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Prendergast Praises Munsters’ ‘Awesome Defence’

Prendergast Praises Munsters’ ‘Awesome Defence’

Young Munster director of rugby Mike Prendergast paid tribute to a great team performance after his side followed up on their win over Cork Constitution with a hard-fought defeat of Old Belvedere on Saturday.

Young Munster beat Old Belvedere at Anglesea Road under the watchful eye of Paul O’Connell, whom Mike Prendergast feets is ‘a great leader’ to have around to lift his players.

“Last time (in Dublin) against St. Mary’s we were gutted after a huge, honest performance and a huge defensive performance,” he told IrishRugby.ie.

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“Against Belvedere we had a bit of both – an awesome defense, but we held onto the ball quite well and built phases.

“We were unlucky in the first 20 minutes not to get a few more scores on the scoreboard. But it shows the true character of this team.

“Going through the game you could see it – there were bodies dropping like flies. Three guys came off injured which is something we have to look at during the week, but in fairness the lads who came in put their hands up.

“Everyone wants to play a part when you are winning games. The honesty and belief was there.”

Old Belvedere’s director of rugby Phil Werahiko was bitterly disappointed by the narrow loss which saw his side drop to second in Ulster Bank League Division 1A, behind Cork Constitution.

“Our decision making wasn’t great. Give credit where credit is due. Young Munster’s defence played exceptionally well,” he said.

“They were under a lot of pressure throughout the match and consistently made the tackles when they was needed. We had to get within metres of their try-line before we actually crossed it.

“There was no serious line breaks made and that is down to Young Munster’s defence.”

Prendergast endured injuries to both of his starting centres, Gareth Jones and Matthew Costelloe, before half-time and had to move flanker James O’Neill to centre for the second half.

“James did a very good job there,” admitted Prendergast, who also singled out scrum half Alan Kingsley for special praise.

Kingsley scored four penalties as well as the crucial conversion of Brendan Guilfoyle’s try, with seven minutes remaining, which gave Munsters the win.

“Alan Kingsley is priceless to any team. He comes up with the goods when you need him – touchline conversion (to win it).

“We came up here last year and won in injury-time from a penalty from the halfway line. He is a big man for the big occasions. His mental toughness alone is massive.

“This year is his first year going in at nine. He used to play there when he was young. He has been our 10.

“I got injured at the start of the year so we had to convert him back into a nine and I won’t be rushing back playing when I have Alan Kingsley around! A huge performance by him and by everyone. Huge character shown.

“It’s a very tough place to come because they are a very tough side, Belvedere. Obviously they are or were top of the league, so to come up here and win is just huge.”

Old Belvedere notched up a 31-0 victory when the sides met at Tom Clifford Park at the start of the campaign and Prendergast identified a number of aspects where the Cookies needed to improve on from that defeat.

“We were looking at the DVD last week and we were not happy with the physicality and pressure game – that was something we did look at.

“We brought that out (today) and when you put that amount of pressure on, things have to give at times and luckily enough we came out on the right side of it.”

That pressure game took its toll on a Belvedere side that coughed up 11 penalties in all which gave Young Munster and their place-kicker Kingsley ample opportunity to punish the home side.

“It was particularly disappointing (the number of penalties conceded) on our ball,” explained Werahiko afterwards.

“We were being penalised while being in possession of the ball. It is very odd, but apparently we were falling over the ball carrier and not staying on our feet and got caught.

“On two of those occasions, they may have got six points out of that. Six points to a team like Young Munster is a lot of points (to give away).”

Prendergast feels a top three finish is still within Munsters’ reach and will approach each of the last four games as a cup final.

“That is the way it is going to be for the next four games. All i can ask for is honesty and work-rate and that is what I am getting off these bunch. They are a pleasure to train and to work with.

“It is a very good league, Division 1A. We were in 1B last season, which was a very competitive league but there definitely is a step-up – physicality, you have obviously got a lot of Development contracted players and Academy players.

“It is only good for Irish rugby. You can’t beat what you see out there. It is tough games from here on in and the beauty of this league is that anyone can beat anyone. Now, we will just focus on ourselves and next week.”

Old Belvedere still have their sights on a league triumph, although they fell a point behind Cork Con after the weekend results.

But New Zealander Werahiko felt that it was a game that slipped through his side’s grasp rather than ‘Belvo being outplayed.

“This was a match we lost rather than Young Munster won. But Young Munster stuck at it. We scored a couple of points and got ourselves into a five-point lead with 10 minutes to go, but they came up with a try.

“That is down to ourselves not putting enough effort into when the try was scored. I wouldn’t say we let them back into the game but we didn’t show the same commitment when we really needed to.

“Young Munster’s try came from two mauls, one from outside our 22, they mauled – we gave a penalty away and they kicked it closer and then mauled it again. We just didn’t deal with it very well.

“It’s not something we have allowed happen before. We have always managed to defend the maul extremely well, but it wasn’t to be.”

With a trip to Shannon next for Belvedere, Werahiko believes teams are now familiar with each other, something that was not true when they played each other first time out.

“You have to give credit to other teams and other coaches. They have learnt from the lessons of the first matches. You didn’t have the advantage of knowing the teams or how teams were playing then.

“In the second games, most teams have lost to a team they would have beaten first time around. Young Munster beat Cork Con last week. That was a turnaround.

“Young Munster, after we got quite a decent result last time when we beat them, have come back and turned it around. Shannon beat St. Mary’s after taking a 50-point thumping in their first meeting.

“Teams have learnt lessons and it is going to be tough – no games are going to be easy. Some of the other results (this weekend) Blackrock beat Garryowen by a point and Shannon were beaten by Con. It is certainly a lot more competitive. Our match was no different,” concluded Werahiko, who is midway through his third season at the club.

For Prendergast, it all seems to be coming together and he hopes this will continue over the next number of weeks.

“Against St. Mary’s we had a poor result but a satisfactory performance. We played better (today) but to come out with a win up here is massive. That is Con and Belvedere in the last two weeks.

“But we’re not even halfway there. We have four games left. Four massive, massive games, starting next week up in Dublin against Blackrock who will be a tough opposition. They have already beaten us at home, so we will prepare for that.”

Related Links –

Dublin Delight For Young Munster

Ulster Bank League Tables