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Munster player ratings vs Northampton Saints - Investec Champions Cup

By Ian Cameron
Gavin Coombes of Munster is congratulated by teammates after scoring his side's third try during the Investec Champions Cup Pool 3 Round 4 match between Munster and Northampton Saints at Thomond Park in Limerick. (Photo By Brendan Moran/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Munster player ratings: The men in red have catastrophically fumbled what should have been a routine win against a  Northampton Saints side who found a way to win despite being down to 14 men for much of the contest.

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It wasn’t all bad in terms of personal performances, but Graham Rowntree will be scratching his head as to how his side have once again failed to see out victory in the fortress Thomond.

1. Jeremy Loughman – 7/10
Strong in the scrum and active in loose play, Loughman contributed consistently, showing his capability in the front row. Perfect timing given the season-ending injury for fellow loosehead David Kilcoyne and the Six Nations looming.

2. Niall Scannell – 5
Tackled his bowels out. Impressive in set-pieces and reasonably active around the park, even if his carrying is well off the standard set by other Irish hookers.

3. Oli Jager – 6
Solid in the scrum, Jager maintained a steady presence. The former Crusader’s contributions, while not flashy, got the job done. Moves well for a big man.

4. Thomas Ahern – 5
Back in the engine room after several weeks spent at blindside, the 6’9 Ahern copped two knees to the head in quick succession just before halftime, with Northampton hooker Curtis Langdon deservedly getting a red card for the second effect. Ahern naturally didn’t return.

5. Tadhg Beirne – 5
Nowhere near his best here. Beirne wasn’t poor by any stretch but didn’t dominate across the park in the manner we’ve come to expect from the British & Irish Lion.

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Turnovers

7
Turnovers Won
7
12
Turnovers Lost
12

6. Peter O’Mahony – 7
Left talk of contract negotiations behind him, demonstrating strong leadership and presence. Was a disruptive force at the breakdown and was good value for his corner flag finish in 41st minute. Provided some comedic relief when he booted a clearing kick right into Gavin Coombes’ goolies.

7. John Hodnett – 6
Hodnett’s tenacity and work rate were commendable as he consistently put himself in key positions to make tackles and contest at the breakdown. What is maybe missing from his game are those game-changing moments that elevate a player to Test class.

8. Gavin Coombes – 6
Coombes’ physicality was there in fits and starts, challenging Northampton’s defenders and gaining valuable ground when carrying. Survived a savage clearing kick that struck him below the belt, rendering him inert for several minutes.

9. Craig Casey – 8
Quick service and smart tactical play kept Munster moving forward, with Casey proving his worth on the back foot. Steered the team with some remarkable kicking under pressure and showcased an indomitable Jack Russell spirit that just puts a smile on the face of any right-thinking rugby fan. Even won an unlikely jackal turnover in the 62nd minute.

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Ruck Speed

0-3 secs
49%
53%
3-6 secs
22%
22%
6+ secs
27%
19%
85
Rucks Won
84

10. Jack Crowley – 5
A mixed bag with some impressive plays balanced by a few errors from Crowley. Played himself into the game as it went on, even if there were moments of indecision when covering back. Hard to fathom how he couldn’t steer Munster to victory against a 14-man Saints side who looked beaten.

11. Shane Daly – 5
A bit of an anonymous one from Daly. Failed to make a meaningful mark on the game, with limited involvement.

12. Alex Nankivell – 8
A superb performance in the centre, the New Zealander was solid defensively and showed strong carrying ability, standing out in an otherwise hit-and-miss Munster attacking effort. Not his fault.

13. Antoine Frisch – 7
Frisch was whip-smart all game with good defensive work and no small amount of attacking verve. Broke through Northampton’s defence with a canny line just before halftime.

14. Calvin Nash – 6
Nash was a vibrant presence on the wing, using his speed and agility to be a constant attacking threat and involved in key plays. On the negative side of the ledger, the winger had three turnovers conceded against his name.

15. Simon Zebo – 4
Looked to be carrying an injury, Zebo’s performance lacked his usual flair, with limited contributions in both defence and attack before being taken off. Looked uncharacteristically distraught going off after 43 minutes, which doesn’t bode well.

REPLACEMENTS: 

16. Eoghan Clarke – 5
Struggled to make a significant impact after coming on. While Clarke added some energy in the scrum, his overall contribution in general play was lacking.

17. Josh Wycherley – 5
His performance off the bench was underwhelming, adding little to the team’s collective effort.

18. John Ryan – 5
Ryan’s presence in the scrum was not as impactful as expected, and his addition of physicality was minimal.

Set Plays

12
Scrums
5
67%
Scrum Win %
100%
8
Lineout
12
88%
Lineout Win %
83%
6
Restarts Received
7
100%
Restarts Received Win %
71%

19. Brian Gleeson – 7
Running over 116kg Springbok No.8 Juarno Augustus is no mean feat. The sooner this lad is fast-tracked into the Ireland squad the better.

20. Alex Kendellen – 5
Should have brought fresh legs, but in retrospect, Rowntree may being rueing the decision to take O’Mahony off.

21. Paddy Patterson – N/A

22. Joey Carbery – 5
Bordeaux bound, Carbery didn’t do much of merit in his short time on the pitch.

23. Sean O’Brien – 6
O’Brien was solid during his time on the field, coming on for an injured Simon Zebo shortly after halftime.

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Poorfour 5 hours ago
The AI advantage: How the next two Rugby World Cups will be won

AI models are really just larger and less transparent variants of the statistical models that have been in use since Moneyball was invented. And a big difference between the Icahn centre’s results and AI today is that ChatGPT-like Large Language Models can explain (to some degree) how they reached their conclusions. In terms of what impact they will have, I suspect it will have two primary impacts: 1) It will place a premium on coaching creativity 2) It will lead to more selections that baffle fans and pundits. Analysts will be able to run the models both ways: they will see their own team’s and players’ weaknesses and strengths as well as the opposition’s. So they will have a good idea at what the other team will be targeting and the decisive difference may well be which coaches are smart enough to think of a gameplan that the other side didn’t identify and prepare for. For players, it places a premium on three key things: 1) Having a relatively complete game with no major weaknesses (or the dedication to work on eliminating them) 2) Having the tactical flexibility to play a different game every week 3) Having a point of difference that is so compelling that there isn’t a defence for it. (3) is relatively rare even among pro players. There have been only a handful of players over the years where you knew what they were going to do and the problem was stopping it - Lomu would be the classic example. And even when someone does have that, it’s hard to sustain. Billy Vunipola in his prime was very hard to stop, but fell away quite badly when the toll on his body began to accumulate. So coaches will look for (1) - a lack of exploitable weaknesses - and (2) - the ability to exploit others’ weaknesses - ahead of hoping for (3), at least for the majority of the pack. Which is likely to mean that, as with the original Moneyball, competent, unshowy players who do the stuff that wins matches will win out over outrageous talents who can’t adapt to cover their own weaknesses. Which will leave a lot of people on the sidelines sputtering over the non-inclusion of players whose highlights reels are spectacular, but whose lowlight reels have been uncovered by AI… at least until the point where every fan has access to a sporting analysis AI.

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