The Munster try that highlighted the progress their attack is making

Mike Prendergast is pleased with the Munster forwards’ improved handling skills.

THE BEST TRY so far of the new Munster era? Well, it was admittedly against only 14 players when Northampton had a man in the bin last weekend but the team score finished by Jack O’Donoghue at Thomond Park was a beauty.

It took 96 seconds from start to finish and the Waterford man crossed on 12th phase.

14 of the Munster players handled the ball during this passage, loosehead prop Dave Kilcoyne the only one not to get a touch as they stretched the Saints to breaking point.

The opportunity stemmed from a Northampton error in Munster’s half that saw Mike Haley produce an excellent long kick on turnover possession, forcing the English side into a panicked scramble and clearance kick of their own.

Jack Crowley counters back…


As second row pair Jean Kleyn and Tadhg Beirne clear out the breakdown, scrum-half Craig Casey gets a shout from his left and instantly fires the ball to Gavin Coombes.

As we see below, the number eight looks to fix the defender in front of him and throws a pass, the first of three passes from Coombes during a passage in which he doesn’t carry the ball himself.


With O’Donoghue ducking back underneath Shane Daly on a switch line, Munster don’t manage to exploit the numbers-up situation to the tune of a linebreak, but they make big gains early in their possession.

Kleyn carries infield off Casey on the next phase before the scrum-half goes back into the shortside for O’Donoghue to surge forward.


Key above is how Mike Haley and Kilcoyne deliver an effective, rapid clearout to ensure that Munster can continue to play at speed.

Beirne is next to carry off Casey as Munster bounce back to their right, and then the backs are ready to feature prominently in a four-pass sequence that brings them all the way to the right edge and into the Northampton 22.

Highlighted below is the three-man pod of forwards outside out-half Joey Carbery, with Crowley, Daly [who has worked over from his left wing] and Antoine Frisch swinging out behind them.


With clear space wide on Munster’s right, Carbery plays out the back of the forwards to Crowley, who in turn finds Frisch and we get an example of the Munster outside centre’s one-on-one skills as he beats Rory Hutchinson and feeds Calvin Nash.


On the next phase, we see Coombes’ second pass as Munster show variety in their three-pod off scrum-half.

Coombes is at the heart of the pod and instead of carrying the ball himself or tipping a pass on to Niall Scannell outside him, he tips a pass inside to tighthead prop Roman Salanoa.


As we see above, the sleight of hand from Coombes allows Salanoa to power well over the gainline and Munster win penalty advantage as Saints prop Paul Hill, having been dragged along the ground by Salanoa, stands up in an offside position.

Casey and Carbery move the ball into midfield for Haley to carry next, before Casey again shifts direction back to Salanoa on his right.

As we see below, the Hawaii native shows his power with a big right-arm fend on Northampton lock Alex Moon, buying Munster time to reorganise themselves.


Munster don’t make gainline progress on the next phase but we see good handling skill from Peter O’Mahony and Nash to move the ball to Daly.


The constant high-tempo movement of the ball is unsettling and fatiguing for the short-staffed Saints defence, who are struggling to cope with Munster’s attack.

O’Mahony carries infield on 11th phase before Munster strike to score on the next one.

As highlighted in red below, Munster have a pod of three forwards off Casey, with Carbery set up in behind.


O’Donoghue [yellow above] has set up to run a direct line off Carbery, while Crowley is beginning to make his move to bounce out behind O’Donoghue.

Note also how Coombes [blue above] is working hard to get into a wide position on Munster’s left as they continue to stretch Saints.

Carbery is tightly connected to the pod in front of him here, making it smoother for hooker Niall Scannell to play a ‘sweep’ pass out the back to his out-half, as we see below.


Again, the handling is slick from Munster as Scannell, Carbery, and Crowley play short, accurate passes before Haley throws a longer ball wide to Coombes.

Coombes then does superbly as he steps back in off his left foot, beating Saints wing Tommy Freeman, before drawing in fullback George Furbank and passing inside to O’Donoghue, who has worked out in support after running his decoy line in midfield.


It’s an excellent finish to a passage that says plenty about what Graham Rowntree’s team have been working so hard on under attack coach Mike Prendergast.

Prendergast belives that while there’s lots of room for Munster’s attack to keep improving, there are clear signs of progress. The province’s training is now done at breakneck speed with all players getting plenty of touches of the ball. Prendergast is pleased with some of the results after a slow start to the season. He feels Munster’s catch-pass skills have improved, particularly among the forwards.

“The way we train, it definitely does help us,” says Prendergast. “Even in those three-team games, or we do a two-ruck drill, you’re consistently under pressure. Denis [Leamy] is pushing the defence to put us under pressure and then from our side of the ball, we’re looking to exploit his defence.

“There is that competitiveness going on and that puts a lot of stress on your skills. You’ve got to be in place early to make good decisions.

“The fitter you are, the better the decisions you make and the more skillful you can be because you’re set early, you’re catching the ball early, and everything flows after that. The two or three areas that I was looking to grow over the last couple of months, there has definitely been steps forward.”

Munster had some sharp set-piece attack against Northampton too, including several clever lineout strikes.

They also scored two tries from five-metres tap penalties. Although the Northampton defence was poor in both instances, these were clinical tries by Munster as Coombes dotted down on both occasions.

The first came in the ninth minute and there was some subtle work to create the score. In the set-up below, Salanoa [yellow] is perhaps the most obvious recipient of a pass from Scannell…


Scannell could obviously also tap and carry himself, but instead he passes across the face of Salanoa to Kilcoyne.

Watch below how late O’Mahony shows up on Kilcoyne’s outside to ensure he’s in position to latch. O’Mahony doesn’t want to give Northampton an easy cue by setting up there too early.


With Beirne also lending his weight to that first carry and Salanoa helping with the clearout, Munster get a quick recycle.

They look set to carry to their left again on second phase as Coombes shows around the corner with Kleyn ready to latch onto him, but instead the plan is to bounce back to the right, where Saints tighthead Hill has been left isolated by his fellow forwards chasing around the corner.


Scannell is the passer again as Coombes, Kleyn and O’Donoghue swing over to the right of the ruck at a late stage and smash through Hill for the try.


Coombes dotted down again later when Scannell tapped and carried another five-metre penalty, before the number eight followed up to drive his way over the tryline with another double latch from Kleyn and O’Donoghue.

Prendergast credits the Munster forwards and their coaches for being able to take those chances clinically from close-range.

“They’re very good at taking on detail which is great,” says Prendergast. “You saw that from the first try. Maybe to the naked eye, it doesn’t look like a huge amount but there was nice little variation within that.

“That’s something we work on an awful lot as well because our goal from when we get the ball anywhere from their 40 [the opposition 10-metre line] is to try and get into that 22 as quick and as good as we can.

“And once you’re in there, you go back to your traditional stuff in terms of our forwards carrying, our maul, and over the last season or so there are a lot more penalties in and around that last 10 or 15 metres, so it’s an area we do focus on a lot. There’s a lot of good work being done by Graham and Andy Kyriacou as well.”

mike-prendergast Munster attack coach Mike Prendergast. Evan Treacy / INPHO Evan Treacy / INPHO / INPHO

O’Donoghue’s red card made it tough for Munster to put together much in attack in the second half but there were promising signs in that opening 40 minutes.

They’re likely to face a greater defensive challenge this weekend in Toulouse, but Prendergast is excited to keep adding strings to Munster’s attacking bow as the season continues.

“We will add different layers to our attack,” says Prendergast. “As an attack coach, you’ve got to be conscious in terms of the amount of information that you’re looking for from players.

“There’s certain layers there, we’ll add a few more and that’s the next challenge for the players, to get a hold of that.”

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