Munster had plenty of cause to celebrate over the weekend. Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Derby Season

Attention turns to Lam's Connacht as Munster strive for consistency

Anthony Foley wants his side to match ‘one of our better performances’ on a regular basis.

“AS LONG AS we get a bit of consistency in what we do, we’ll get the results, as shown tonight.”

Pat Howard is the newest member of Munster’s squad, but he’s already on key in terms of what it is that Anthony Foley wants. Following Friday night’s comprehensive win over Leinster, the head coach laid down a challenge to his players.

Can they match that performance level on a consistent basis? We’ll get an opportunity to find out on New Year’s Day at the Sportsground, where a frustrated Connacht will look for their first inter-pro success of the festive period.

If Munster can repeat the physical intensity they brought against Leinster at Thomond Park, it would be difficult to wager against them, whatever about the ongoing progress under Pat Lam out west.

Foley was certainly rapt by what he saw from his players in their 28-13 win:

I thought it was one of our better performances of the year. A lot of lads showed up well and put in a good, physical performance. We played in the right areas of the pitch and I thought we probably left one or two tries out there.”

The performance of Ian Keatley was a major positive for Foley, with his out-half standing out as the most impressive playmaker on the pitch. Under pressure from JJ Hanrahan, as well as pushing for further Ireland caps, Keatley was on song.

His kicking game was excellent against Leinster’s poorly-positioned and hesitant cover in the backfield, allowing Munster to achieve territorial dominance.

“We put a lot of pressure on our nines and tens to play the game in the right areas,” said Foley, “but that doesn’t necessarily mean you kick everything.

inpho_00878655 Connacht grabbed a losing bonus point in Ravenhill last time out.

“There’s a bit of complexity around trying to get into the right areas but maintaining possession of the ball, so you’re not giving them easy outs to kick you 40 metres down the pitch.

I thought the boys managed the game very well, played the game in the right areas and put them [Leinster] under pressure.”

Foley is well aware of the upward trajectory of Connacht’s season, with the western province still inside the Pro12′s top six even after back-to-back defeats against Irish rivals.

Leinster left the Sportsground defeated earlier this year, when the Connacht defence was rabid in its hunger to make tackles. Another close encounter is likely in store, meaning Munster would benefit from similarly strong starts to each half as against Leinster on Friday.

A week previously to that inter-pro victory, Munster coughed up an 18-9 half-time lead to lose away to Glasgow. Andrew Conway scored a try swiftly after the break against Leinster, but Foley will be taking lessons from that defeat to the Warriors.

“That’s something we’ve talked about from Glasgow, where we were nine points up at half time and we let Glasgow go at us. Against Leinster, we just made sure we went out and tried to get the next score, increasing the lead rather than sitting on it.”

There can be no let up in Galway on Thursday evening, with Lam’s men sure to be relentless.

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