Bottom line for Howlett is Munster are still alive
Failure to get over in five-minute window before half-time did cost them bonus
Munster were left to rue the bonus point that got away in Edinburgh yesterday but there are a number of ways of looking at it, and Rob Penney took the view that opting to build up a lead through three-pointers in the first-half safeguarded them against the kind of late comeback which Edinburgh engineered. They would have felt a good deal more rueful if they had lost.
Hence he had no regrets about Doug Howlett’s decision to have Ronan O’Gara aim for the sticks with five of six first-half penalties inside his radar.
“No. It was critical we had the win first. Jeepers, you could just see that when Edinburgh were able to unleash themselves in the latter part of the second half just how dangerous they are.
“And if we hadn’t got that buffer, that was always going to be a problem. So we got the four points, we’re in the fight next week and we’ll see what happens on the back of that.”
The bottom line is Munster are still alive.
“A hundred per cent. That was the critical part.”
A bonus point would have helped, he did agree.
“That’s why we were going for it, but it wasn’t to be. We weren’t able to score enough tries,” he said ruefully, “because we weren’t good enough, fundamentally. Edinburgh just defended brilliantly, they just defended like their lives depended on it and they were a desperate side, they were looking to do everything they could to stop us.”
A try before or after half- time, when referee Greg Gardner didn’t permit Keith Earls to take a quick tap before plunging for the line, and two spillages undid intense pressure.
“If we were going to do it I think it was critical we got over in that five-minute window just before half-time when we were able to put ourselves in a position to and just didn’t do it,” said Penney.
“Had the second half gone as it had, it would have given us a good quarter of an hour to try and get one at the end.
“You try and get one at a time, but the guys’ minds can sometimes get a bit ahead of themselves. They got a bit anxious and it wasn’t to be.”
The greatest source of potency and satisfaction was the scrum, where David Kilcoyne had Willen Nel in all sorts of difficulty.
“The scrum was great, and the boys are very tired. That’s a big day at the office for them.”
However, in view of the aforementioned quick tap by Earls, Penney was a little aggrieved over Kilcoyne’s binning for tackling Greig Laidlaw after his quick tap.
“I suppose the only thing was we tried to take a quick tap in the first half and got pulled back because he hadn’t made the mark. They took a quick tap and got away with it.”
Although Munster scored a penalty try through their scrum with Wian du Preez at loosehead and Howlett at flanker, Penney maintained it took a toll on his players.
For Michael Bradley, there was little consolation in denying his native province a bonus point, though perhaps some relief in being more competitive than they had been.
“We lost the game at home.That’s our fifth in a row. From a practical point of view that’s not a good statement.”
He admitted the conditions probably didn’t suit Munster’s style of play and explaining Edinburgh’s desire to initially engage in a territorial battle Bradley said:
“Munster obviously came with the intention of winning the game and potentially winning the bonus point and we had to be conscious of that.
“If we cut loose at the very start of the game, because Munster’s best asset in the last couple of years, indeed the last 13 or 14 years, has been the ability to turn defence into attack it could have been very dangerous for us.
“So we had to play a bit of territory, which was good to see at times in that match from us and in the last 20 when Greig came back on it looked as if our guys grew in confidence and that Munster felt it wasn’t going to be their day in terms of getting the bonus point and we got two tries, which was nice to see eventually in this tournament.”