Victory disease decimates Munster fleet
Penney admits that complacency infected his inexperienced ranks
Munster’s Paul O’Connell looks dejected as Edinburgh celebrate their victory at the final whistle at Murrayfield. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inphot
The Japanese call it senshoubyou. Victory disease. At some stage, days before Saturday’s shockingly inept performance, Munster’s collective mindset failed them.
This was the rationale offered by a clear-eyed Rob Penney in the immediate wake of the otherwise inexplicable surrendering of a four-point lead at the hands of Pro 12 bottom side Edinburgh on Saturday lunch time in Murrayfield.
“There is a famous occurrence in The Battle of Midway about the victory disease,” said Penney. “You know, when you have had few good performances and all of a sudden you get blindsided because you are a bit – I hate the word complacent – but that’s probably the right one.
“We talked about that earlier in the week; to make sure we prepared well mentally but that obviously didn’t work, that discussion.”
In fact, victory disease is an ailment suffered by the commander, usually believing in his own invincibility, who leads his army from the cusp of triumph to ruin.
Encouraged by the success of Pearl Harbour in December 1941, the Japanese fleet, led by Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, abandoned their tactics and waded through the Pacific. Within six months they had suffered what has been described as the most decisive blow in the history of naval warfare.
Now to compare that with JJ Hanrahan’s decision to chip, but not chase as he was legally obstructed by Matt Scott, from deep inside his own half with just over 10 minutes remaining seems a little harsh.
Still, the resulting try by Tim Visser could prove catastrophic for Munster’s European aspirations in 2014.
And this game was supposed to be a gimme.
“We’re only looking from the outside in because you can’t read what’s in the mind of the players but it was certainly a malaise and a lack of spark there at half time which is massively dangerous from my perspective when you see that. The damage has already been done.
“That only comes from poor mental preparation.”
It took half a century but lJapanese did eventually recover. Munster have a seven-day window to replenish the fleet before Gloucester come to sack Limerick.
“Nothing spurs a Munster man on more than an embarrassing performance,” Penney stated. “We are at home next week.”
This is nothing new to the group or Rob Penney, who described Hanrahan’s decision as “clumsy” Conor Murray was castigated at this very juncture 12 months ago for a brain freeze that contributed to defeat against an eminently beatable Racing Metro.
The focus now inevitably switches to the Munster commander. Penney’s reaction to Felix Jones’ cramp and Simon Zebo’s serious-looking ankle injury was to put Keatley at fullback, Hanrahan to outhalf with Keith Earls going to outside centre and Casey Laulala shifting inside as James Downey was also replaced.
“If there are any criticisms on that they can be tailored at me.
“Keats has played a lot at 15 for us so that was a no-brainer. JJ is a 10. From all angles people have been pumping his tyres and trying to get him into that 10 jersey ahead of Ian. We’ve got faith in JJ to do a great job at 10. We just wanted to make sure we had a solid defensive paring in the midfield after taking James off so we needed to have that because of the way Edinburgh play.
“We were comfortable with the formation we had there.
“JJ made two errors [the second was a late turn over]. They are obviously high profile ones. They happened at critical times. Not unlike another young man this time last year.”
That young man ended the season as the British and Irish Lions scrumhalf. It’s a thin red line.