Analysis: John Ryan’s Titanic Performance Against Toulouse

A war of attrition was expected from Toulouse last Saturday and for 70 odd minutes they huffed and puffed without so much as a creak from the Thomond Park faithful.

At times the scoreboard made the game look like a tight affair but in truth, Munster never really looked troubled. It helped that every man and his dog in Limerick could tell you before the game exactly how Toulouse would approach the Red Army. They’d use their gigantic pack as one-out runners to gain the hard yards and try to beat up Munster physically.

Unfortunately for Toulouse, Munster’s pack were more than capable of handling any French onslaught with the likes of Stander, O’Mahony, O’Donnell, Kilcoyne and Holland all putting in huge shifts. Yet nobody put in as impressive a shift as Munster’s tighthead prop, John Ryan.

Rugby_2017_ER_Champions_Cup_QF2_Munster_Vs_Toulouse (1)Ryan sets Munster on their way with the opening try of the match.

The 28-year-old’s stock has been rising steadily since the start of the season and it was no surprise to any Munster fan seeing him jump ahead of Finlay Bealham into the Irish squad for this years Six Nations campaign. Given his performances this season, he’s odds-on to be Irelands starting tighthead over the summer tour of USA and Japan.

Rugby_2017_ER_Champions_Cup_QF2_Munster_Vs_Toulouse (2)Here we have a textbook example on how to disrupt a rolling maul from Ryan.

The Berrings native has added a much-needed physicality to his game over the last 9 months and is always eager to get himself involved in both offense and defence. Saturday he was on hand to deliver some crunching tackles on the Toulouse attack, much to the delight of Thomond Park crowd.

Rugby_2017_ER_Champions_Cup_QF2_Munster_Vs_Toulouse (3)

Rugby_2017_ER_Champions_Cup_QF2_Munster_Vs_Toulouse (4) Ryan made some massive hits in the first half just when Toulouse were trying to build a head of steam.

There’s no denying that the position of Prop-Forward has arguably evolved more than any position since the dawn of the professional era, especially with the ever-changing scrum regulations. More than ever, the modern day Prop is expected to get through a copious amount of ‘grunt’ work for very little dividend before being hauled ashore around the 60-minute mark. So to witness Ryan’s fantastic ball-handling ability from a poor Zebo pass and then go on to make five/six metre carry is a beautiful sight indeed. Top quality.

Rugby_2017_ER_Champions_Cup_QF2_Munster_Vs_Toulouse (5)Ryan demonstrates his outrageous ball-handling ability.

Much has been made of Munster dominance in the set-piece this season and in particular, the scrum. With a front-row of Kilcoyne, Scannell and Ryan married with the experience of Jerry Flannery as scrum coach, their pack have become a formidable weapon. Faced against the young French upstart Cyril Baille last Saturday, Ryan may not have dominated his rival but rarely, if ever, looked under pressure come scrum time.

Rugby_2017_ER_Champions_Cup_QF2_Munster_Vs_Toulouse (6)

Rugby_2017_ER_Champions_Cup_QF2_Munster_Vs_Toulouse (7)‘Rhino’ continues on from where he left off in the first-half with massive hits on Huget and Fickou.

Finally, something that went relatively unnoticed at the weekend but surely deserves a mention is Ryan’s longevity. As Kilcoyne and Scannell were being replaced around the 58-minute mark, Ryan ploughed through Toulouse for another twenty minutes before being replaced with just two minutes left and the match already won. Such stamina is rare to find in a tighthead but is a priceless attribute to have when the chips are down and the opposition come knocking on the door.

Rugby_2017_ER_Champions_Cup_QF2_Munster_Vs_Toulouse (8)Not sure he was expecting to be named Man of the Match, do you?

Alan Quinlan recently described Ryan as ‘the most improved player in Ireland this season’ and whilst nobody is disputing that Tadhg Furlong is the best tighthead in Ireland right now, performances like Ryan’s last Saturday will certainly keep the pressure on his Leinster counterpart.

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