Bang goes another dream as Munster this afternoon crashed out of the Champions Cup at the Semi Final stage for a third year in a row after losses to Saracens in 2017 and Racing 92 in 2018.
Thankfully this year like 2017 Munster were still in the game at the break as the score stood at 12-9 in favour of Saracens thanks to 4 Owen Farrell penalties and in reply Munster had three penalties from Tyler Bleyendaal and a long range effort from the boot of Conor Murray.
This afternoon again showed Munster that they have still a long way to go to discover the Munster of old. They were ruthlessly exposed in attack. They were brave in defence throughout the game but critically at vital moments they failed to clear their lines and were found wanting in the air where Mike Haley dropped a number of routine balls that on another day he would take cleanly but when the pressure was on today it didn’t happen for him.
Munster will know that today is another failure and there will need to be serious discussions about the direction the Munster attack is going in particular where on occasions today it looked like they didn’t seem to have a clear idea of how to break Saracens down and kicking for territory is a lost art in Munster at the moment. It seemed to be kick to contest and then take it round the corner and this seemed to be the idea for 80 minutes.
Quick ruck ball was another problem and the mess that was the break down contributed to that but Munster should have been cleaver enough to move the ball at speed and try to kick the corners. Yes they don’t have Ronan O Gara in the armoury anymore but others can use that particular skill it wasn’t patented by O Gara. I also realise that this was difficult down to the aggression and efficiency of the Saracens defence which seemed to be on the edge in terms of being onside but the same can be said for Munster on occasion.
Saracens had a number of off field issues to deal with in the build up and also were beaten last weekend by Bristol but when the heavy hitters were recalled they did a number on Munster and the big names for Munster didn’t fire this afternoon. This just wasn’t Munster’s day but the post-mortem will be hard to stomach as this post mortem is very familiar to this group. They are sick to death of hearing about “learnings” from defeats and this is just another in another in a long list of Semi Final defeats.
Since 2011, it has been near miss after near miss in both the Heineken / Champions Cup along with hitting the post at domestic level also. The time for recriminations will come at season’s end but Munster will need to circle the wagons and prepare for Connacht in the Pro 14 next week.
With questions remaining about the makeup of Johan Van Graan’s back room staff next year the clamour for Ronan O Gara’s return may only intensify as the attacking game plan that Munster seem to be persisting with does not seem to be having the desired effect and it may be time for a new voice in that department. Felix Jones is highly regarded in coaching circles turning down the chance to join the South Africa backroom staff when Rassie Erasmus was appointed in late 2017.
We may only know about the coaching situation at the end of the current campaign. They are scoring tries for fun at Pro 14 level but struggled yet again the knock out phase of Europe only crossing late on when Darren Sweetnam rounded off a slick move.
The soul searching must wait and all the anger must be channelled in the right way and Munster must do everything in their power to end the year in the right manner. The Pro 14 is still there to be won and given their performance today it will be tough but with the correct result next week a home Semi Final is up for grabs , results must go their way also in other games but they can gain home advantage in the Semi’s with victory at home to Connacht…… It was a bitter pill to swallow again today but there is time to put it right so again it’s over to the players to right the wrongs of today…. Let’s leave all questions until the end of the season and just see what happens in the next few weeks….