 70 metres out.

Their bonus-point try was a peach as they used a nice bit of shape to break Connacht despite playing off a slow ruck. As we can see below, Nankivell [yellow] is organising as Oli Jager carries on the phase before Munster score.


Nankivell wants O’Mahony to join the forward pod in front of him, making it a 3-man pod rather the 2-pod as it is above.

O’Mahony responds by shifting infield and up the pitch to join the pod.


Nankivell then calls for Zebo to get outside him, offering his pace in a wider position and allowing Antoine Frisch to set up in behind the 3-pod.


Zebo obliges and works outside Nankivell just as the phase begins with Conor Murray’s pass from the ruck. 


So Munster are in good shape as the phase begins.

Out-half Joey Carbery [blue below] is the first receiver, with a pod of three forwards [black] outside him, and Frisch [pink] set up in behind to accept a pass out the back of that pod as Munster look to move the ball wide.


Nankivell and Zebo [green above] will be the next wave of the attack, while Nash [purple] is holding width on the right to stretch the Connacht defence.

Most of the time with a 3-pod such as this, Carbery would pass to the middle player, so Tadhg Beirne in this case. Beirne would then have options to carry, tip a pass on to O’Mahony, tip a pass inside to Gavin Coombes, or sweep a pass out the back to Frisch.

But here, Munster throw a variation at Connacht as Carbery fires his pass one man wider to O’Mahony, who then deftly leaves the ball up for Frisch bouncing out the back.


Connacht back row Jarrad Butler has fully committed onto O’Mahony and with Hurley-Langton having opted against matching Butler’s linespeed, opportunity now beckons for Munster.

Frisch does a good job of turning the corner, straightening upfield outside Butler and O’Mahony to draw Hurley-Langton before he passes to Nankivell.


As we can see above, Ralston has started wide to cover the threat of Nash and he can’t get infield to stop Nankivell from accelerating into space.

With Connacht lock Niall Murray tracking cross-field, Nankivell then intuitively plays the switch pass to Zebo, who breaks past Butler and into even more space.

Having recognised the opportunity for Munster, scrum-half Murray has worked up on the inside support line and he gets his reward as Zebo skips past the attempted cover tackle of Blade, draws Carty, and puts Murray away.


Munster struck for another first-phase try from a scrum for their next try, this time from the left-hand side.

Connacht scrum-half Blade positions himself alongside Murray as he feeds from the shortside of the scrum and then covers there, meaning he’s never going to be able to get across to be part of the backline defence.


That magnifies the importance of out-half Carty getting to the first Munster attacker but that’s not the case as Murray’s excellent pass bypasses the Connacht 10.

With the ball stopping under Beirne’s feet on the left side of the scrum, Murray has to reach in to pick up the ball, then get himself clear of number eight Coombes before passing. He still comes up with a zippy, accurate pass to Nankivell.


Aki [red below] races off the defensive line and looks to hit Nankivell ball-and-all, with Carty essentially taken out of the game already.


Nankivell does a good job of making sure Aki hits him, eyeballing the Connacht centre as he carries the ball in two hands.

Nankivell takes punishment in contact as a result but it’s worth it as he preserves space for his team.

Just outside Aki, Connacht centre Cathal Forde is in a tricky spot. He can see that Frisch [white below] is running a hard line as the front-door option, while Carbery [red] and blindside wing Daly [green] are bouncing out the back if Nankivell sweeps his pass there.


Having two options to worry about means Forde struggles to land as powerful a tackle as possible when Nankivell opts for the short front-door pass to Frisch, who does a superb job here.

Watch below how Frisch gets the ball into his right hand, freeing his left to fire up a fend at Carty, who is covering across. 

As Forde tackles Frisch down low, Carty is hoping to wrap up the ball and prevent an offload but Frisch does superbly to keep the ball free and flick the one-handed offload away to Carbery, who has swung up outside him.


Once again, the Connacht openside wing – Ralston here – has become disconnected from their outside centre as they worry about Munster players further out the pitch. 

Ralson can’t turn in early enough and Carbery has the speed to finish past Blade coming from the inside.

Munster’s sixth try comes about thanks to the individual brilliance of Tom Ahern from a botched Connacht lineout.

He reacts well to reel in the ball and instantly shows his acceleration.


It looks like Farrell, who has moved to the wing at this stage, has Ahern covered as he heads for the 22-metre line, but the Munster forward shows his strength and balance to finish.


It’s quite the feat of athleticism from Ahern to stay on his feet here.

As we can see below, Farrell manages to slap down Ahern’s fend but then simply bounces off the big Waterford man.


Given Ahern’s 6ft 9ins height, it wouldn’t have been a shock if the impact had knocked him out over the touchline or off his feet, but he shows great balance to right himself and stay in play.

At a time when Munster fans are facing up to losing the world-class RG Snyman soon, it’s encouraging to see another forward produce unique x-factor moments like this one.

With Connacht seemingly out on their feet, Munster nab their seventh try with the last play of the game as a slick tip-on pass from Beirne sends the hard-working Daly into a gap to score.


Again, the disconnection in Connacht’s defence is clear but Munster get just reward for playing all the way until the final whistle.

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