First Half Performance The Key
1st January 2007 By Munster Rugby
Munster coach Declan Kidney identified the performance in the first half as the key to the victory at the Sportsground even though his side held just a slender lead having played with the wind at their backs.
“Well No I can’t say I was ecstatic with that (lead). But I couldn’t fault the performance. I wouldn’t dismiss what the boys did in the first half. The mistake we made was that our discipline wasn’t great in the first twenty minutes We gave them a lot of easy penalties, easy outs of their 22 and that’s why we didn’t get the scores.
“That lack of discipline was from over anxiety rather than anything else. It was a peculiar decision that we were only informed five minutes before kick-off what direction we were playing. Normally you’re told twenty minutes before kick-off. That might have unsettled them a little bit.
“We probably forced the game a small bit in that opening twenty minutes. But physically we stayed at them in that first half and they didn’t have as much energy for the second half. The turning point or two points, I think was in first half when they went for the line and didn’t get over and then when we had a man in the bin, just before half time, they tried a move off a penalty that we managed to stymie.
Kidney made nine changes from the game against Leinster explaining that, “Everyone wants the younger fellows to have a go. Now, because of the weather conditions that match was bit of a lottery. We were trying to play a bit of football in the first half but the conditions didn’t allow us. But they still tried and you can’t knock them for that. The same team can’t play week in week out. Maybe we wouldn’t have won if we started with the team we had in the second half”.
Frank Sheahan agreed with his coach on the merit of the first half display. ” I thought the guys in the first half did well and we were leading 6-3 at the break which was a help. The damage was done in that first half. You saw again last week in the Leinster game although we were losing 11-10 at half time I think they were a lot more tired than us. And I think possibly again today. They had a few injuries and we just wore them down.
“There were a lot of new combinations there in the first half whilst in the second, lads that were there were more used to playing with each other If we’d defended for the first half we might have been 6-3 down at half time. Sometimes its easier to defend as opposed to attack when you’ve new combinations especially
” It’s sometimes hard to play with a wind like that. In fairness to Connacht they put us under a lot of pressure and forced the mistakes. But it was always going to be a dogfight like that then bringing on the fresh legs did help The lads dug it out the scrum and line-out went well again
The introduction of John Hayes, Paul O’Connell, Ronan O’Gara and Trevor Halstead seemed to inject a bit more urgency into Munster’s play but Kidney felt they profited from the work done before their arrival. “I thought our attitude was good in the first half and then when the lads were in for the second half we got a few shunts in the scrum a few good mauls but I think that was because of the work that was done in the first forty.
All in all so it was a contented Munster coach who set off for home last night. “We played Connacht only four weeks ago had we lost to them we’d have been nine points behind them. Now we’re six in front of them with a game in hand so we’d be delighted with that. Doesn’t mean we’ve qualified for the Heineken Cup next year but we’ve certainly taken a lot of steps in the right direction”.
That game in hand he spoke about comes up against Newport Gwent Dragons next eekend. “We’re going to have to change things around again for Friday. Lads who have played two games in a few days I’m not sure you can ask them to play another game. Three games in ten days isn’t right for a fellas career at this stage especially some guys who are trying to go on and play Six Nations. So we’re going to have to mix and match again. So we’ll see who lads are when they turn up for training on Tuesday. See who is in the best shape possible. We ‘re training in tough conditions and playing in tough conditions and that all has an effect on fellas health. So we must keep them healthy as well as keeping them fit.