Pro 12 position: 1st
European position: 1st
Stadium: Irish Independent Park
Munster returned to the top of the pro 12 after a tense 10-9 victory in Edinburgh last week. Munster were strong at the scrum in that match, but were put under pressure at times resulting in poor clearance kicks or ‘exits’, giving Edinburgh good field position from which to attack. Man of the match was Ross O’Mahoney, but Tyler Bleyendaal continued his good form this season and was superb in most facets of play.
The Munstermen have only suffered two defeats this season. These came away at Irish counterparts Leinster and at home in a 24-23 defeat to the Cardiff Blues.
Munster finished top of their pool to set up a home quarter-final against Toulouse. The province were in a tough pool, with Glasgow, Leicester and Racing 92 all featuring. Munster finished with 5 wins; a solitary defeat at Welfare Road their only blemish. Only 27 points were conceded at home during the pool phase.
How to get to the stadium:
From the airport:
The stadium is located about 15 minutes away from Cork Airport. The Munster fans I spoke with advised me that it can be difficult to get a taxi in the build-up to the game, so pre-book a taxi to the stadium to avoid disappointment. Hailo, an app based taxi service, can be downloaded on any smart phone and comes highly recommended by the natives.
From the city centre:
The city centre is located about 10 minutes from the stadium. Again, the taxi service Hailo can be used, but buses also go to the ground from St Patrick’s Street.
Best place to eat and drink (inside the stadium):
There are 2 clubhouses at the stadium. The Dolphin Bar is in the north stand and Sunday’s Well is in the south stand. Food outlets can also be found next to these clubhouses as-well as throughout the ground.
Best place to eat and drink (outside the stadium):
There is great debate amongst Munster fans as to which restaurant is the best in Cork. In Grand Parade in the city centre, the recommendations are The Fishwife and Hillbilly’s - Cork’s only Michelin star restaurant (you may want to remove any Dragons paraphernalia before entering – no Dragon hats!). Other options are available like Rossini’s and Clancy’s. Recommended pubs are The Mountain, Thomand Bar and The Evergreen. The closest pub to the stadium is 300m away and is called the Tory Top.
What the Munster fans think:
13 players have been called up to the Irish 6 nations squad and James Cronin is facing a lengthy spell on the side-lines. Despite this, the fans still have confidence in the players left to fill the void. The 3 to watch out for are Jaco Taute, Francis Saili and Niall Scannell.
Dragons danger men:
Pat Howard was mentioned by a few of the fans I spoke with. Having joined Munster on a 3-month deal in 2014, their fans understand what an asset he is. Cory Hill also picked up a few votes; with one fan describing him as ‘tough as nails.’ Rynard Landman and Tom Prydie were also mentioned.
Munster’s fans think that the game will come down to defence and doing the basics right. Munster’s defensive stats are impressive, they haven’t conceded 4 tries in any game all season, which no doubt is a contributing factor to their being top of the pile in the Pro12. Despite notable absentees because of the 6 nations, the Irish province remain optimistic of victory.
Any away trip to Ireland is going to be difficult, but we can learn from the Blues who snuck away with a one-point victory there earlier in the season. Like that game, scoring early is going to be crucial. Any reason for the crowd to be quieter than usual will only aid the Men of Gwent. The Blues exposed Munster early on and caught them napping to lead by 7 at half time. Although the Red Army fought back, they were resolute in defence to get victory.
In the encounter at Rodney Parade, Munster wasted a lot of opportunities and made errors which, if made again, need to be capitalised upon.
There is no easy time to play Munster away from home, but I would rather face them with them missing so many players than any other time of the season. The Dragons have won in Ireland as recent as last season, and we will need the spirit of that victory, not to mention more than a drop of good fortune, to do so again. As ever, yours truly, remains optimistic!
Munster 16 – 19 Dragons
Ryan Robinson – Dragons Community Ambassador