MUNSTER moved top of the Guinness PRO12 for the first time this season following their nail-biting one-point derby victory over Ulster at Thomond Park on Friday night.
It was a timely boost for Anthony Foley’s charges as they switch their focus to this Saturday’s mammoth European Champions Cup round three tie with French Top 14 high flyers Clermont Auvergne at Thomond Park.
Meanwhile, on the club front, three Limerick sides have booked their places in the semi-finals of the Munster Senior Cup after the weekend’s quarter-final action.
1. MUNSTER MARCH ON
AFTER a stuttering start which resulted in defeats in their opening two home fixtures and the controversy over a player review sent in error, Munster have recovered well to reel off seven successive wins in the Guinness PRO12, with the province now sitting pretty at the top of the table.
Mind you, the advantage is a slender one point over the Ospreys, Glasgow and Ulster and fifth-placed Leinster who are four points back. Encouraging from a Munster perspective, but a long way to go still. Munster now switch their focus to Saturday’s European Champions Cup round three clash with Clermont Auvergne at Thomond Park.
2. TO KICK OR NOT TO KICK?
ONE of the main talking points in the wake of Munster’s one-point win over Ulster on Friday night was whether the home side was correct in the decision to kick for the posts when awarded a penalty goal while leading by nine points 21-12 after an hour.
Captain on the night, Donncha O’Callaghan made the call to take a kick at goal, but head coach Anthony Foley doesn’t believe it was the correct one. And Ian Keatley’s kick came crashing back off an upright and Ulster cleared their lines. Foley felt Munster should have kicked for the corner in order to crank up the pressure on their opponents, while O’Callaghan later conceded it was ‘probably weak’ on his behalf to take a kick at goal. Still difficult to be certain which was the right call.
3. BUSY WEEKEND FOR NEIL CRONIN
SCRUM-HALF Neil Cronin, brother of Leinster and Ireland hooker Sean, experienced something of a whirlwind weekend. The talented Garryowen number nine, who has been training with Munster in recent weeks, was named in province’s squad for their PRO12 clash with Ulster at Thomond Park on Friday night. It must have been quite an experience. Just three weeks, earlier Cronin lined out for Garryowen in front of a more modest attendance at the same venue for their AIL 1B clash with UL-Bohemian.
On Saturday, Cronin was back in action with his club side Garryowen and bagged a fine try in their impressive Munster Senior Cup quarter-final win over Cashel. A rising star for sure.
4. UL-BOHS BAG PRECIOUS CUP WIN
AFTER a frustrating run of six successive defeats in Division 1B of the All-Ireland League, UL-Bohs were desperate to pick up a result which would help kick start their season. And the Annacotty side might well have achieved such a result in their impressive 36-22 win over Division 1A Dolphin in their Munster Senior Cup quarter-final on Thomond Park’s back pitch. Trailing 6-15 in the first half, UL-Bohs prospects for turning things round looked bleak, but the Annacotty side showed admirable grit and resolve to haul themselves back into the game before pulling clear of their Cork rivals in the final quarter. An excellent win for Colm Tucker’s side who face a home semi-final clash with local rivals Garryowen in the Munster Senior Cup. The Red, Red Robins will look to build on the success in the AIL next weekend.
5. THREE LOCAL SIDES IN CUP SEMIS
THREE of the four semi-finalists in this season’s Munster Senior Cup are from Limerick. While UL-Bohs quarter-final win over Dolphin might have been termed a surprise, the remaining quarter-final fixtures went on form.
The meeting of Division 1A Young Munster and AIL 2A high-flyers Thomond at Clifford Park turned out to be disappointingly one-sided. Whatever chance there may have been of Charity Cup winners Thomond pulling off a shock effectively ended in the third minute when Munsters’ number eight Sean Rennison powered over for a well-taken try. Munsters’ packed too much power, pace and intensity for their local rivals. At nearby Doodaroyle, Garryowen thumped Cashel 31-14, while on Saturday night in Cork, Bruff battled bravely before losing out 30-8 to holders Cork Con. The Temple Hill side will now host Young Munster in a mouth-watering semi-final on Saturday week.