Munster boss Johann van Graan believes his team’s successive Champions Cup victories against Wasps and Castres Olympique came at the right time after “a real mental battle the last few weeks” due to the province’s Covid-19 crisis.
On Saturday against Castres at Thomond Park, young fly-half Ben Healy made his first European start and led the way as he slotted four penalties as Munster repelled Castres in a turgid 19-13 win.
Number eights Jack O’Donoghue and Kevin Kornath traded tries, the latter’s score earning the visitors a losing bonus point during the game’s latter stages.
It has been a whirlwind spell for Van Graan, whose departure to Bath at the end of the season was confirmed this week. An ill-fated United Rugby Championship trip to South Africa saw Munster begin their European campaign with 34 players in quarantine, yet they still managed to beat Wasps in the opening round last week.
Happy with result but not performance
“We are very happy with the win, happy to have the nine points, although it is not the performance that we wanted,” admitted the South African.
“This was not easy on the eye, it was an ugly win. But it was the first game for a lot of guys for seven weeks. Yes, we can certainly perform better but it has been a real mental battle the last few weeks.
“We hope to get everyone out of isolation in the next two days, and then we can be together as a squad for first time since the Ospreys week back in October.
“The thing I am glad about is that we have two wins out of two. When we spoke a few weeks ago, we certainly would have taken that.”
Meanwhile, Springbok star Damian de Allende’s ability to make metres earned him the Heineken star-of-the-match award. However, he missed out on a try to crown his performance.
“I thought when we held on to the ball, we did very well and we got metres. But I think we tried to look for the offload too much. It was just that final pass,” he acknowledged, reflecting on why the hosts finished with just one try.
“It was frustrating on the field where we felt we should have scored but we didn’t. Still happy to get the win but we left a bit out there.”
On the TMO decision which denied him a try before half-time – he was adjudged not to be in control of the ball – he said: “Honestly I felt it was a try. If it wasn’t, I would say it wasn’t.
“It wasn’t given but at least Jack’s was, which was nice. It was a good finish from him. I’m just glad we got the win.”
Castres backs coach David Darricarrere felt they could take a lot out of a gritty team performance in Limerick.
“The bonus point is satisfying because the players produced a big performance. We never gave up against one of the best teams in Europe. It shows the depth of the squad and the spirit of the group,” he said.
“We could even have done better on a few balls, we gave some disappointing penalties away. But overall, we’re pleased with how we played, particularly as there were a fair few changes.
“We’ll now turn our attention to the Top 14 and try to continue working with the whole group to perform next weekend, away to Perpignan.”
Danny Wilson promises more from Glasgow Warriors
Meanwhile, Glasgow Warriors coach Danny Wilson was delighted with his players’ performance in their 22-7 Champions Cup win against Exeter Chiefs at Scotstoun but promised they have still not reached their full potential.
For the hosts, Johnny Matthews scored a late try which Duncan Weir converted, after Ross Thompson added five penalties, while Sam Simmonds crossed for Exeter’s only try and his brother Joe added the extras.
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