Season review: Munster adjusting for final push

Rich Dore
28 June 2019

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There was a sense of deja vu for Johann van Graan’s side both in Europe and domestically this season.

Beirne

Munster impressively reached the semi-finals of the Guinness PRO14 and European Champions Cup once again in 2019, but couldn’t push on that final step to a major trophy.

When all was said and done in the regular season Munster finished second in Conference A with the same win record as the Glasgow Warriors but four points behind due to fewer try bonus points.

Consistency is the key to success and after reaching the semi-finals for the third season in a row, van Graan’s side are building a good base.

Key strengths

Munster were driven by their set-piece play in the Guinness PRO14 this season.

They topped the standings for lineout success with 92.6 percent while in the scrum their success rate was 96.2 percent, equalling chart-topping Edinburgh Rugby.

Munster’s resolute campaign was also one built on defensive solidarity as they finished up the Guinness PRO14 side with the best defence, conceding just 348 points. Their style of using an ultra-physical pack do dominate an opponent and then increase the stranglehold through a muscular backline led by the likes of Chris Farrell, proving incredibly effective.

Chris Farrell, Munster

Areas to improve

Van Graan will no doubt look to target winning more opposition ball in the upcoming season. In 2018/19 Munster only won 116 turnovers, averaging 5.8 per game – the ninth best in the Championship.

Other areas for possible improvement are in tackle success, where Munster ranked ninth with 87.6 percent, while opposition defences could be tested by more offloading – Munster tenth in this reckoning.

Two additions to the coaching line-up have already been added with Stephen Larkham coming in as a senior coach, while Graham Rowntree joins as a forwards coach. Expect both to have a huge impact next season.

Star moment

An epic comeback over Glasgow Warriors in the Championship was one of the standout moments for Munster, way back in October.

With 15 minutes of the match remaining they trailed 24-10 before tries from Alex Wootton and Alby Mathewson closed the gap to two points.

It looked as though Glasgow would keep the ball to hold onto victory until Munster won a penalty at the breakdown.

Rory Scannell stepped up and fired over his kick from 55 metres out to secure a last-gasp 25-24 triumph, in the most dramatic of fashions.

Rory Scannell

Breakout player

With five tries to his name this season, centre Dan Goggin made his mark in Munster’s attack.

The 24-year-old made 116 tackles and gained 416 metres in his 21 appearances this season, including six in the Champions Cup.

He scored two doubles; the first against Ulster in September and the second versus Connacht in January, while he also beat 20 defenders.

It was all the more impressive after Goggin returned from a serious knee injury which left him out of the game for several months the previous season.

Key man

Munster’s captain Peter O’Mahony led from the front as he made his way into the Guinness PRO14 dream team alongside team-mate Tadhg Beirne.

The Ireland international made 19 appearances this season and scored two tries.

O’Mahony was a key part of Munster’s lineout success and he proved immense in Europe, making 88 tackles and missing just three in the whole Champions Cup campaign.

Who’s in?

Four players from the academy have been promoted as Gavin Coombes, Shane Daly, Sean O’Connor and Craig Casey all join the senior ranks.

Munster’s current only signing for next season is scrum-half Nick McCarthy, who is joining from Leinster.

Who’s out?

A few longstanding players are leaving Munster this summer with Ian Keatley joining Benetton after eight years with the province, Mike Sherry is departing after ten years while Duncan Williams brings an 11-year spell at the club to an end.

Stephen Fitzgerald is joining Connacht, Bill Johnston is going to Ulster and Jaco Taute is heading across the sea to the Leicester Tigers.

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