‘I think we were chasing the game too early,’ says Munster coach Anthony Foley
Glasgow’s off-loading and sharpertactics make space for three first-half tries
Munster head coach Anthony Foley in Belfast. “Parts of their off-loading game really killed us at times and they opened up a lot of space for themselves.” Photograph: INPHO/Dan Sheridan
Hiding their disappointment, it was a stoic face from Munster on Glasgow’s ripping win.
Anthony Foley, Denis Hurley, even the fans sucked this one up as a better team turning up on the day with more ambition, sharper tactics and execution.
The nature of the defeat, the three first-half tries that largely buried the game, may make Munster think hard about exactly where they are going and what they need to do to get there.
Glasgow’s running and off-loading game and their committed defending when Munster had the ball were all predictable strengths. But on the night Foley’s side were often chasing shadows
“We would have expected a lot more from ourselves but in fairness Glasgow got on the scoreboard quite early and they are quite a dangerous team,” said an understated Denis Hurley.
“Parts of their off-loading game really killed us at times and they opened up a lot of space for themselves. Their defence was very good on top of that. It was hard to break them down, and I think we were chasing the game too early. ”
Hurley, as one of the experienced Munster players, will also have noticed Glasgow’s youthful profile in key positions, and while he didn’t hear Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend speak about Irish teams setting standards in the early days of professional rugby, there may be cold comfort derived from it.
“When Ulster won the European Cup the other provinces thought well this can happen and we can get big crowds that can follow a winning team. Then Munster took on the mantle, Leinster took on the mantle and now the three Irish provinces are up there with the top 10 sides in Europe. Now we have to have ambition.”
Foley’s voice was more plaintive, with Paul O’Connell’s future central to the conversation as much as Munster losing to four tries. “I’ll say if we have that problem we’ll deal with it, but we currently don’t have that problem. I’ve enough problems today without trying to fix that one,” said Foley wearily.
“When I worked with Ireland a season or two ago, when he [O’Connell] got injured, Donnacha Ryan stepped in and did a very good job at international rugby, so there’s no question that Donnacha Ryan can do a job for Munster in that kind of role.”
On the table
“Yeah. Look, we talked about it [game management]. One of our key focuses was maintaining structure and for their second try we didn’t find touch,” said Foley.
“We fancied putting them under pressure at lineout time. We fancied setting up our defence off set-pieces and unfortunately we allowed them to get into the game that they liked to play and we suffered on the back end of it.
“I think when we get to the big games, you know you look at the Saracens game over there, you look at the Clermont game at home and the final here...the big games have been...we need to manage them better.”
For man of the match, the magnificent Leone Nakarawa, some instructions just don’t stick. His blend of subtlety and ferocity not only encapsulated the Glasgow performance but also directly contributed to it. His yardage and perfect off-loads for the opening tries expressly countermanded Townsend’s instructions.
“I told him I would be happy if he didn’t off-load,” said Townsend. “The last 20 minutes of the game last week he had four carries in the 15 phases where we scored the try. That was a big thing for him.
“I said ‘just go forward, go forward. They will be targeting your off-loads so I’ll be happy if you don’t off-load so you’ll be just be carrying’. Fortunately he ignored his coach’s advice.” On that trophies are won and lost.