Munster Looking For Strong Start
30th August 2017 By The Editor
Friday night’s game in Cork marks just shy of 14 weeks since Munster last played in competitive action, and while the disappointment of a 46-22 loss to Scarlets in the PRO12 final may have been hard to take initially, once the dust settled, disappointment turned to appreciation for what was, in overall terms, a hugely successful campaign, and one where Munster ended the regular season as table toppers.
Were Munster to reach the PRO14’s show piece event at the Aviva Stadium again this May, it would be their third final in four seasons, and, fuelled by the lessons learnt from last season, the men in red will target nothing less and hope to ultimately take it one step further.
History suggests that the province are strong starters in the competition, losing just once on the opening weekend since 2009, and that by a single point to Edinburgh at Thomond Park in 2014.
In terms of home advantage, should they pick up from where they left off last season, Munster look like a force to be reckoned with, their only defeat of the last 15 home games in all competitions coming against eventual winners Scarlets in Limerick in February.
That said, Erasmus’ men will be keen not to repeat the mistakes of their first outing in Cork last season where, having claimed a scalp at Parc y Scarlets the previous week (their first win in Llanelli since 2011), they were unable to back it up and came to rue a string of missed opportunities in losing by a single point to Cardiff Blues at Irish Independent Park.
If Munster carry strong momentum from the end of the regular season, so too do Benetton Rugby, with three wins in the last five rounds and the likes of Edinburgh, Zebre, Dragons and semi-finalists Ospreys all suffering defeat at the hands of the Treviso based outfit.
And it’s not just these results and a more expansive game plan that signifies a new era for the Italians, with a number of astute signings also set to enhance the squad even further. Perhaps none more so than 27-year-old out half Marty Banks who makes the move from Super Rugby and kicked the winning penalty for the Highlanders in their win over the British and Irish Lions this summer.
Another worthy of note is Crusaders flanker, Whetu Douglas. Already acquainted with Munster and its famous Red Army, the 26-year-old was part of the Maori All Black team that went down 27-14 on another historic night at Thomond Park last November.
Munster may have won their last nine fixtures against Benetton in all tournaments but will enter Friday night’s encounter justifiably wary of their opponents.
Friday Night Lights
With both players and the team looking to lay down marker for the season ahead, start this weekend by cheering on Munster ‘under lights’ at Irish Independent Park.
Munster v Benetton Rugby, Guinness PRO14 Round 1, Friday September 1st, ko 7.35pm.
Tickets – Junior €7, Adult €20, Family €40 – can be purchased online here, or at the ground on the night.