Out-Muscled Munster Unable To Withstand Clermont
Clermont v Munster
After a 16-9 defeat to Clermont last Saturday, can Munster restore some pride when they face the French side at the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin on Sunday?
Munster’s slow start to the Pro12 came to an end with a 34-23 victory over Leinster, a morale boosting result that started a run of seven consecutive victories including wins over their European Cup Pool One rivals, Sale and Saracens. But the winning streak came to an end against Clermont last weekend, a result that has blown Pool One wide open and leaves the province with some catching up to do.
Clermont had made a strong start domestically, but going into last Saturday’s game, their form had begun to falter. They’d lost three of their preceding five games, including surprise defeats to Bordeaux and Bayonne and were off the pace in Pool One, having lost to Saracens. But victory at Thomond Park took them to the top of their section and leaves them in control of their own European destiny.
Munster’s lengthy injury list still includes the likes of Donnacha Ryan, Damien Varley, Mike Sherry, Keith Earls and Cian Bohane. They will also be missing Gerhard van den Heever, who picked up a knee injury on Saturday and Donncha O’Callaghan who is half way through a two week sanction for kicking an opponent. But Andrew Smith, Robin Copeland, Paddy Butler and Eusebio Guinazu all took part in training this week and could be available in France.
Aurelien Rougerie came in at outside centre on Saturday, in place of Jonathan Davies and coach Franck Azema may opt to retain the club legend’s partnership with Wesley Fofana. He is also likely to retain the formidable back row of Julien Bonnaire, Damien Chouly and Fritz Lee, who played so well.
Clermont have the edge in the head to head record, having won four of their six encounters, and three of their last four.
Their most significant match came eighteen months ago at the semi-final stage of the Heineken Cup, a game played in Montpelier. Ronan O’Gara gave the province the lead, but Clermont soon took control to lead 13-3 at half-time, and held off Munster’s second half challenge to reach their first European Cup final.
Clermont again prevailed last weekend. Munster went into the game as favourites, but the French side caught them cold with a try in the first two minutes, took a 16-6 half-time lead and came through a war of attrition in the second half to win the game 16-9.
Although they were weakened by injuries, Munster’s defeat last weekend came as a surprise and having failed to withstand the French challenge on Irish soil, I can’t see them doing better at the Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, and a home win is on the cards.
But the Munster players will be keen to restore some pride after they were out-muscled last weekend and can keep the margin of defeat respectable. Back Munster +10 at 10/11 in the Match Handicap market.