Bryan Keane/INPHO Munster winger Shane Daly.
# Analysis
All-action Shane Daly has been one of Munster's brightest lights this season
The winger is enjoying his best campaign yet with his home province.

IT TOOK THEM a while, but finally there is a settled, strong look to Graham Rowntree’s Munster.

After enduring some rough moments across the former Leicester prop’s first campaign in charge, the province’s late-season drive to Saturday’s URC final in Cape Town has been delivered by a matchday 23 which has shown few changes week-on-week.

To get to this point Rowntree has made some big calls, dropping senior names, backing youth and keeping faith with new combinations in his bid to find the right mix.

Winger Shane Daly has been a key component of Munster’s impressive run of form and the 26-year-old will be firmly in the running for the province’s player of the year.

After a couple of frustrating seasons waiting on the wings, the Corkman is now thriving in a resurgent Munster side. 

Daly – who debuted for the province in 2018 – often missed out on the Munster matchday 23 last season despite feeling he was playing good rugby as former head coach Johann Van Graan favoured a 6/2 split on the bench.

This season he’s looked reinvigorated as a crucial part of Rowntree’s plans, starting 22 games and featuring once off the bench – he had previously never bettered 13 starts in one season (2019/20).

Comfortable on either wing or at fullback, Daly has locked down the 11 jersey – starting the last seven games on the bounce and playing 538 minutes out of possible 560.

Daly took confidence from his experience on the Emerging Ireland tour earlier this season and has pointed to the new systems put in place by Munster attack coach Mike Prendergast, who has empowered the squad to play with more freedom, as a major factor in his superb form.

As well as showcasing a huge workrate across the season, Daly is also an excellent finisher – as evidenced in the try he scored against the Stormers when the sides met last month in Cape Town.

The try came just before the hour mark with the scores locked at 12-12 at the DHL Stadium.

Taking possession after Munster move the ball coast-to-coast from a lineout, Daly has a lot to do but produces a great finish in the corner.

Daly try Stormers

Taking the pass from Mike Haley, Daly races into the 22 and has the power and pace to finish in the corner despite being tackled by Stormers wing Seabelo Senatla. It’s a confident finish under immense pressure.

Stormers try close

That blistering pace was also on display in the memorable defeat of South Africa A at Páirc Uí Chaoimh earlier in the season – Daly beating two defenders to the corner to give Munster the perfect start just two minutes into the game.

Try South Africa

In March, he scored two tries in one game for the first time in three years – including this well-timed break to push Munster 35-7 clear against the Scarlets.

Scarlets try

His first try in the same game was a simple run-in in the corner, but more notable was this strong carry in the passages of play leading up to the score, Daly showing good footwork to skip past defenders.

Scarlets carry

At the time, Daly was enjoying a fine run of try-scoring form, having also crossed against Ospreys in the previous round of URC fixtures.

And when Munster went to South Africa for a Champions Cup clash against the Sharks in April, Daly was again on hand to give them a dream start.

Sharks try

Here, Daly backs himself to step inside and beat the defender rather than engage in a straight sprint for the corner.

Sharks try close

Clearly playing with confidence, the URC semi-final defeat of Leinster was one Daly’s strongest performances of the season, and across an all-action 80-minute display he delivered a number of outstanding moments.

This sequence just after the 20 minute mark highlights both his strong ball-carrying ability and his effectiveness in coming in off his wing.

First, Daly produces a strong carry to get Munster into the Leinster 22.

Carry 1 Leinster

As Munster go through the phases Daly then drifts infield and shows impressive power to drive through the tackle from Josh van der Flier.

Carry 2 Leinster

Daly then has the awareness to release the offload to Jack Crowley. From here, Munster win the penalty which allows Ben Healy kick the visitors into a 6-3 lead.

Carry 2 Leinster close

That tendency to drift in off the wing has been a notable theme of Daly’s game this year – and something we’ve come to associate with wingers in Andy Farrell’s Ireland team – and another example arrived a few minutes later, Daly playing the final pass to Crowley before Luke McGrath knocks on – a penalty which allows Munster kick to the corner, although Leinster then manage to turn the ball over.

Leinster carry 3

From here, Leinster go up the pitch and build some momentum, before Daly hits Charlie Ngatai with a huge dominant tackle. 

Munster tackle 1

With Tommy O’Brien free to Ngatai’s right, Daly gets his timing and technique spot on – although Leinster do recycle the ball and Jason Jenkins eventually breaks through to score the first try of the game.

In the second half, as Munster apply pressure in the Leinster 22, Daly continues to roam and even ends up on the shoulder of Keith Earls on the opposite wing in a passage of play where Munster showcase their improved ball-retention skills.

Leinster carry 4

With Munster now leading 13-10 after Tadhg Beirne’s try, Graham Rowntree’s side continue to play most of the rugby in the Leinster half, with Daly spinning a beautiful long pass out to Rory Scannell off his left hand.

Leinster pass

After Leinster responded through Joe McCarthy, Daly then does well to deal with an awkward kick in behind and offload to Scannell.

Leinster offload 2

He’s then calm under pressure to keep the ball alive on his own tryline in the 76th minute. 

Leinster shuffle

This is right at the start of the remarkable of passage of play which sees Munster go end-to-end before Crowley kicks the match-winning drop goal, during which Daly remains heavily involved, showing up on the right wing again to pop a pass out to Earls.

Leinster offload Earls

It was Daly’s fifth offload of the game – the most by any player and three more than any Leinster player on the day.

And on that subject, it’s worth finishing with a look at Daly’s most memorable offload of the campaign, which came in the brilliant team try scored away at Toulouse in January – probably the province’s score of the season (so far).

Daly’s first involvement in the move is to hit the ruck as Gavin Coombes carries into contact.

Toulouse ruck

He then quickly gets back into position on the wing to collect a superb offload from Gavin Coombes, before this sensational offload back inside to Craig Casey. 

Toulouse offload

Casey carries Munster into the Toulouse 22, where Daly is on hand as the support runner to keep the move alive.

Toulouse support

Munster get numbers in to recycle the ball before Joey Carbery’s crossfield ends with Tadhg Beirne powering over after a great carry and offload from Calvin Nash – another in-form winger. 

Toulouse try

It’s a wonderful score that’s a world away from some the laboured, disjointed play we saw from Munster last season.

There’s been a few bumps on the road but as Munster head to South Africa this weekend looking to land a first trophy since 2011, they make the trip full of confidence.

Daly’s form has been one of the many highlights of what has turned into a very encouraging season.  

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