Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Eye spy - Munster v Ospreys

This week we have a guest poster taking on our Eye Spy mission; and what a bang up job BigJoeShep has done!  He watched Munster take on the Ospreys last weekend to see how they look ahead of the big clash with Leinster this coming weekend.

(note - we here at HarpinOnRugby Manor can neither confirm nor deny reports of things we may or may not have said in private correspondence)


Leinster Rugby have a must win game against Munster Rugby at Aviva Stadium on Saturday 04 October 2014 in the Guinness Pro 12 League. What follows is key for all Leinster supporters (and some might add for Leinster players and coach Matt O’CONNOR!!)

It was a normal average Tuesday around 1027hrs when I received the “request” to undertake this mission. It came in the usual polite manner but as ever, I knew that it was one that you didn’t refuse? Our leader at Harpin’ on Rugby (HoR) Manor has a way with his “Requests” which leaves you knowing you don’t have a choice.  Being in retirement, I don’t get tasked for these sort of missions often now but given the undercurrent on Leinster and coach Matt O’CONNOR (MOC) currently, it was felt that this was needed. Regardless of the reason, once you’re in the HoR organisation, you’re ALWAYS available…………..The “Request” went like this;

Good morning Mr…….(clearly I can’t ID myself on these means)
Your mission should you choose to accept it (like I have a choice??) to conduct a recce on our oldest adversaries and next Pro 12 opponents Munster Rugby. It is understood that you will find them at their HQ, also known as “Fortress Thomond” Limerick this coming Saturday when a team from Wales, known as “The Ospreys” will swoop in and try to steal at least 4 points. Apparently, these “Ospreys” are currently flying high!! (Yep the Boss’ humour takes getting used to)

Anyhow, as always, should you or any of your team be caught or identified, Harpin’ On Rugby Manor will disavow any knowledge of you or your actions. This e-mail will self-destruct in five seconds. 
Report back on your findings and good luck……..

It was as described and fortunately for me, the stadium hadn’t moved and I infiltrated with ease! Thomond Park is well known for its unique atmosphere. During the match, the home fans can be heard singing songs such as "The Fields Of Athenry". Although no-one could fully explain why Munster fans would sing a Connacht / Galway song, it’s probably the same as why would England Rugby fans sing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” an African American song? Moving on…………..

It is alleged that some 13,547 people turned out to watch the game but I suspect those numbers were exaggerated looking at the emptiness of the ground which can only hold circa 25,600+/- of their fans? The result went against Munster with the Ospreys winning 19 – 14 and well worth their win on a gloomy rainy night in Limerick and this means 2 straight home defeats for the Munstermen. Although Munster had a strong start to the early stages of the 1st half, they failed to capitalise and the 2nd half was even worse. Despite Ospreys losing 2nd Row South African Rynier Bernardo to the sin bin, Munster failed to exploit this only saw less than 5% in their opponents 22 during the 2nd half. 

The report is based upon Munster Rugby, their key players identified and any relevant Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that would cost Leinster a key home win and 5 points this Saturday. 

Gerhard VAN DEN HEEVER – Winger: 6’3” & 16st 7lbs, the South African has strength, speed, a brilliant side step and will take any opportunity out wide or to come inside with a jinking run. In the 1st half, Munster had 39% possession with 51 carries and 206 metres made. HEEVER accounted for over 50% of those metres. He only requires the slightest opportunity and missed tackles from Leinster will cost dearly!
Paul O’CONNELL – 2nd Row Lock: 6’6” & 17st 8lbs, the giant Irishman has been recognised by his country on 94 occasions and has played 160 times for the province and scored 90 points. He is an inspirational leader, former captain and is a threat for the full 80 minutes. He turns up everywhere, is huge when winning the ball at lineouts. If he doesn’t compete for the ball, he immediately wittles himself out of the ruck to the back of the melee and controls the ensuing maul or onward progression. His scrummaging and tackling for a 35 year old is extremely strong. He can turn a game with his drive, determination and experience. He is a LION. Ties in very closely with Connor MURRAY 
Conor MURRAY – Scrum Half: 6’2” & 14st 10lbs, MURRAY has played 28 times for his country and 61 times for Munster scoring 39 pts. He is the 9th forward! Agile, strong with determination and vision. His ability to add power to the pack at mauls and control every situation should not be underestimated. A strong working ally of O’CONNELL, he has a burst of speed over 15 – 20 metres that opens up play. From lineouts, he looks to quick effect box kicks into space when the opponents are expecting it to go across the park. Was match captain for this game. Huge threat.
Munster utilised the lineout to great effect. They have a well drilled set of plays that sees them marching down the pitch. Their Hooker, CASEY drills good, straight balls to the line. Lineout, Maul, play, kick for touch, march onwards. In this game it took them only 11 minutes to successfully engage this methodology before the ball was played out wide and eventually through MURRAY, KEATLY (one of the few things he got right?) and onto an overlap where VAN DEN HEEVER went across the line for their try. (N.B. Note comments below on WEAKNESSES in this area)

They appear strong in the set scrum (but not always in scrummaging). Their props (BJ BOTHA, a South African World Cup Winner) and Dave KILCOYNE together with the vastly
experienced 2nd row of O’CONNELL and O’CALLAGHAN team up very well and provide a strong front 5. They won 6 from 8 of their own put in and 1 against the head. Given they had an extremely poor 2nd half, it was only once on 64th minute that they were pushed back. I wouldn’t read too much into it! If they win at set scrum, it sets them up.

Positives and negatives here. Munster conceded only 6 penalties and 4 were in the 2nd half. They are a reasonably well disciplined team. 2 of the penalties came from players not being back behind the kicker and they gave away needless points for infringements at the breakdown. The other area their discipline kicks in is at the end of the game. They are renowned for never giving in till the final whistle goes and again they showed it in this game coming close to the try line in the dying moments. Leinster must watch this.


Currently Munster are without a large number of key players; Tyler BLEYENDAAL (Centre), Cian BOHANE (Centre), Keith EARLS (Winger/Universal Back), Billy HOLLAND (Back Row/Lock), Peter O’MAHONY (Back Row & Club Captain), Mike SHERRY (Hooker), Damien VARLEY (Hooker) and Donnacha RYAN (Lock/Flanker). The loss of these is undoubtedly having an effect.

The biggest disappointment from a player perspective was Ian KEATLEY (Fly Half). His kicking was overall poor, he lacked distance, vision and tactical awareness. Perhaps it was just an off day but didn’t impress at all.

Offence / Defence / Breakdown:
They lack a strong team overall as outlined above. They are playing HURLEY & DINEEN in the central roles and whilst HURLEY has the experience and vision from his previous days as a Heineken Cup Winning Full Back, along with a poorly playing Ian KEATLEY their lack of a dynamic central capability (on a required 80 mins basis) was evident with a number of handling and positional errors. What makes Munster look good is when they do get it across the park, is that man Conor MURRAY again. He turns defence and anything at the breakdown into an attacking capability looking at every opportunity to switch play. 

That said, because they are heavily reliant on a couple of players at the breakdown, there’s potential for turnover ball should Leinster target this area. Likewise Ospreys had a player sin binned and Munster failed in any way to capitalise on this. Stifle them at source and there’s rich pickings to be had for the Boys in Blue!


It is assessed that Munster will start and finish very strong, utilise the lineout “march” downfield in the first 15 or so minutes then look to get it out to VAN DEN HEEVER and expect MURRAY to be heavily involved in everything supported by O’CONNELL and the South African No 8 CJ STANDER. (N.B. Leinster MUST be careful not to take their eye off the game in the latter stages of the 2nd half regardless of where they are at that point as they did against Cardiff last week)
Key Areas: Lineouts and push forward. Exploiting the wide channel out to VAN DEN HEEVER. 
Anything involving MURRAY.


The main threats both to and from Munster are covered. 


Overall, Munster Rugby have a core set of strong players who can change the game if given the opportunity but I don’t believe it’s anywhere near enough to threaten Leinster IF the boys in blue play to their strengths. They are yet to gel as a completed outfit given the absences of many key players.

PREDICTION: Leinster Rugby by 14 points!

……….This report will self-destruct in 90 seconds. Comment quickly!

@bigjoeshep is the Owner and Head of Information & Knowledge Management atDigital Knowledge Zone.   An avid Leinster & Ireland Rugby fan, he came to rugby at the late age of 24, was a tight head prop, had at least 2 good runs in every game and retired at only 36 after 3 operations on his legs and now forms the 4th "virtual" person in a front row each time his beloved teams are playing (much to the annoyance of his suffering girlfriend who has to put up with being "embraced" by the Big Fella at each scrum!!!)


Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019