Friday, 11 September 2009

The Munster octopus

Warning: reasonably very technical rugby post.

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.

9 comments:

Gadjo Dilo said...

I thought Munster was in Germany. Other than that it's all crystal clear to me :-)

Gaw said...

I re-read it. It's pretty obscure stuff isn't it? Good to get it off my chest though.

Kev said...

They do do this very well but they tend on occasion to over do it when spreading it wide might be a better idea. I think the Munster team may have peaked, they are certainly quite old at this point. But then I am a Leinster fan so I would say that.

Gaw said...

I wonder what their academy is like - but you're right it would have to be pretty incredible to produce another crop like these. You must have enjoyed the last Heineken Cup final - an exciting game for the neutral too.

Brit said...

Despite having played rugby and watched it with reasonable though not overwheliming interest for most of my life, I remain quite incapable of 'reading' a match. The technicalities are a complete mystery and I always have a vague suspicion that the commentators are just making it all up. A game of rugby just looks like one damn thing after another, to me.

Gaw said...

Brit, you're not the only one in not having a clue about reading a match. Notoriously, a few England coaches have also been clueless. The English sin is usually to see the match as a move-by-move chess game, but one which can be planned carefully in advance.

However, whilst a game plan is needed, it must always be subject to how things turn out on the field. Rugby is dynamic and unpredictable, and players need to read and play what's in front of them on the day.

I think it bears some comparison with Test cricket in its combination of complexity and reactivity. Certainly, the role of the captain is far more strategic and tactical in both than it is in football.

Kev said...

Enjoyed the final immensely, very satisfying day and a great weekend in Edinburgh. Although if I'm honest it wasn't as good as giving Munster that beating in the semi which was a glorious occasion.

If you are interested in the academies there were articles on them by Gerry Thornely (the best (only good) Irish rugby journalist) here and here at the weekend. They now appear to be poaching Welsh players which isn't a great development.

Gaw said...

Kev: You must be very optimistic about Leinster's future: to have 14 of your final match day 22 from your academy, with plenty more on the way, is quite an achievement. I hope a few Welsh players do go over to Munster - it would toughen them up, mentally as much as anything. Generally, I think Welsh players, below international level, lack breadth of experience.

Kev said...

The future seems bright at the moment alright but you never know whether they will deliver on potential.

At the moment the Welsh reigons (particularly the Ospresys) remind me of Leinster several years ago good players without being a good team. Leinster got there eventually, it can be done.