New Munster head coach Rob Penney was particularly pleased with how his charges closed out a tight win over Edinburgh in their opening RaboDirect PRO12 match on Saturday night.
While Munster feet will be kept firmly planted on the ground, the positive nature of their 23-18 defeat of Edinburgh at Murrayfield gave new head coach Rob Penney a memorable start to his tenure.
The province had played in fits and starts during their pre-season run but there was much more to admire in this competitive opener, from the cutting edge shown for their two tries to the nuggety defence produced late on to prevent the Scots from stealing a victory.
“I actually thought we were a little bit ahead of ourselves from where I thought we might get to today, so that’s really good,” admitted Penney afterwards when asked about the progress made.
“I suppose the most pleasing aspect is that we leave here with a degree of confidence in what we are trying to do. The boys are pretty chuffed with themselves which is a great spur for them.”
Ian Keatley left the home of Scottish rugby with an 18-point haul, including a timely try just before half-time, while young winger Luke O’Dea added to his growing reputation with a fine individual try from debutant James Downey’s inviting offload.
Downey and the other newcomers did enough to suggest that Penney and his coaching staff will have some welcome selection headaches on their hands deeper into the season.
The new boss also had a word for his Kiwi compatriot Doug Howlett who led by example as a first-time captain on his full return from surgery on a ruptured Achilles tendon.
“I am really pleased for Dougie in his first competitive game as captain to lead the team through the final 10 minutes or so, when we were under the pump a little bit and the boys reacted really well to that.
“We had a few heroes there without naming the whole team, but it was heartwarming and a good start.”
Munster had to show some resilience in bouncing back from a 10-3 deficit, especially as Edinburgh danger man Tim Visser had picked up two tries in the opening half hour.
The big winger’s second effort came from an unfortunate turnover against Munster, although the bounce of the ball did go their way when Howlett kicked through for Keatley to collect and run in behind the posts. The out-half duly converted for a 10-10 half-time scoreline.
“(The second Visser try) was a 12-pointer, we probably would have scored seven at the other end if we’d been able to free up that ruck ball. They’re not easy to get over,” explained Penney.
“We’d worked hard and I thought we played some really good rugby leading into that moment and then the ball gets popped out of a ruck for some inexplicable reason and you end up under your own posts.
“What I was pleased about was our response. It is really easy for sides when they are under that pressure or having those things occur to them, to go into their shell or drop their lip. This side didn’t.
“I thought the boys played a lot of rugby which was pleasing. We reduced the amount of unforced errors which we had been guilty of in pre-season and I though we defended with a massive amount of determination and ticker.”
Penney will want more from his players when Benetton Treviso visit Thomond Park next weekend, with the leaking of those three tries to Visser sure to command attention in the video session.
There were no injuries arising from the game in Scotland but an ankle injury saw Johne Murphy limp out of Young Munster’s Limerick Charity Cup tie with Garryowen. The full extent of the damage is not yet known but he is obviously a serious doubt for the Treviso fixture.
On a positive note, young scrum half Cathal Sheridan returned to action with UL Bohemians after five months on the sidelines.
Munster v Benetton Treviso tickets are available to buy online here and are on sale at the Munster Rugby Stores and the Munster Rugby Ticket offices.