Belfast Telegraph

Munster feel the heat after faltering again

By Michael Sadlier

It seems more than a tad unfair that Anthony Foley will head into his first Christmas in charge of Munster worried that they could equal the province's worst losing run in the professional era when they host the old enemy on St Stephen's Day.

But such is the unrelenting nature of the calendar that a loss to Leinster at a packed Thomond Park this week would see Munster lose four in a row, a sequence which has happened just three times in the past two decades.

In that time, Munster have shown a greater ability than perhaps any side in Europe to carve victory out of defeat, so it was frustrating to do the exact opposite of that at Scotstoun on Saturday, when a double-scores interval lead was blown in a second half which failed to yield a single point as they lost 21-18 to Glasgow.

In the circumstances, they could have done without any off-field issues but were forced to move quickly during the match to deny a Sky Sports report that JJ Hanrahan, linked with a move to Northampton Saints, had signed a new deal with the Reds.

Hanrahan, starting at out-half, was a central figure to the proceedings, getting Munster off to a good start with an early try, but two kickable penalties missed by the Kerry man in the second half proved very costly.

The 22-year-old was initially proposed to be available for post-match media duties, where it would have been good for him to clarify his current position and perhaps also shed some light on the difficulty in Glasgow on Saturday for kickers, but he was replaced by lock Billy Holland.

Holland said they would need a vast improvement for Leinster from Saturday's encounter when two of the league's most consistent sides were guilty of basic handling, passing and set-piece errors.

The lead changed hands six times to suggest this was a rip-roaring, top-of-the-table clash, but the truth of the matter is that both sides were struggling to cut out basic errors.

The binning of Paul O'Connell by referee Leighton Hodges, who seemed to be becoming as frustrated as the players, gave Glasgow an opportunity, but there was no questioning Munster's appetite for the battle and their serious hard work saw that 10-minute spell pass at 3-3 apiece.

Hanrahan negotiated a penalty three minutes from the break to put Munster back in front before they turned the screw before the half, building the phases and recycling with welcome accuracy and drive for Copeland to get over for his fourth try of the campaign. Hanrahan's conversion made it 18-9 at the break.

"That is the disappointing aspect of it," said coach Anthony Foley. "We came out in the second half and they came really hard at us and we withstood that.

"We created some opportunities, (but) we didn't take them to extend our lead. "

Munster initially withstood the Glasgow rally before the Fijian lock Nakawara got over after 52 minutes and, almost inevitably, Glasgow pounced for the other lock Jonny Gray to finish a good move eight minutes from time.

Belfast Telegraph

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