Munster back on track in Champions Cup 

Gavin Coombes after scoring his second try for Munster against Northampton Saints.

MUNSTER rugby fans travelled in significant numbers to Franklin’s Gardens to cheer their team to a 17-6 European Champions Cup win over Northampton Saints yesterday (Sunday), an outcome that easily pushed Graham Rowntree’s selection into qualification territory ahead of a return to league action over the festive period. 

A couple of opening-half tries from No.8 Gavin Coombes laid the foundation for the two-time European winners. Joey Carbery added the extras on both occasions, along with knocking over a penalty. 

“We’d like to have been more glamorous but it’s a massive win for us going forward,” commented Munster coach Graham Rowntree. “There was a lot riding on this game and it’s a huge win for us.”

A worry, perhaps, is that all of Munster’s scoring arrived in the opening half of a largely dour struggle.

However, popular Irish Examiner pundit Donal Lenihan commented: “This attritional affair may not have made for great viewing, but Rowntree and his coaching staff were bursting with pride on the flight home with the unrelenting commitment shown by his players.”

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He added: “Munster may not be serious contenders for Champions Cup honours just yet, but the improvement in attack, coupled with a stubbornness in defence and belligerence around the breakdown that would resonate with that famous Munster team of the noughties, they are developing a capacity to make life difficult for all corners.”

Next up for Munster is a St Stephen’s Day visit by Leinster to Thomond Park, the URC fixture that is a complete 25,600 sell-out.