Munster find their feet in bonus territory
FROM THE BLINDSLIDE:There’s an art to to claiming a bonus-point victory and while Munster took their time getting there against Edinburgh, the win could be a watershed, writes ALAN QUINLAN
WITH 10 minutes to go in Munster’s match against Edinburgh on Sunday, I was tearing my hair out. I couldn’t understand the lack of urgency on the pitch or the way they just seemed to be going through the motions. The game was won a long time at that point – Munster were 16-0 up and Edinburgh weren’t coming back at them at all – but where was the drive for more tries? Why weren’t Munster going at it hammer and tongs for a bonus point?
When Peter O’Mahony went over for the second try, there were only nine minutes left on the clock. But instead of everybody sprinting back to the halfway line and getting ready to go again, they were all high-fiving and slapping each other’s backs. I was nearly screaming at them to cop on.
Saracens were sitting on the top of the table with nine points after winning on Saturday but they had left the door open a little bit by not scoring a fourth try. This is going to be a very tight group and Munster will need every little edge they can get.
There isn’t always a bonus point going in every game but as soon as Conor Murray scored the first try, this was definitely one.
But Munster didn’t seem to realise that it was on. Or if they did, it took them a long time to really go after it. I was watching Ian Keatley go through his routine over the conversion after O’Mahony’s try and I was going, “Just hurry up with it!”
The game was won at 21-0 so the conversion didn’t really matter. What mattered was getting the game restarted and going for the jugular.
You could see that there was far more enthusiasm in them once Seán Dougall got the third try and they deserve a lot of credit for getting there in the end. But you’d be amazed at how different that dressingroom would have felt afterwards if it had only finished 28-0 instead of 33-0.
There is an art to playing bonus-point rugby and it’s not always obvious to people looking in from the outside. It was probably no accident that when they were all high-fiving after O’Mahony’s try on Sunday, there was no O’Gara, O’Connell or Howlett on the pitch. It can take younger players a little bit of time to catch on to what’s needed, to realise this is on.
That’s how it was with us when we were coming through with Munster. I don’t think we properly grasped how to go about it until we were a few campaigns down the line. It took us a while to realise that it’s about breaking the game down into segments and building up domination over the opposition. It’s about not doing anything stupid early on and not forcing big, wild passes that aren’t there or running the ball from your own line.
It’s probably a cliché at this stage that no coach sends you out to get a bonus-point win from the off but it’s true. The only time I ever remember going into a game and talking about a bonus point in the build-up was the Gloucester match in 2003 when we needed to win by a certain amount and take a bonus point. None of us were all that sure what the points total was but we did know we needed to score four tries. By that stage we knew how to go about it.