A thorn in the side of the opposition, a thief, a master poacher, a turnover king… players with these abilities are valuable assets of a team as they win back possession, be it at a ruck or in a lineout. Munster is blessed with several such athletes. Ospreys certainly felt the brunt of the masterclass provided by Chris Cloete, Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Beirne when they came to Cork. It was a key element of a dominant pack performance which was appreciated by the backs and supporters alike.
You hear how players need to get a few games under their belt to achieve match fitness and optimum performance but Chris Cloete and Peter O’Mahony blew that out of the water in their first game of the season. Ospreys did not come fully loaded with their international contingent so the result needs to be viewed in that context but the capacity crowd in Cork enjoyed a masterclass in poaching from some of the leading exponents of that art combined with 8 tries and plenty of action. While it did taper off a bit at the end with the substitutions and injuries it was an entertaining game and a performance which hints at what could be this season, with Keith and CJ to return in the short term.
In the opening minutes Ospreys got into a good position when the bounce of a ball on the 3G surface led it to bobble between Mike Haley’s legs. Munster withstood the maul and when Ospreys tried plan B Chris Cloete was in like a flash to rip the ball in the tackle and put Munster back on the attack from within their own 5m line in the 2nd minute of the game. Chris went on to play the entire 80 minutes and while there was a worrying sight of him requiring attention in the closing stages he was able to play on so hopefully it was just cramping. What an athlete and incredible poacher he is, I am glad he is on our team! I had a great view of him in action early in the game – noting his impressive speed getting to the ruck, setting his feet to support his weight and instantaneously going for the ball, text book technique. With Peter O’Mahony also a proven expert poacher a backrow combining them both looks set to test and torment the opposition this season.
Sam Arnold also impressed, showing his power and pace, making an early break in midfield and shortly after picking up a long lineout throw and making a few metres. He was even used as an option for receiving kick-offs being lifted by Chris, as was Dan later on in the game as shown in this photo.
Cloete was penalised for not releasing a few times but after one game he already leads the turnover table for Munster with 3.
Kudos to Stephen Archer for a sweet offload to put James Cronin through a gap, the more often players can show these skills the better opportunity there will be to punch holes through the defence instead of opting for contact and slowing down the play which allows defences to realign.
Also back for his first game of the season, Andrew Conway made a break but could not get the pass away when tackled. A few minutes later it was Sweetnam who made ground and put Munster into good position after a superb maul by the pack. The cross-field kick to Conway’s wing was not paying dividends but Munster had been playing with advantage. Joey consulted his captain Peter and the ball was kicked to the corner. The maul was pulled down and the referees hand went out again. Sweetnam and Arnold came close but the referee brought them back. Again they went for touch, again Darren O’Shea secured the ball and the maul was formed. While they crossed the line the referee awarded a penalty try which no longer needs a conversion and showed a yellow card to the Ospreys lock Nensadze for collapsing the maul.
Tadhg capitalised on his absence in the lineout to steal their throw in. Peter won another turnover cleaning a player off the ball as Munster were rampant.
Although Ospreys were next on the board with a penalty kick when Cloete was penalised, the second Munster try was special. Ross O-Carroll Kelly will be crying to see Joey score his first try in red but for those of us there it was an exciting counter-attack and a lovely piece of skill. Davies put in a cross field kick for his winger to attack but Joey came on to it at pace from the defensive line, weaving a path between Allen and Hook to touch down for his first Munster try . Players and supporters celebrated as he calmly focused on his conversion kick.
Conway conceded a penalty when he mistimed his tackle on James Hook, hitting him before he had landed. It looked worse in slow motion but the referee did not refer to the TMO and the Ospreys kicked to touch. Munster again poached their lineout as Beirne batted the ball down. However, Arnold got caught in possession and Davies had a second kick at goal which was successful to make it 14-6.
Conway chased the restart and got his timing spot on. The cavalry arrived and won the turnover through the captain. Cloete was almost in but when he was tackled it was James Cronin who plucked the ball out of the mass of bodies and touched it down against the posts to score the third try. The conversion was a simple affair and it was 21-6 by the end of the sinbinning period.
Duncan Williams played well, linking with both backs and forward to keep the tempo up on the artificial surface. Munster ended the half strongly, parked in the opposition 22. Cloete won another turnover. Ospreys were warned about discipline when trying to defend the maul so it was no surprise when their other lock Adam Beard was shown a yellow card just before half time. The maul this time could not be legally stopped and it was Rhys Marshall who benefitted, scoring his second try in two weeks. Joey maintained his 100% kicking record and Munster went in at half time with the bonus point secured on a scoreline of 28-6.
During the break the victorious Cork ladies camogie team were presented and there was an interview with Kieran Donaghy who was involved with the new pitch but I could not hear what was being said. The minis featured two girls teams and they scored some nice tries. I wonder what they made of the new surface. Before the game the pitch was officially opened by Simon Coveney which we had watched on the big screen.
Munster again made their numerical advantage count in the opening minutes of the second half. A high tackle on Joey Carbery was kicked to touch and the maul dragged by Peter O’Mahony at the front crossed the line. Rhys peeled off with Duncan in support to claim his second try of the night. After the conversion Munster were 35-6 to the good with just 44 minutes played.
An intercept by Peter put Munster back on the attack, through Goggin, Carberry and Sweetnam. When Darren was tackled, Arno Botha was there in support to power his way through and claim his first try for Munster.
Another successful conversion, this time from the opposite side of the pitch made it a good evening for the latest heir to ROG.
Andrew Conway was busy throughout, he made a good break up the wing before Cloete took it on. Shortly after, another good kick chase by Conway resulted in the Ospreys carrying the ball back over their line giving Munster a 5m scrum. Arno dragged the defence over the line but could neither ground nor pass the ball.
Conway challenged for the garryowen but could not get to it in the congestion. The ball bounced and was gathered by Luke Morgan who had a clear run to the line. Davies maintained his 100% kicking to make it 42-13 with just under twenty minutes to go.
Munster responded well to score through Darren Sweetnam after excellent work by Keatley and Botha to break the line. The former hurler (to be read in an ironic tone) used his excellent footwork to finish it off closer to the posts. Keatley added the conversion. Kilcoyne, Ryan and Sherry had been heavily involved in the build-up also. Unfortunately Ryan was injured, meaning Stephen Archer had to return as John was helped from the pitch.
When Archer had to leave for a HIA on 74 minutes it was strange to see Kleyn pack down in the front row for a change, all 6‘8” of him! Of course, without a front row specialist it was for an uncontested scrum as Munster finished the game with 14 players. James Cronin had been ready to return but was not allowed by the officials I believe.
There were a few exciting moments in the closing stages; Dan Goggin made a great break. Moments later, Hart came even closer to scoring after a great break by Tommy (after another turnover by Cloete) but the defender managed to drag him down short of the line. Dan Goggin tried again for the score to bring Munster over the half century in the closing minutes as did Keatley and Killer but eventually Munster were penalised for holding on in the tackle to bring the game to an end.
Credit to Tadhg on his impressive home debut on his first start for Munster, another contender for MOTM as he so often was last season in the other red jersey.
The stats from ESPN are here I was surprised to see that Ospreys had also won a lot of turnovers from Munster so there is room for improvement to avoid giving possession away too cheaply to be exploited by stronger opposition.
Post match interview with Johann on eir was interesting to see how he is looking at the workload for players in the season ahead and making substitution calls as a result
MUNSTER: 15. Mike Haley, 14. Andrew Conway, 13. Sammy Arnold (Jaco Taute 52′) , 12. Dan Goggin, 11. Darren Sweetnam, 10. Joey Carbery (Ian Keatley 58′), 9. Duncan Williams (James Hart 64′); 1. James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne 49′), 2. Rhys Marshall (Mike Sherry 57′), 3. Stephen Archer (John Ryan 49′), 4. Tadhg Beirne (Jean Kleyn 52′), 5. Darren O’Shea, 6. Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Tommy O’Donnell 58′), 7. Chris Cloete, 8. Arno Botha.
OSPREYS: 15. James Hook, 14. Tom Williams (Hanno Dirksen 68′), 13. Joe Thomas, 12. Cory Allen (Tiaan Thomas-Wheeler 58′), 11. Luke Morgan, 10. Sam Davies (James Ratti 74′), 9. Tom Habberfield (Matthew Aubrey 58′); 1. Rhodri Jones (Nicky Smith 68′), 2. Scott Baldwin (Ifan Philips 49′), 3. Tom Botha, 4. Giorgi Nemsadze, 5. Adam Beard, 6. Olly Cracknell (captain), 7. Morgan Morris (Guido Volpi), 8. Sam Cross.
The A team had a great win in Wales in the second round of the Celtic Cup on a winning scoreline of 7-52. You can check out Daryl’s photos from Swansea here
I will be in Coppers next Friday night to cheer on Munster in Cardiff – their third week in a row to play on artificial surfaces and hopefully the first win on the road for the team before the inter-pros start with the visit of Ulster. Might see some of you in MRSC Dublin’s new home for the game.
This made me smile during the week and wonder how Ross felt seeing Joey move to top point scorer for Munster after 3 games. Maybe we’ll start singing about the fields of Athy instead of Athenry to help him settle in even better 🙂