N-G Dragons 8 Munster 24: Munster prosper despite lack of ambition
Monday 12 December 2005
If only Munster had the Dragons' inventive coach, Paul Turner, to steer their backs. With their traditional forward strength, they would be formidable opponents for anyone.
This match was dominated by the Irish pack. David Wallace took the man of the match award but Denis Leamy also showed immense qualities in the back row and the lock Mick O'Driscoll had a forceful game after a torrid start.
The Dragons, struggling to establish both a team and an identity, were seldom in the game. Only deep into injury time did they score their try, through Gareth Chapman. Yet Munster, for all their domination of possession, could muster just two tries.
The reason was their blinkered approach to the match. Their coach, Declan Kidney, said: "I'm not at all disappointed we are not leaving with a bonus point. I am just delighted to be leaving here with a win. We stopped them scoring and that helped us to win. If you go into a game looking for a bonus point you can end up losing the match.
"We felt possession was a vital component of today's match. We had to play with structure and you don't play into the opposition's hands by playing a loose game. I didn't think a 14-point lead against the Dragons [at half time] was anything like enough. The way we played was out of respect for the Dragons."
So defensive a strategy has always undermined Munster's ambitions. For all their passion and power, allied to the wondrous support of their fans, more than 2,000 of whom made the journey to Wales, they lack adventure.
Turner said: "Munster didn't come looking for bonus points, they came to win, that was all."
With difficult matches to come in France against Castres and at home to Sale, Munster need every point available. They ignored a four-try bonus point and managed only one try in each half, from Denis Leamy and Marcus Horan, both off formulaic line-out drives.
Kicking did the rest, but their inability to open up a defence is not the hallmark of champions. Another failed Heineken campaign looms.
Turner, meanwhile, remained positive despite the conclusive defeat and the trip to Limerick this weekend. "I feel we are growing as a squad," he said. "We are not despondent, we have some good players. But it is a steep learning curve for a lot of our boys."
Newport-Gwent Dragons: Try Chapman; Penalty Warlow. Munster: Tries Leamy, Horan; Conversion O'Gara; Penalties O'Gara 2; Drop goals Lawlor, O'Gara.
Newport-Gwent Dragons: A Thomas; G Chapman, S Tuipulotu (J Bryant, 66), C Sweeney, R Fussell; C Warlow, G Cooper (G Baber, 71); A Black (D Maddocks, 80), S Jones, RThomas (G Robinson, 59), I Gough, P Sidoli (L Charteris, 59), A Hall (R Bryan, 71), J Ringer, M Owen (capt).
Munster: M Lawlor; J Kelly, G Connolly (B Murphy, 75), T Halstead, A Horgan; R O'Gara (J Manning, 80), P Stringer; M Horan (F Roche, 80), J Flannery (D Fogarty, 80), J Hayes, D O'Callaghan, M O'Driscoll, D Leamy (S Keogh, 80), D Wallace, A Foley (capt; T O'Leary, 78).
Referee: A Spreadbury (England).
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