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Munster s ERC Appetite As Keen As Ever

31st October 2006 By Munster Rugby

Munster s ERC Appetite As Keen As Ever

“Under Declan Kidney s watch, this was one of the most expressive, all round displays of rugby that the province has ever produced” says Dermot Keyes of Munster’s win over Bourgoin

Under Declan Kidney s watch, this was one of the most expressive, all round displays of rugby that the province has ever produced” says Dermot Keyes of Munster’s win over Bourgoin in Thomond Park on Saturday.

In a time frame more akin to a change of government in a banana republic, Lifeimi Mafi won a place in the hearts of the Munster support on Saturday evening last.

If his two rib-bruising hits on Bourgoin s Benjamin Boyet, coupled with a searing 40-yard break offer any indication of Mafi s ability, Declan Kidney could well have a potent talent at his disposal.

While it s a tad premature to suggest that Munster has just unearthed a new match winner, the early signs are highly encouraging indeed. So more Mafi on the menu please!

Though we re just two matches into the new campaign, Munster look like a team possessing more back line danger and continuity than they did last season s triumphant march.

Under Declan Kidney s watch, this was one of the most expressive, all round displays of rugby that the province has ever produced. While some of it was almost sevens style in its execution, there was precious little stick it up yer jumper stuff in evidence.

The speed at which the ball moved from clean lineout ball into open play, excellent recycling and consistently fluent offloading made for impressive viewing. Okay, it didn t work every time but working new patterns into a game plan, even for the best teams in the game, tends to take a few matches to bed in.

Watching Barry Murphy jink and swing away from would be tacklers, taking attacking lines one readily associates with Brian O Driscoll, made the heart beat a little faster. How great it is to see him back in action.

With Trevor Halstead s man of the match display and with Mafi already causing a buzz among fans and rugby writers alike, the notion of Munster having to rely on 40-metre mauls to score tries is looking increasingly redundant.

That s not to say that keeping it tight and grinding out scores doesn t have its place. No two matches are the same and every opponent presents a different challenge as Munster have already experienced in this pool.

While Ian Dowling was again industrious, suitably aggressive and quick to the point of contact, John Kelly and Shaun Payne were simply outstanding in virtually every facet of their respective performances.

There s a palpable confidence breathing through Payne and Kelly s play which more that suggests that the mantle of champions is resting easy on red shirted shoulders.

The opening two matches in this campaign may well have been stylistic opposites, yet both Munster outings to date suggest that they are hungry as ever.

The ravenous appetite demonstrated throughout Saturday s match took many forms. In the final phases of the game, despite eventually conceding a try, Munster tackled as if they were protecting a slender lead.

In many ways, this sort of heroic hitting wins greater favour with the savvy support than some of the increasingly welcome variation in attack.

While one will never grow weary of the up field sorties that Murphy has produced in his fledgling provincial career, there s something about one man slamming into his opponent which fills a chest with pride.

The honesty and the character that John Hayes in particular demonstrated throughout Saturday s match made him the game s outstanding forward from this parish s standpoint.

His application around the fringes is an art not always as appreciated as it should be, leading as it did to two of Munster s six tries.

There was a vitality and energy to Hayes s display which suggests that, once more, both Kidney and Eddie O Sullivan cannot anticipate their desired season targets being realised without the Bull s fully-fit presence.

Genuine, game breaking quality came to the fore against Bourgoin. The attacking lines taken by the back three and both centres is making life that little more difficult for opposition coaches.

In a twenty-two man game, which top class rugby today now demands, having each and every practitioner on message, working every percentage, is a must achieve from a coach s perspective.

Two games in, two wins recorded and a bonus point to the good, Kidney and Co. are certainly on message.

The double header with Cardiff will be played to the sound of ever nearing jingle bells. Two more wins, and a tightening up of the scrum and lineout will make for most welcome stocking fillers.

Dermot Keyes is a reporter with The Munster Express and is PRO of Carrick on Suir RFC

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