Van Graan: 'It was important for us to back up last week’s performance and I believe we did'

Munster coach thrilled with his side’s 24-17 win over Ulster.

Munster's Farrell and Carbery celebrate.
Munster's Farrell and Carbery celebrate.
Image: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

JOHANN VAN GRAAN praised his side’s defensive effort in the aftermath of last night’s seven-point win at Kingspan Stadium.

The 24-17 victory over Ulster leaves Munster third in the URC table, one point behind the second-placed side, Stormers, with points differential separating them from Ulster in fourth. With just two rounds of fixtures remaining, every point now matters for those teams seeking home advantage for the quarter-final and semi-final of this competition.

Certainly the four they picked up last night have shaped the mood in the Munster camp. Heading into this weekend’s fixtures, they faced the prospect of slipping to eighth in the table on the back of a defeat, combined with bonus point victories for play-off rivals, Stormers, Sharks, Bulls and Edinburgh.

But instead of discussing the prospect of holding onto a play-off position, Munster are looking up rather than down. They’ve Cardiff next Friday and then Leinster in their final regular-season game at the Aviva Stadium.

“That was a class victory from our side,” said van Graan. “It was important for us as a group to back up last week’s performance and I believe we did. This is such a difficult place to come and win. We haven’t won here for a number of seasons.

joey-carbery-kicks-the-final-score Carbery kicked 14 points in the win. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“We knew that it was going to be close and both sides were playing for home advantage in a quarter-final. They are a team that we respect a lot. We had a big battle with them in January in a pretty tense game.

“They have an extremely good kicking game, they suffocate you tactically and also have a brilliant maul and powerful runners. All credit to JP, our defensive coach, and all the players. They really dug deep, specifically with 14 men. I am really proud of the group to come way from here with a win.”

The damage was done in the first-half when tries from Stephen Archer and Keith Earls helped Munster establish a 15-3 lead. By the end the gap was just seven but, by and large, van Graan’s team remained in control.

“We got some momentum in the first-half, got two good tries and we started the second-half pretty well going 18-3 up. Then they applied the pressure. We conceded on the back of some inaccuracies.

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“They kicked to the corner and, like I said before, they are an extremely good mauling side. Unfortunate to concede that maul try but we defended our line really well. I’m proud of their effort.”

One player who stood out was Alex Kendellen, the young No8, who was the official player of the match.

“Our theme the whole season as been ‘all in’, whether from management, coaches or players. We have used close to 60 players now across the whole URC and EPCR. Our attitude has been consistent: just the next man in.

“Kendo, if you look at where he was around a year ago, the Irish U20s captain, he goes about his business quietly and he is putting in extremely good performances going back to South Africa against the Bulls and the Lions. That was an excellent performance by him last night.”

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Garry Doyle

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