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Munster Well Aware of Task Ahead
1 January 2004, 4:44 pm
Gloucester gave themselves the best possible boost ahead of their Heineken Cup clash with Munster next week when they lowered the Leicester Tiger s colours with a 26-18 victory in the lions den.
Gloucester gave themselves the best possible boost ahead of their Heineken Cup clash with Munster next week when they lowered the Leicester Tiger s colours with a 26-18 victory in the lions den, Welford Road.

And least there be any doubt in Munster supporter s minds about the enormity of the task that lies ahead of their side next weekend be warned that Gloucester needed no luck or bounce of the ball to win this contest. They led 9-7 at half-time and then went 21-10 up before a Neil Baxter try and Andrew Goode penalty threw Leicester a lifeline.

As the game drifted into injury time Goode missed a penalty from in front of goal but it was no more than justice decreed because the decision to penalise Jake Boer at the breakdown was a disgrace. Referee Roy Maybank, on the wrong side of the ruck, pinged Boer for hands when in fact he totally innocent.

Then in the final act of an entertaining second half Gloucester scattered the Leicester pack to the four winds and created the oppo rtunity for Duncan McRae to scamper in for the try that denied the home side even the consolation of a bonus point.

Alan Gaffney will have no need to look at the video to know his side face a mammoth task against this Gloucester side.

On top of that the cherry and whites will be playing in front of a crowd who will be baying for revenge after what was perpetrated on them in Thomond Park last season.

But Gaffney s counterpart up north, Alan Solomons will have seen nothing to make him lose too much sleep in the coming week. His side take on the Tigers in Ravenhill and no matter what the form book might say, the smart money will be laid on Andy Ward s men.

And what of Munster and their chances?. And of the comparative preparation games?

Gloucester score three tries against Leicester and win by eight points away from home. Munster can only manage a penalty to beat Connacht, three nowt!!!!! Doesn t look too promising does it?

But it s unlikely that the Gloucester pack will have had a more punishing game than Connacht gave their Munster counterparts. The game in Dubarry Park was an intensely physical match. Connacht wanted this one as much, if not more, than any game they ve played this season. It was a night when Munster players were asked to stand up risk having their heads shaved by the rasping wind an rain and be counted. And in the end the numbers stacked up.

The man doing the counting was Jim Williams, playing in conditions as alien to him as grace and tact is to Ozzy Osbourne. But as he has done all season Williams led by example and found he had willing disciples all round him. So forget about comparing respective opponents, Leicester v Connacht. Or respective performance.

Not the issue. Attitude and well-being following the weekend games is what it s all about and from a Munster point of view Gaffney has them ticking over nicely.

So too has Nigel Melville. As shrewd an operator as there is in the game and also a very nice man.

Saturday s game will be about parish and passion and honest endeavour and courage and whole-heartedness and bravery. No two sides expouse those virtues better than Munster and Gloucester.

It s going to be a cracker!.

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