Munster coach Rob Penney is looking for a big improvement from his side after their 17-6 loss to the Cardiff Blues saw them slip to sixth in the RaboDirect PRO12 table.
Munster have produced some inept displays the week before make-or-break Heineken Cup ties, but very few have been as poor as this worrying showing at Musgrave Park on Saturday night.
And it was no surprise later to hear Munster coach Rob Penney admit that a week of soul-searching lay ahead for the province ahead of next Sunday’s make-or-break Pool 1 Heineken Cup clash with Edinburgh at Murrayfield (12.45pm).
Penney admitted Munster’s high error count had been a key factor in his side’s demise. Munster had been unbackable 1/14 favourites with the bookies to see off the Blues who are now up to seventh in the table.
Penney said: “We made 29 errors, unforced, on the back of creating a lot of stuff. You just can’t make that amount of errors and expect to have a positive outcome.
“We couldn’t build any pressure and then one defensive error by us led to them scoring. The ball hit the ref’s foot, got called to play on and they scored another try. That took the game away at the end.
“It is a new week next week and we will get back on the horse and start again.
“The week ahead is one where we will do a bit of soul-searching and try to rectify the issues we had tonight.
“You just need to make the top four at the end of the day to give yourself a chance, so whether you are one, two, three or four, you have to be in those play-off positions when it matters. We are thereortherabouts.”
Much of Munster’s attack play lacked direction. All too often the ball was moved out along the line and then back in the opposite direction with little or no ground gained. Munster’s line-out misfired badly through the final hour of the game, even on the home side’s own throw.
Munster face a major decision in whether to persist with their new, more expansive gameplan – which may well pay dividends if perfected in the seasons ahead – or revert to the traditional style of play for the season-defining remaining Heineken Cup ties against Edinburgh and Racing Metro.
This was Munster’s first home defeat to the Blues since 2007 and it saw Penney’s side slip to sixth place in the congested RaboDirect PRO12 table.
It was a hugely disappointing way for out-half Ronan O’Gara to reach a record number of appearances for the province, 233, one more than scrum-half Peter Stringer.
Worrying too for Munster were the first half injuries sustained by scrum-half Conor Murray and hooker Mike Sherry ahead of next weekend’s Murrayfield showdown.
The likes of Peter O’Mahony and Simon Zebo are sure to come back into the side for Sunday’s trip to Edinburgh, but coach Penney has plenty to ponder in terms of team selection when it comes to other areas of the pitch.
SCORERS - Munster: Ronan O’Gara two pens. Cardiff Blues: Owen Williams, Robin Copeland try each, Rhys Patchell pen, two cons.
MUNSTER – Felix Jones; Doug Howlett (capt), Keith Earls, James Downey, Denis Hurley; Ronan O’Gara, Conor Murray; David Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, David Foley, Donnacha Ryan, Tommy O’Donnell, Sean Dougall, James Coughlan. Replacements: Duncan Williams for Murray (injured, 15 mins), Sean Henry for Sherry (injured, 24 mins), Billy Holland for Foley, Casey Laulala for Earls (both 58 mins), Ian Keatley for Hurley (60 mins), BJ Botha for Archer, CJ Stander for O’Donnell (both 62 mins), Wian du Preez for Kilcoyne (74 mins).
CARDIFF BLUES – Jason Tovey; Owen Williams, Richard Smith, Jamie Roberts, Harry Robinson; Rhys Patchell, Lewis Jones; Sam Hobbs, Rhys Williams, Benoit Bourrust, Bradley Davies, Lou Reed, Josh Navidi (capt), Sam Warburton, Robin Copeland. Replacements: Scott Andrews for Bourrust (half-time), Leigh Halfpenny for Tovey (53 mins), James Down for Reed (57 mins), Alex Jones for Walker (62 mins), Kristin Dacey for Williams, Paetru Tamba for Hobbs (both 69 mins), Luke Hamilton for Copeland (71 mins).
REFEREE – Nigel Owens (Wales)