Monday 30 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
# Reaction
Keatley's kicks, the architect of Munster defence and more talking points
In tough conditions, the southern province claimed a hard-fought win over Racing 92.

MUNSTER DUG DEEP to claim a 14  – 7 win over Racing 92 in their Champions Cup Pool 4 meeting. You’ll find the match report here, with some of our post-match talking points below.

Pool challenge well on track

A six-point haul from two games is nothing to sneeze at. After a draw in Castres, the hour-long deadlock in Thomond intensified fears that Munster could go to December without a win, and perhaps without Rassie Erasmus.

Munster players celebrate Conor Murray scoring a try Bryan Keane / INPHO Bryan Keane / INPHO / INPHO

Mercifully, a game-changer came along in Conor Murray and the crowd rose to greet his glide towards his own charge-down and the real start of Munster’s challenge in Pool 4.

Defeat today would have given the southern province a mountain to climb to reach the knock-out stages. Instead, one Maxime Machenaud error has nudged them level at the top of it.

Keats’ kicks

Ian Keatley’s big vote of confidence from Erasmus came last weekend when he avoided being put on A team duty and taken to France. With Tyler Bleyendaal injured, he repaid that faith in spades.

Throughout the contest, the Dubliner was a source of tempo and had the confidence to play flat with ball in hand.

Ian Keatley celebrates after the game Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

A 66% return off the tee is only half the story. Keatley put a poor early Garryowen behind him to deliver some terrific variation in his tactical kicking, creating chances in attack with cross-field kicks, a chip ahead for Simon Zebo and a priceless nudge to pin Racing back in their 22 after Munster had taken a lead.

Nienaber will be sorely missed

Erasmus is the headline departure later this year, but his right hand man will leave a massive hole to be filled – unlike the defence he has created.

On a night when Munster won with the minor share of territory and possession, it’s always worth commending men like CJ Stander (19 tackles), Rhys Marshall (18 tackles) or Jean Kleyn (16 tackles). However, it’s Jacques Nienaber who is the architect of that rock solid defence.

Rassie Erasmus with Jacques Nienaber Billy Stickland / INPHO Billy Stickland / INPHO / INPHO

On top of that, he is a constant vibrant presence on the sideline throughout matches, and the sight of him barking in information or wheeling on to high-five a player when Munster had all the momentum makes his forthcoming exit more concerning.

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Tigers ahead

Matt O’Connor has a Leicester side who mean business in this pool. Munster’s old adversaries followed up last weekend’s losing bonus point in Paris by thoroughly demolishing Castres 54-29 in Welford Road.

Simon Zebo celebrates after the game Dan Sheridan / INPHO Dan Sheridan / INPHO / INPHO

Given Munster’s defence tonight, we’re unlikely to see that sort of shoot-out when they come to blows with the Tigers in the December back-to-backs. And the Premiership side will be keen to make a point in Thomond Park after getting steam-rolled 38-0 in Limerick last year.

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