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Van Graan thrilled to see Munster show their grit

Munster 30 Castres 5


Big impact: Munster’s JJ Hanrahan celebrates scoring his side’s third try

Big impact: Munster’s JJ Hanrahan celebrates scoring his side’s third try

�INPHO/Billy Stickland

Big impact: Munster’s JJ Hanrahan celebrates scoring his side’s third try

Munster head coach Johann van Graan hailed his side's second-half display as they secured a 30-5 win over Castres in the Champions Cup at Thomond Park.

Rory Scannell, CJ Stander and man of the match JJ Hanrahan all ran in tries in the second period to help the Irish province seal a deserved victory over the reigning French champions.

The victory, which did not include a bonus point, leaves Munster three points clear of Gloucester at the top of Pool 2 after three games, with Castres six points off the pace in third.

Van Graan said: "It was a very tough European battle between two heavyweights. Credit to Castres, who stuck to their task.

"I was happy with the way we adapted to one or two disruptions pre-game and in-game it was a lot wetter than we anticipated in that first 40 minutes and we tightened up at half-time.

"All credit to the players who adapted to what we wanted in that second half.

"We went through them and I thought we got a comfortable victory in the end by 25 points."

The South African was pleased with Hanrahan's performance after the fly-half was brought in as a late replacement for the injured Joey Carbery, while they also lost Ireland centre Chris Farrell to an injury in the warm-up.

"It is not ideal losing players like Joey Carbery and Chris Farrell shortly before kick-off, but that is why you have a squad. Our squad depth got tested, both at 10 and at 13," he said. "I am glad that JJ stepped up so well and that Sammy (Arnold) stepped up.

"It doesn't matter who gets picked or what happens, we have to adapt and I'm very happy."

Castres defence and forwards coach Joe El-Abd felt the best team won.

"I am very disappointed," he said. "We had big ambitions, but we got dominated in every sector. We have no complaints with the result.

"In the first half we managed to stay in it, I don't think they did much either, so we turned at 6-0 down and everything to play for. The early try in the second half was difficult and from there it was an uphill battle. I think they were on their game.

"You always know Munster are going to perform in the Heineken Cup. It is a competition they attack 100 per cent.

"They put us under pressure everywhere and we weren't great. We weren't very precise in what we did, but that is due in large amounts to what they did."

The two teams will meet again in Castres on Saturday.

El-Abd added: "I think it's going to be a very tough game (next Saturday). We know what to expect. We played them last season at home and the game was different to the one away.

"We need to win 4-0 in terms of match points. We are still alive in the competition." Meanwhile, Mark McCall insists Saracens were not good enough against Cardiff Blues, even though they scored six second-half tries and ran out 51-25 winners at Allianz Park in Pool 3.

Ben Earl came off the bench to score two second-half tries while wing Sean Maitland also added two in quick succession, but the former champions had to turn it around after a poor first half.

Blaine Scully and Matthew Morgan both crossed for the Blues to hand them an 18-13 half-time lead and, despite the improved second-half display and ultimately comfortable win, McCall cut a frustrated figure at full-time.

"There's a feeling of dissatisfaction in the dressing room because of how the first half went. There are certain things we did which just aren't good enough," the Director of Rugby said.

"It was a strange first half. We had a lot of possession and field position but we weren't very strong with either, and we gave away two very sloppy tries.

"Individually there were some positives today but as a team we're not really where I'd want to be. We need to be better next week."

Belfast Telegraph