Battling Munster pick up a bonus point

Craig Casey who made his first Champions Cup start on Sunday.

A LOSING bonus point was Munster’s return from a promising performance against Toulouse in the Heineken Champions Cup opener at a fog shrouded and bitterly cold Thomond Park at the weekend. 

It finished 13-18 in front of a hardy attendance of around 22,000, the largest across the opening weekend of Cup action. The teams had been level, ten apiece, after the opening half. 

Graham Rowntree’s side must now quickly regroup for a must-win fixture away to Northampton Saints, who were soundly beaten 46-12 by holders La Rochelle in their opener, at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday next (kick-off, 1pm).

“We’ll just lick our wounds and see what we can do better,” said Rowntree. “We’ve got a massive game next week now.The lads are honest. We’ll look at what we need to fix but I want us to be positive and keep building forward. Because we are building.”

In his assessment with RTÉ Sport, Rowntree said: “It came down to power, their maul versus our maul ultimately.

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“We spoke about denying them access, but we gave a scrum penalty away and then we’re defending a maul. They don’t score off the maul directly, but they do score two phases afterwards.

“Then at the start of the second half we do the same thing. We’re defending on our own goal-line, they broke out of that.

“Minutes after that we had an opportunity to do that to them and we turned the ball over on their five-metre line. They’re the moments.

“Apart from that, I thought our attack showed massive signs of improvement against a very good defensive breakdown. But we have to look at those areas where we give them easy access to our five-metre line.”

The two Toulouse tries came after they earned easy five-metre lineouts from their hosts, with Matthis Lebel cancelling out Joey Carbery’s early opener (which he converted, and then later added a couple of penalties) before replacement Lucas Tauzin crossed shortly after the restart, and to which Thomas Ramos added the extras. 

Yesterday’s fixture was particularly notable for Craig Casey who made his first Cup start; Antoine Frisch who debuted in the competition and John Ryan who marked his 50th appearance in Europe.