Van Graan salutes Munster’s true grit after another great escape

Healy lands late conversion to seal patched-up squad’s late comeback

 

Munster 25 Edinburgh 23

Sometimes the result matters more than the performance and this was one of those nights for, in many respects, this was larceny on the grandest of scales, if somehow typical Munster.

For the second week running they found a way to dog out a win which they’ll gladly take and draw belief from.

The absence of ten front-liners was compounded by two positive cases of Covid-19 during the week, leaving them with little or no preparation.

But their inner resolve and fitness held firm in what was a tribute to their collective character.

“I think it’s down to a few things,” ventured Johann van Graan. “Number one, you’ve got to learn from the past. We really had a good look at what we did in the last ten minutes of games. You train for that and you’ve got to become better and I thought the last two weeks we’ve become better there. You want guys that want the ball in their hands and the guys stepped up tonight.

“The other thing is our fitness. We’ve got a quality athletic performance team and our fitness shows we can compete for 80 minutes and we certainly did that the last two weeks.”

Van Graan gave “a special mention” for their departing head of athletic performance, Denis Logan.

For long stretches Edinburgh looked the likelier winners. Yet, like a dog with a bone, Munster couldn’t be shaken off, despite having only 33 per cent possession, missing 28 tackles, making one line break to Edinburgh’s five and an 8-13 penalty tally, thanks in the main to 21-year-old academy outhalf Ben Healy kicking six of seven penalties.

Whereas their defence, more effective further up the pitch, twice wilted in conceding first-half tries they never looked like scoring one themselves. Whereupon Healy nailed a 75th minute penalty into the corner and the pack kept rumbling until the ever-willing CJ Stander was helped over the line by James Cronin.

Then, as against the Scarlets, Healy nailed the match-winning kick with the conversion in what was second start outside Craig Casey, making his fifth, and inside the debutants Alex McHenry and Matt Gallagher.

“I guess a lot of people will see his goal-kicking but what impresses me is those kicks he kicks to touch,” said van Graan of Healy.

Scoring opportunities

“He gets an incredible amount of distance and puts our forwards in scoring opportunities. The other thing is his defence, he defends really well at ‘10’.

“Craig is one of the hardest workers in the squad and he’s used the two opportunities that he’s had. He was rewarded by the national team to train with them next week so really glad from my side that both of them have used their opportunities. There’s some real competition for places in this group now.”

That said, scrumhalf Neil Cronin will be sidelined for six to nine months, ala RG Snyman, after damaging his ACL.

Munster will be more grateful than most for this week’s break while cheering on Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo in the Heineken Champions Cup final.

“The lads that have tested positive are doing well. We’re monitoring them each day, I’m in contact with each of them and they’re doing fine,” said van Graan.

“There’s a few lads self-isolating at this stage but I want the focus to be on the players that played tonight because they delivered. Some changes were enforced and some guys were rotated. It’s all about the squad and the squad proved that tonight. You’ve got to use the opportunities and certainly to beat a top Edinburgh side at Thomond Park is a big one for us.”

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