Twelve months ago the Munster Celtic League side might not have been fancied in Ravenhill, would have struggled against the Welsh outfit and probably huffed and puffed their way past Borders. However Munster vintage 04/05 is a totally different animal. With 20 to go in Ravenhill the outcome was beyond doubt , it took a little longer against The Dragons and by half-time of the Borders game, not only was the game in safe keeping but the bonus point was already bagged.
Gaffney will probably not be as happy with the second half performance as he was with the first but normally, sides who go in as much in arrears as the Borders did, come out for the second intent on redressing the balance. They were never just going to roll over and be tickled and when the questions were asked of the Munster defence, once again those questions, as they had been in the two previous game, were answered unequivocally.
Earlier in the week, when Gaffney sat down to pick his side, he had to do so without being able to consider, Jerry Flannery, David Wallace, Anthony Horgan and John Kelly. After 12 games on the trot, he also felt that Christian Cullen needed a break and so it s in that context this performance has to be judged. Mind you the watching Cullen must have wondered about the wisdom of taking his rest when he saw Shaun Payne breeze through for the opening score after just two minutes. Payne went on of course to give his now normal polished performance but Cullen will be back in the 15 jersey for the game in Edinburgh, Payne will be accommodated elsewhere.
Alan Quinlan showed no ill effects from the ankle injury that ruled him out of the last two matches and he made a huge contribution, the first of his many line-out steals ending in that opening try. Stephen Keogh caught the eye also as part of a back-row that included a Jim Williams whose appetite for the game seems, extraordinarily, to grow with each game. His work at the coal-face and cover defence right across the park was immense.
In the end the Toyota Man of the Match award - as it had done in Ravenhill - went to Paul Burke and few if any would quibble with that decision. He simply gave a reprise of his two most recent outings (Ulster & Dragons) and demonstrated in the process what a fine footballer he is.
In the course of the 80 or so minutes of Friday s game, Burke was almost flawless. Seven from seven with the placed ball, he cleared his lines with safe touch-finds. He varied his game superbly whether it was moving his backline, turning the Borders backs with little chip-throughs or kicking for position. He was well served by his pack and by Eoin Reddan. Burke has served Munster well since re-joining in the summer. And although Munster would miss him, he would not be out of place if he were in City West this week.