Munster under pressure at Exeter

Munster’s Fineen Wycherley, Eoghan Clarke, Tadhg Beirne, and Jack O'Donoghue after the weekend outing against Bayonne. Photo: Brendan Moran.

MUNSTER were in the headlines for all the wrong reasons over the past few days.

The manner in which they leaked a late seven pointer to Aviron Bayonnais that levelled their Champions Cup opener, and then missed a chance to win in injury time, was followed by the club’s apology after a supporter, who had tugged the jersey of a visiting player, had been banned indefinitely from attending home games.

The Investec Cup opener was a nailbiter and when the home side went into that 14-3 lead, a bonus point win beckoned.

On Sunday (December 17), away to Exeter Chiefs, fans may see what was learned from conceding that levelling try in the closing stages and not being able to finish off opportunities when only metres from the try line at the other end. The silence at the final whistle from the home fans told its own story.

In a post-match interview, head coach Graham Rowntree told the press that the draw “felt like a loss” but he was optimistic and promised that his side will bounce back.

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He mentioned that recent cup games away from home, particularly in this competition, bring out the best in this group of players, but Exeter will be difficult to get the better of.

“We’ve made life harder for ourselves but we’ll roll our sleeves up and go away with confidence. We’ve got form, and we’ve potentially got some guys coming back into the selection reckoning,” Rowntree said.

Chiefs will go into the tie boosted by a dramatic one point win at Toulon after being 18-5 in arrears at the break, with former England centre Henry Slade splitting the posts in the dying minutes with a conversion.

Slade is one player that Munster will have to contain and his recent performances have not gone unnoticed by the national selectors.

Chief’s head coach Rob Baxter must have been pleased too with the performances of flanker Jacques Vermeulen, a try scorer on Saturday, along with his half-back pairing of Harvey Skinner and Tom Cairns.

It will be interesting to see what Munster XV will take the field in Sandy Park (1pm kick-off).

Changes are needed and a strong bench is also a must if Munster are to clear this difficult fence.