5 talking points after Anthony Foley’s Munster hammer Sale

Murray Kinsella reports from Thomond Park

MUNSTER ENJOYED A 65-10 victory against Sale Sharks at Thomond Park this afternoon. You can read our full match report here.

Happy ending

This European campaign will ultimately be seen as one of failure by Munster themselves, and no number of tries against a weak Sale team will help to heal the pain of the 33-10 defeat to Saracens in round five.

Munster fans went home happy this evening. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

However, there was joy in the attacking expression of the performance in Limerick today, with Anthony Foley’s men scoring no less than nine tries. Eight of those came in the second half, indicating Munster’s dominance of that period.

Attention can now turn wholly to the Pro12 campaign and the chance of silverware this season, but to end their European season on such a happy note will have been pleasing for Munster.

Ireland hopefuls do no harm

Simon Zebo was deservedly named man of the match for an excellent display at fullback, from where his counter-attacking and insertion of pace into the backline were at their very best.

Zebo was in superb form for Munster. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

With Dave Kearney having picked up a shoulder injury for Leinster yesterday, it seems likely that Zebo will face less competition to retain his spot on Ireland’s left wing, while men such as Tommy O’Donnell, Keith Earls and James Cronin were all superb in the second half.

That said, Ian Keatley would have been disappointed with his first-half showing, which featured uncharacteristic missed tackles and one or two poor kicks.

Ian Madigan had his bad moments yesterday too for Leinster, meaning Joe Schmidt has two out-halves coming into international camp off the back of less-than-convincing displays.

Earls is back

The 27-year-old only got 44 minute of a run against the Sharks, but his try heavily underlined what an incisive attacking back he is. Bursting onto a superb offload from Ivan Dineen on an intelligent line, Earls went on to turn Luke McLean inside out.

Earls scored a scintillating try for Foley’s side. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

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To shift direction at that pace is no mean feat, and the watching Joe Schmidt will have been impressed. Earls has yet to play for Ireland under the Kiwi head coach, but that will surely change in the coming months.

Indeed, the early exit for Munster’s outside centre was a disappointment, and head coach Anhtony Foley indicated that Earls’ groins had tightened up badly at half time.

To see Earls deliver a handful of thumping tackles in the first half, as well as making a number of fine reads, offers encouragement for a possible future at 13.

Sale fall apart

Castres were a disgrace to the Champions Cup last weekend in the RDS, and Sale Sharks weren’t much better in the closing quarter at Thomond Park. Munster ruthlessly took every attacking chance on offer, but some of the tackling was non-existant from Steve Diamond’s side.

Sale’s defensive performance in the second half was appalling. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Once Munster had scored their fourth try of the encounter, there was little in the way of resistance against a weakened Sale team.

While this competition has been rightly praised for increased competitiveness at the top end of the pools, there are still dead rubbers in which the weaker outfits simply have nothing to play for.

A shame for the nuetral, as this fixture was closely-fought in the first half. Munster turned up the quality after the break, leaving Sale in their wake.

Dineen shows value

When Denis Hurley was forced to retire injured with just over 20 minutes gone, eyebrows were raised by Foley’s decison to send Ivan Dineen into the fray. Indeed, this writer felt the stage was ideal for JJ Hanrahan’s playmaking skills and wondered at the decision.

Dineen makes a big linebreak. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

However, Dineen was excellent in all aspects of play, setting up Earls’ try with that sumptuous offload and releasing Andrew Conway for a late break with another clever inside pass.

The 27-year-old made busts and half-breaks himself too, while showing intelligence and an appetite for contact in defence.

Dineen is now 27 and has relatively few senior starts for Munster, but he demonstrated that he’s not just a route-one centre with this impressive display off the bench.

Originally published 17.40

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