IT WAS A job emphatically done for Munster on home turf yesterday.
They needed to win, they won by 32. They needed four tries, they took six.
And yet, there was something that still rankled once the players came in from the warm adulation of the crowd having clocked up a try tally that was second only to Saracens.
“It’s a good reflection on the attack. It doesn’t get any credit, but maybe it will start to get some credit,” said head coach Rob Penney with an eyebrow raised.
That bonus points have been few and far between has been one of the peculiarities of the southern province’s winning run since sliding to defeat in Edinburgh. However, they wouldn’t be the first team that doesn’t quite hit top gear until the European fixtures come around.
Penney hailed the input of coaches Simon Mannix and Ian Costello after watching four of his backs get on the score-sheet after James Coughlan finished off perhaps the best back-line move of the match to get the hosts on the board.
“Our back attack was outstanding today; our ability to get players into space and exploit the vulnerabilities that we had identified in Edinburgh’s defence was first class.”
The Kiwi added: “Once we’ve got some front line players back, we’ve got an exciting unit there. For a number of reasons we haven’t had the consistency of having front line players available to us, but it was nice to see the rewards and performances there today and having a genuine attacking group.”
One place Penney didn’t feel he got his just rewards – or perhaps another area he felt was not getting enough credit – was from Wayne Barnes’ view of the scrum. From high in the west stand Dave Kilcoyne looked to have a mixed day; helping the scrum coast forward at times, but collapsing at others. On closer inspection the loose-head was dealt some harsh decisions.
“When the scrum was up I thought we were completely dominant and then there were times when we were getting penalised for collapsing it. Which, on the loose-head side particular, is just no advantage in doing that – I thought our set-piece was superb.”
It’s difficult to make the argument that this was not a complete Munster performance. A second quarter disjointed by penalties and injury to Keith Earls was the only black mark on their day and after the four second half tries, that would seem like nit-picking.
On the injury front, Penney expects Earls to recover within two to three weeks, but added that a scan today would make the matter much clearer. Paul O’Connell suffered a stinger in his arm in the incident that led to Cornell Du Preez’s yellow card on the stroke of half-time.
As the winger and the lock go into Ireland camp,, in the back of their minds they will know they have left behind plenty of players who feel aggrieved with not being invited to the Kildare resort.
At the time Penney was speaking yesterday, there was still the possibility that Leinster would be the side to would pay a visit in April. Penney admitted that the prospect of that match-up would bring a different kind of motivation into his squad.
“There’s a few boys in our group that believe they should be getting a crack with Joe [Schmidt]. And if that opportunity came about [against Leinster] it’d be the big guns hitting it out against each other and we’ll see if they’re up to it or not.”
Instead of Leinster it will be Toulouse, but the Top 14 side will provide a stern test of their own – ample opportunity to impress the national team coach.
Just don’t expect Penney to completely happy until he’s holding the Heineken Cup under the roof in Cardiff.