I left with MRSC bar with the chorus of the French anthem La Marseillaise ringing in my ears thanks to some visitors from Castres joining the Red Army there after the game and it seemed an appropriate title on several levels, – we will march on, taking 4 points from the game as we head to France where the yellow vest protests show that the spirit of the revolution lives on.
It was a strange game – there were enforced late changes with Joey Carbery ruled out and being joined on the sidelines by Chris Farrell who pulled up during the warm-up. Conditions were difficult with a swirling wind – of the 6 flags at the south terrace three would be blowing one direction and the other three might be hanging limply or blowing the other way while it was also wet underfoot after a heavy shower prior to kickoff which led to a slippery ball at times.
The scrum was dominant especially during the first half. The lineout suffered a few malfunctions, preventing Munster from making their dominance count on the scoreboard. The kicking game paid dividends as the Castres backs failed to deal with the ball well on several occasions. However time and again Munster got into good positions only for an error to set them back. A pass from Conor to Tadhg which he could not control, a super linebreak from Conway when Cloete acted as scrumhalf and Conor took the pass in midfield to hit Conway only for the move to breakdown, some fantastic turnovers by Beirne and O’Mahony.. it was all just a bit start/stop. A final scrum penalty just before half-time had us hoping for a breakthrough but led to confusion when Rory kicked it dead and the referee brought it back for Castres to restart. Was the stadium clock wrong or why did he not blow it up then? He had us scratching our heads a few times during the game!
The 6-0 lead at half time did not reflect the home team’s dominance. While the wind would be more of an advantage in the second half it made the bonus point look less likely but not impossible, especially if Munster could score early after the break which is exactly what they did. CJ broke from the back of the scrum and Murray picked and went with a lovely offload to Rory running a great support line. JJ nailed the difficult conversion kick, full credit to him for his faultless kicking display especially given the poor return he had had from the tee against Edinburgh.
The early afternoon kick-off is not ideal for getting the best out of the 16th man but the noise and energy levels rose considerably when Peter won a great turnover as Castres got into the best attacking position of the game, albeit fortuitously as Conor had knocked on when catching their penalty attempt kick at goal after it had drifted wide. That gave Castres the platform of a 5m scrum and it required the captain to produce one of his trademark steals to relieve the pressure.
The decision to take three points in the 58th minute which pushed the gap out to 16-0 was a bit surprising as we had expected them to go for the line and push on for another try. When that hoped for second try came ten minutes later, it featured a break and a sublime pass from Conor this time to CJ who showed his power to get to the line despite being the best efforts of the defence.
The third try was very well worked with some of the slick passing we had seen in the Edinburgh game last week – great interplay between Rory and Sam in midfield and the halfback pairing Alby and JJ at the end. Some of us wondered if JJ should have drop-kicked the conversion to save time and push for the fourth bonus point try but it was not to be.
Another head scratcher at the end when the referee yellow carded Conway but did not award a penalty try which would have saved time and give Munster a restart to go all out for a bonus point. Instead when the Castres player casually kicked the ball to touch for the lineout and Peter got a boot to it I thought the danger was cleared but the whistle said otherwise. From the final play Castres got their try in the far corner. JJ who had moved to fullback went all out for the intercept. If he had been successful he would have been the hero and given the scoreline I think it was worth the risk.
Munster: Mike Haley (Tyler Bleyendaal ’76), Andrew Conway, Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell (Jaco Taute ’76), Keith Earls: JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray (Alby Mathewson ’68): Dave Kilcoyne (Jeremy Loughman ’70), Niall Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne ’45), John Ryan; Tadhg Beirne, Billy Holland (Fineen Wycherly ’69); Peter O’Mahony, Chris Cloete (Arno Botha ’65), CJ Stander.
Castres: Scott Spedding, Armand Batlle (Martin Laveau ’60), Thomas Combezou, Florian Vialelle, Taylor Paris, Benjamin Urdapilleta, Ludovic Radosavljevic (Rory Kockott 68). Antoine Tichit (Paea Fa’anunu ’45), Jody Jenneker (Kevin Firmin ’45), Daniel Kotze (Marc Clerc ’45); Loic Jacquet (Christophe Samson ’63), Thibault Lassalle; Mathieu Babillot, Kevin Gimeno (Yannick Caballero ’40), Alex Tulou (Julien Caminati ’69).
Stats from ESPN show how Munster dominated possession, position, with plenty of line breaks and defenders beaten plus fewer tackles but the final execution let them dow time and again. Full stats are available here
Video highlights are here. Match report from The42.ie, Irish Times Match report from the Irish Examiner includes the thoughts of Peter on MOTM JJ Hanrahan. Thoughts from both coaching teams from the Examiner
I love the community of supporters I meet on the terrace, on roadtrips to away games and on social media. One of the latter, Rob was over from the UK for his annual visit to Thomond so I was delighted to have his company on the drive down from Dublin and an opportunity to repay his kindness in dropping me at East Midlands airport after the Leicester game last December. It is true what they say, good company shortens the journey as our conversation covered topics from Brexit, family, work, parkruns as well as our beloved Munster. We arrived in Limerick at the same time as a heavy shower but it dried up shortly before we walked over to the stadium from LIT. George and Imelda had just told Rob how the folks on the east get the worst of the rain as the prevailing wind comes from the Cratloe end when the rain returned and the swirling wind meant we did get wet that time! We heard about Joey’s calf injury shortly after arriving and were disappointed but hopeful that it would not be a long term set-back. During the warmup Chris Farrell pulled up with an injury so Sam was promoted to the starting 15 and Jaco came onto the bench. We did not see any of the players coming down from the MRSC bar before the game but I did see Paul Ring so I asked him about tickets for the Leinster game for the west terrace for members as ticketmaster only have the north terrace available. Sinead enquired about the 2019 Munster calendar so apparently it is coming soon.
As I left the stadium I met Patrick, Eilish and their friends. He hasn’t forgiven me yet for testing him a few weeks ago (to see if he had actually read the blog or if he was just telling me what I wanted to hear). As we stood there you could really feel the cold wind – you forget that just because you can’t feel it during the game thanks for the shelter of the stand and the crowd around you, it doesn’t mean that the players out on the pitch don’t have to contend with it. Up in the bar I met James and Sinead before catching up with the MRSC Dublin folks and friends. Paul told me that Tommy and Darren Sweetnam had been up before the game meeting supporters and posing for photos etc.
Pixie was sitting near them and we enjoyed a catch-up, unfortunately her planned trip to Castres is off due to a change in the Ryanair schedule! Hopefully my flight via Stanstead will go to schedule next Friday. Hilary has done a fantastic job in organising the coach from Toulouse to Castres and I am looking forward to the roadtrip. Toulouse will look fabulous with the Christmas lights and the forecast as of the time of writing looks to be dry. With Exeter losing at home this weekend Gloucester are hoping we will slip up in France. We can expect a tougher battle from our hosts who will look to give their supporters plenty to cheer about so we will need to stand up and fight in earnest there, being red, loud and proud, flying the flag of the Red Army as we represent our province and our team. Hopefully there won’t be any health or safety concerns there! Bon voyage
A smile for those who read this far – enjoy the Gift Grub about Stringer in Dancing with the Stars