Keatley man of the match but James Cronin’s cameo was crucial to Munster’s victory
Tighthead Fitzpatrick has vital role for Ulster in tonight’s season-defining H Cup battle with Leicester
If they are to achieve success against a limited but dogged Leicester Tigers side in tonight’s Heineken Cup encounter at Ravenhill, Ulster will need to play creative rugby, making full use of lively, skilled backs such as Tommy Bowe. Photograph: Chris Fairweather/Inpho
Munster’s outhalf Ian Keatley got man of the match last week against Leinster by varying his point of contact through multiple touches, hitting the line, and cleverly utilising assets such as James Downey’s power carry off Munster’s first second-half lineout, resulting in three points.
Add Munster loosehead sub James Cronin and they gained a valuable home win. On 61:58 minutes, Cronin got a straight power push on Mike Ross while possibly slipping his bind slightly to gain a match-winning penalty (for 19-15) against stiff opposition (Ross, Seán Cronin and Cian Healy).
In his cameo he produced a beautiful combination of scrummaging power and menace. He made a great steal on 66 minutes from a bobbling Leinster attacking breakdown; brain, brawn and belligerence.
Those quick decisions he makes around the ball and breakdown are clever and come with explosive acceleration. On 69 minutes, he carried a one-out pass from Earls off a breakdown from Hurley and was triple-teamed by Jimmy Gopperth, Devin Toner and Martin Moore but gained valuable seconds to ensure Munster kept possession.
Multitude of variation
I highlighted Seán Cronin’s strike, or lack thereof, against Cardiff two weeks ago because getting the ball back is not the point; the timing and channel of its arrival is. Channel one, two or three affords a multitude of variation off backrow and outside backs.
Put simply, if your fullback can predict he can penetrate.
On 71:36, like against Cardiff, Boss threaded the ball in and while it was sitting there Munster got a massive right-hand side shove to win it; loss of possession and loss of strike attack for the talented Leinster backline, a double whammy!
What a season-defining battle awaits Ulster tonight. Leicester dogged out a draw against Northampton Saints last week but I venture they are not the team of yore.
They’re struggling with basic skills and are down key players.
Outhalf Toby Flood, loosehead Logovi’i Mulipola and their scrum and lineout maul are their attacking threat.
Saints gained 311 metres to Leicester’s 147 but conceded 19 penalties with their scrum in tatters.
Add the paltry seven penalties conceded by Leicester and Ulster will have to be very accurate through the boot and rugby to gain the victory.
That said, Flood at 10 (with 60 per cent kicking success) proved a running threat and Paddy Jackson must be supported on the inside to give him confidence to close the space and stop Flood scuttling through.