Watched Munster vs Cardiff tonight in the Magners Celtic League (the wonders of the red button). As usual Munster won (a common occurrence at the forbidding Thomond Park). And as usual it was through aggressively attacking the breakdown, shoving, pawing, grabbing and using other means of general interference. And again, as usual, Cardiff's ball was slowed up and generally taken on the back foot. Too slow and static to run through the backs - the ball only got as far as the odd infield player who tried to drive it up Munster's well-manned fringes where they were aggressively tackled, then either dispossessed or more bad ball recycled. This pretty straightforward cycle was repeated until Munster got either a turnover or a penalty (with the odd one going against them).
Munster do this tremendously well. Perhaps better than any other non-international side. Players such as Alan Quinlan and Marcus Horan are superb in this phase of play. Yet teams usually still try to counter it by doing the same thing - moving slow ball, not very far and then driving forward in ones or twos and just being gobbled up. Perhaps they think one day the story will change, and to be fair sometimes a break is made. But the record shows, not enough for teams to win other than rarely.
I'm puzzled that coaches - and players, why not? - don't realise that the way to counter this is to only release the ball when your team's on the front foot and when the Munster forwards are well bound in. Now the rolling maul is back there should really be no excuse. It's obviously not easy, and involves intense physical confrontation, but then Munster have never been an easy team to beat.