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5 talking points after Anthony Foley's Munster slipped to defeat in Clermont

The home team’s attacking quality, a more varied Munster, that losing bonus point and kick chase problems.

Murray Kinsella reports from Stade Marcel-Michelin

Munster’s Ian Keatley kicks a penalty to get the bonus point for Munster Ian Keatley kicks a last-minute penalty for Munster. Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Clermont’s attacking quality

MUNSTER TRULY STRUGGLED to get to grips with Clermont’s waves of attack at times in this 26-19 defeat. Indeed, they failed utterly for the tries from Nao Nakaitaci and Damien Chouly, although few teams in the world would have halted those passages.

Franck Azéma’s men are lethal in broken-up situations of play, whether that be from Munster errors, turnovers at the breakdown or the reception of kicks. Wesley Fofana’s break in the lead-up to Chouly’s score was a prime example.

In that swaggering form, Clermont looked like Champions Cup winners elect, although they did force things in the closing minutes. Attempting to secure a bonus-point try, their decision to run the ball from their own 22 was punished by Duncan Casey’s clever intercept.

Munster better with the ball

There is little doubt that Munster were much improved in their use of possession this weekend, as they asked far more questions of the Clermont defence. More passing and sharper running lines cut off the effectiveness of ASM’s linespeed, while JJ Hanrahan added a strong passing option to the backline.

The sight of Paul O’Connell throwing a one-handed offload out of the tackle exemplified Munster’s increased willingess to take risks, as Ian Keatley floated some lovely passes into wide channels.

There were still dominant carries in tight, but they often came off short, linking ‘tip-ons’ by the Munster forwards, ensuring they could target soft shoulders rather than a blitzing defender. This should be the blueprint moving forward for Foley’s side.

Costly kick and chase errors

Clermont AuvergneÕs Zac Guildford Source: Inpho/Billy Stickland

Munster’s kick chase had some excellent moments as always, but overall there may be some regret around the other instances where they switched off. Clermont’s counter-attacking ability, mentioned above, means they have to be shut down swiftly and decisively.

Unfortunately that didn’t happen, particularly in the instances when Munster didn’t find touch. In that regard, Conor Murray’s kick before the Nakaitaci try proved costly, as did the lax effort in closing off a Clermont counter just before Felix Jones was yellow-carded.

While hardly the root of defeat for Munster, it is an area of the game in which they are normally at 100%. Ensuring that is the case in January against Saracens and Sale will be vital.

Bonus point at the death

It looked extremely unlikely that Munster would secure the losing bonus point when Damien Chouly crossed for Clermont’s third try, but Foley’s side came back in a typical fashion to grab something from this game.

Casey’s try showed his intelligence, while the fact that it was Fritz Lee’s pass gave some satisfcation after another niggly performance from the Clermont back row. Even still, Munster looked to be flagging physically, before Lee conceded that late penalty at the ruck.

Credit goes to Munster, though for the manner in which they picked themselves up from a situation that looked desperate. Keatley’s mental strength in slamming over three points with the last kick of the game was impressive.

Set-piece creaks in second half

Paul O'Connell reacts O'Connell was frustrated by the second-half set-piece. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

That Munster gave themselves such a strong platform in the first half was one of the major reasons they managed to create chances in attack. Smooth line-out ball was in heavy supply, while John Ryan and the front row coped well at scrum time.

Unfortunately, that solidity turned around in the second period, particularly as Clermont used a powerful bench that Munster simply could not match. A couple of scrum penalties were damaging, while the line-out stuttered more often.

Again, it was certainly improved on last weekend, when Munster were frustrated by Clermont’s spoiling tactics, so there are more positives to take. Another area for potential growth in the coming months.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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