Sean Farrell reports from Thomond Park
AFTER A WORRYING start to proceedings, Johann van Graan didn’t have to wait long to see positive signs for his team’s discipline.
A trend spike in cards issued to the southern province brought a sharp focus onto the team discipline this week.
Van Graan would have hoped to see a firm counter-argument against that impression right from the kick-off, but instead he lamented a slow start to what eventaully turned into a comprehensive 39 – 13 victory.
“Yah. It’s three games out of four that we’ve conceded a penalty in the first minute,” said Van Graan with a wry smile.
The South African could afford a grin, because after shipping eight penalties through the first half, Munster stemmed the flow with their second half performance and finished out the contest with just nine penalties to their name.
“We adapted after 20 minutes on the field. We tried to adapt to the referee as quickly as possible, you watch for trends and after he called in both captains we said ‘you’ve got to stay out of the breakdown’ in terms of contesting.
“That means you can have more numbers on your feet and increase the line-speed and I thought we put their attack under quite a bit of pressure.”
Van Graan also commended the communication of CJ Stander as captain, and the Ireland powerhouse was clearly intent on keeping a cap on the penalty count as it threatened to get out of hand in the first period.
“Any team knows in rugby that if you go over 10 penalties in a game you’re going to struggle,” said Stander.
“It’s something we spoke about over the last few weeks. Sometimes you just get caught in the wrong position, but you have to work harder, make better tackles, better carries and look after the ball.”