THIS was clash of styles and a triumph of creativity and ingenuity over brute force and ignorance. Connacht offered more in almost every facet of the game making more yards with ball in hands, beating more defenders and scoring the extra try for good measure. Munster’s only positive was in their kicking game, but that one dimensional game plan was never going to be enough.
It is quite likely that Munster will still end the season well ahead of Connacht in the standings, they will continue to have more internationals (11 in the Irish squad as opposed to three from Connacht) and they remain a more likely challenger for the PRO14 title too, yet on the evidence of this Friday night tussle in perfect Galway weather, you’d have to wonder why.
The answers are hard to find, it’s not that Munster were completely outclassed here. The men in red edged the battle of the half backs and the back row, broke even in lineout play and certainly didn’t yield much in the tackle area. Connacht had their areas of advantage though, the front row out-powered their opponents and, by the end of the game, the backline play eclipsed anything Munster had to offer.
Yet when Joe Schmidt assembles his Ireland training camp next week, players like Chris Farrell, Darren Sweetnam, Andrew Conway, David Kilcoyne and John Ryan will be in the room. On the basis of this night alone each could be directly and justifiably replaced by the likes of Darragh Leader, Tiernan O’Halloran, Tom Farrell, Denis Buckley and Finlay Bealham.
One win isn’t enough though, yet that won’t stop Connacht supporters enjoying this. In fact as the crowd watched Bealham send David Kilcoyne backwards at a rate of knots to win a penalty at scrum time midway through the second half, those with green scarfs must have had a wry smile at the thought of the man they call ‘killer’ down in the south, earning caps while the Connacht tight head isn’t even in the squad.
The wider point is this, Connacht need consistency, there is no hiding from the fact that this group of players failed to deliver in September and are suffering the consequences as a result. With the benefit of hindsight all involved are pointing to the fact that the bedding in period took longer than expected and that explains a lot of the struggles.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.