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Dragons vs Munster Fri 21st Nov

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  • Post-match summary, Dragons vs Munster Fri 21st Nov by the plastic paddy

    I will try and give an overview, then run through the players giving comments.

    I arrived late and that situation was compounded by the parking arrangements at Dave Parade having changed since last year, Aaaah!!!!!! Anyway, made it into the ground a minute or so into the game and, apparently, hadn't missed a single set piece. Annoyed to miss the warm ups as they give a good impression of conditions and gurning!?! There had been heavy enough rain all day and, although it had stopped, it was still very wet but, great credit to the groundsman, the pitch, with grass soccer short, was in excellent condition and appeared to hold up very well to the scrummaging, of which there was plenty. As always Dave Parade was a good, old fashioned delight. The locals are friendly and less inclined to scream abuse at the ref than some crowds, although they did manage to wangle one very dodgy offside, directly in line with me, against our midfield. They are very fair as well and the round of applause as Conway was escorted from the field was great to see. The ground always feels pretty full; although my neighbours were there with complimentary tickets so maybe that helped swell numbers. Thanks to my neighbours who didn't mind me talking to myself/ my phone all through the game or my noisy Gwans. The lady even complimented me on my solo Fields, I thought I heard it starting so I had to keep going, a little bit embarrassing!?!?

    Overall, I felt that Munster set out to quell the opposition, through fierce defence and breakdown work before raising the tempo in the second half, as the Dragons tired. It was similar to Cardiff in many respects although the Dragons had very little left to repel Munster when we upped the ante. The Dragons were large in size (if a bit unfit) solid in the lineout (don't think they lost one all game) but prone to errors, they dropped a lot and kicked away a lot of ball, much of it aimlessly. This tendency to kick away ball was compounded, for them, by excellent fielding of the ball from the Munster team. Ronan O'Mahony was excellent in this regard.

    JOHN RYAN Had a very solid game. He does not carry like Killer or Cronin but he made a couple of consolidation carries, clearing up poor ball. Apart from that he did everything, I suspect, asked of him. He hit things, tackles and rucks and was part of the reason Sheridan had a much easier evening than the constantly scragged Richie Rees. Ryan was also rock solid in the scrum. As many of you know, I am not a scrummaging expert but the best scrums, it seems to, me are locked out on one side and attacked on the other. John Ryan's solidity was the axis for Archer's destructive performance. I think the scrum penalty which led to the first, Copeland try was on Ryan's side. John Ryan is a vital part of the Munster operation, he can hold up either side of the scrum and do exactly what is required. I am not sure he will ever set the world on fire unless he is able to concentrate on one side of the scrum over the other but he works his stones off and does not let anyone down. I hope people do not think I am damning with faint praise when I say he is a model pro. (7)

    DUNCAN CASEY did not have his best game but I really am not sure he was 100% fit. He missed three throws, one was probably a timing issue but, by his exceptional standards that was a poor return. He still showed up around the field, carried and took his try well. To accentuate the positive, however, after the last missed throw at the first line out of the second half, the lineout became a potent weapon as the game proceeded. I hope Guinazu's injury does not rule him out next week as Casey has played a lot of rugby this autumn, Varley's return cannot come soon enough. (7)

    STEPHEN ARCHER had a massive game, carrying strongly off of crappy ball on a couple of occasions making his tackles including a great effort on one of the Dragons backs, but it was in the scrum that Archer filled his boots. scrum after scrum he minced his man gaining four penalties I think and getting the shoulder up to disrupt the Dragons back play. We also took one against the head. The Dragons did make a lot of mistakes with their possession but Archer punished them for it. Ian Keatley certainly owes him a pint as he got Munster out of Jail on three occasions after kicking errors from Keats in the first half. Now to temper the enthusiasm, I don't know how strong the Dragons scrum is but you can only beat what is in front of you and Archer certainly did that. He also looks very fit. (9)

    DOC impressed me again in his role as senior pro/ 'dirt track' skipper. He was ferocious at the breakdown, playing the ref well in that regard at times, hmm hmmm!?!, but also got Keats out of jail when he and Smith did brilliantly to snuff out a 3 dragon backs on 2 after a very loose kick. I don't know if he was calling the lineouts but in the first half after Casey had missed two on the trot Munster had a lineout on our 5 metre line. Munster shortened to four DOC took the catch and drew the line clearing penalty. It was very good captaincy of a young hooker who was struggling a little bit. Apart from one slip Casey hit everything thereafter. (7)

    BILLY HOLLAND was solid if unspectacular. He carried quite well at times but with carriers across the backrow and the midfield his job was to help secure the breakdown and disrupt their ball which I though he did well. I am not sure he quite has the power of some but he does a good job for Munster at this time of year and during the six nations. (6)

    PADDY BUTLER did a lot of unseen stuff in the first half but was very prominent in the second and thoroughly deserved his BP try. He really came into the game when he moved to 7 after CJ came on for Dougall. He is a good footballer who looks to be a bit more powerful than last year as evidenced by his carrying around the fringes. (7)

    SEAN DOUGALL seemed to be a little bit off the pace but, the conditions and the reffing, which saw very few jackals, did not really suit his game IMHO. I like him a lot as a player but the first half, with Munster struggling to get into the game, thanks, in part, to a lack of control from Keats, was made for three sixes rather than 6,7,8. (6)

    ROBIN COPELAND was a little bit affected by this in the first half as well. He is a tremendous athlete and a big unit but his height means that he can be chopped down around the fringes. Get him into space, as he had in the second half, and he comes into his own. I suspect that he could really come into his own in the Spring when he can be launched at some poor, tackle shy tens. He carried very well in the second half. (7)

    CATHAL SHERIDAN had the best game I have seen from him. He tackled like a demon, stopping big Dragons carriers in their tracks on four or five occasions. Aside from one softish kick away of possession early on, his box kicking was very good. He was very sharp at the base and showed great vision to counter down the blindside with ROM to relieve pressure when we were under pressure in the first half. His excellent charge down led to Casey's try and was typical of his effort. He was another lad who was excellent under the high ball at times as well. The forwards gave him a very good platform and Duncan Williams did nothing wrong when he came on but the 21 jersey will be up for debate after that. I would actually have had him as my man of the match because it was such a strong all around performance. (9)

    IAN KEATLEY had the classic game of two halves. That said his kicking off the tee, in what were difficult conditions, was perfect. He wasn't trying to hit the ball too hard and was trusting of the range he has in abundance. He defended bravely in the first half and was always willing to truck up ball into heavy traffic but his kicking from hand on three occasions and one restart put the pressure back onto Munster. Fortunately Archer was helping his out half out but Munster will not get away with it against stronger opponents. He did put in some good positional kicks as well but I never felt he had control of a game that the forwards were winning quite comfortably. The second half, however, he and JJ took control and it was a pleasure to watch the two of them dovetail so beautifully and release the backs. Keats also chipped over the blitz cleverly. I still think the 10 jersey is Keat's but JJ is some player. (7)

    RONAN O'MAHONY had an excellent game and I was really pleased that he picked up the try his hard work and bravery deserved. I don't think he missed a single catch, his technique under the high ball is impeccable. He returned nearly every kick with interest beating defenders every time. He chased hard and put the Dragons back three under fierce pressure. He did get a bit over excited and stick his hands in after one such chase but I don't blame him for a second. He took his chance well as there must have been a temptation to push up offside. He might not have the lightening pace of GVDH but he is a terrific committed footballer who I suspect could do a very good job at FB. (9)

    DENIS HURLEY was very aggressive defensively, smashing into tackles. He didn't carry or offload as much as he can but the Dragons were blitzing hard. He was very clever to pick and go to create the speed of ball and space which made ROM's try. He got done for pace at one point in phase play but defensively the partnership with Smith seems to be working well. I think this is the starting partnership for Clermont with JJ on the bench. (7)

    ANDREW SMITH continues to impress me. He is bigger in the flesh than he appears on TV. The defensive partnership seems to be working well with Hurley. When Munster put the foot down in the second half he and Hurley ran very well off of Keats and JJ. (7)

    ANDREW CONWAY appeared to be concussed and did not have much time to do much good or bad during his shift. He caught one high ball very well and was unlucky to give away an offside penalty when a too short Garryowen from JJ was knocked on by the kicker into Conway.

    JJ HANRAHAN had a bit of a game of two halves as well. He fluffed a couple of kicks in the first half but caught well and was not found out defensively. When the tempo picked up in the second half though he came into his own, often in the midfield. His footwork is a complete blur and he dances through defenders leaving them grasping for the air. He went through one gap which appeared too tight for a razor blade. I can't believe myself when I write it but I do think the 22 jersey is the right thing for JJ still. He is a rapier who is blunted by the Claymores in the opening half but when Munster's superior fitness, and I really do think the lads are fitter than the opposition, comes into play in the last half hour he eviscerates teams. Tremendous player and prospect. (7)

    Of the replacements, JOHNE saw the most gametime but was quiet enough. He is a solid, adaptable pro but ROM is ahead of him by some distance on yesterday's evidence. The front row replacements won a penalty at their only set piece, the last scrum of the game and I think, but don't quote me, it was the debutant Pat Howard who tapped and went which let to the last try. DOC II put in a big carry but was not on for long enough to pass to much judgement. It was nice to see Duncan Williams have a relative armchair ride. Nearly forgot CJ, got ripped in the tackle once but the man's leg speed in contact is phenomenal. Thought the backrow functioned very well with CJ 6, Butler 7 and Copeland 8 but the game was very different by that stage.

    All in all, a cracking performance and result, for the time of year, that has created plenty of conundrums which the coaches will be pleased to have.
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