Ian keatley v JJ Hanrahan.
It’s the battle that just isn’t going to end any time soon. Both out-halves are still developing and maturing as players and it seems that each passing month sees one man’s stock rising, before his rival reels him in with a classy performances of his own.
Last night, it was Keatley’s turn as the 26-year-old turned in a complete and convincing display in Munster’s 18-14 win away to the Dragons. The Dublin-born playmaker kicked all of his side’s points from the tee and generally put in a tidy display.
Head coach Rob Penney was greatly impressed with what he saw, particularly the 76th minute penalty from Keatley that sailed over from 47 metres out and sealed the win for Munster.
“Ian Keatley dictated territory beautifully and put himself in position to kick some wonderful goals,” Penney told the Pro12.
“We got the decisive penalty from a great scrum and we were pretty confident that he had the distance, and as soon as he hit it he turned and walked away so we were confident that it was going over.”
Another area that the New Zealander took satisfaction from was the set piece. As Penney alluded to, the scrum was strong, while Munster rolled several well-organised mauls in the time that Paul O’Connell was on the pitch.
Penney was happy with his men’s set piece against the Dragons. ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy.
The Dragons have made impressive technical improvements under Lyn Jones this season though, something that Penney highlighted as a hindrance for his pack. However, the Munster coach was happy with how his own side adapted and grew into the game.
“Our set piece was operating really efficiently, they defended in quite a unique way so it was hard to make some progress at times but once we got our structures right in the second half and were able to get runners in behind their defensive alignment we started to make some holes and off the back of those holes and pressure we were able to get some penalties.”
Following hot on the heels of last weekend’s 31-10 win in Cardiff, Munster have enjoyed a good return from their visits to Wales and have strengthened their lead at the top of the Pro12 table. Penney says all credit must go to the players.
“I’m really delighted to get nine points out of the last two weeks, it has been a real bonus for us and the lads have worked really hard coming out of Cardiff last week with a six day turnaround and travelling again. It’s a great credit to the guys to get the job done.”