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Cork Independent


Final fling for Munster

Thursday, 25th May, 2017 1:00am

It’s the last game of the season for Munster and the Province’s last chance to collect silverwear.

Munster face Scarlets in the Aviva Stadium in the Pro12 Final, after beating Ospreys last weekend in Thomond Park on a convincing scoreline of 23-3.

It’s also the final game for Lions’ squad members Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander before they travel to New Zeland for this year’s tour, which kicks-off on 3 June against the New Zealand Provincial Barbarians.

Watching those games with particular interest will be Munster flyhalf Tyler Bleyendaal, who joined the Province in January 2015.

The New Zealand native has flourished in the red jersey this season and was named the 2017 Munster Player of the Year recently, after scoring 231 points across all competitions. He also picked up three man-of-the-match accolades, was nominated for European Player of the Year and won selection on the 2017 Guinness PRO12 Dream Team.


Speaking about his transition to live in Munster, in comparison with his native New Zeakand, Bleyendaal said: “I’m very relaxed here, I feel very much at home.”

On his playing life, the Kiwi admits that playing behind such a strong pack has made life as a Munster half-back that bit easier, while acknowledging the improvements needed if Munster are to be crowned Pro12 champions on Saturday, especially after Leinster’s shock defeat at the hands of Scarlets (27-15) in the corresponding Pro12 Semi-Final last Friday night. Munster’s defeat in the European Champion’s Cup Semi-Final is also on Bleyendaal’s mind.

“It’s been huge for us. Our forwards have been providing that platform for the whole season, to attack from and to relieve pressure on the team. If you get under pressure, sometimes you can’t stop the bleeding and you make mistakes.

“Like Leinster, we’ve experienced that. It’s tough sometimes. You probably saw that when we were playing Saracens. From our situation, I’m hoping that we’ve learned from that and that we’re stronger for this final.”

Saracens ultimately went on to record back-to-back European titles and remained undefeated all campaign. Bleyendaal has a deep appreciation for the Scarlets threat out wide.

“I think they’ve got class from nine to 15 and in their reserves. Their attacking ability, we’ve all experienced that over the last couple of months. Any turnover, any counter-attack or just any chance they get to attack on the break, they seem extremely hungry to score tries,” he said.

In a boost ahead of Saturday evening’s showdown, Director of Munster Rugby Rassie Erasmus confirmed he had no fresh injury concerns after the win over Ospreys. James Cronin was a late withdrawal prior to that game, while Keith Earls (shin) and Andrew Conway (shoulder) both picked up knocks in the game but all three were set to resume training this week.

Munster will enjoy the advantage of the home dressing room for the first time at the Aviva Stadium, after winning the coin toss that took place in advance of the semi-finals, however they will be wearing their alternative navy kit for the match with Scarlets in red.

Nigel Owens is set to ref the final, his fifth time to do so. Kick-off in the Pro12 Final at the Aviva Stadium is at 6.15pm.

Mark Coleman gave a performance for the ages during his championship début for Cork on Sunday. The Blarney teenager was born in 1997 – let that sink in for a minute – but age wasn’t a factor for Coleman who was a colossus as wing-back, long may it last.

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