Munster completed a clean sweep over Edinburgh last night in Cork, with their 4th win against the Scottish team this season, thereby getting this phase of the RaboDirect Pro12 off to a good start as they aim to move up the league table and secure a play-off place without their International contingent. It was another wet night in Cork which did not encourage attendees but there was a decent crowd (officially over 7,000) there to see how the young guns would seize their opportunity.
Given the conditions there were plenty of scrums but the first 4 resulted in penalties at 3, 6, 9 and 12 minutes! All were against Munster and specifically BJ Botha. After the third offence he was given a warning so at the 4th the referee lost patience and sent him to the sinbin. Down a man the team played well and we waited until the inevitable next scrum which would necessitate bringing on young prop John Ryan. After about 6 minutes had elapsed he was summonsed and replaced CJ Stander to maintain the numerical advantage for Edinburgh. The first scrum was reset and we willed John on to hold up his side and it worked as not only did he hold it up but Munster were awarded the penalty that time! Johne Murphy had also been involved in that scrum to made it an 8 v 8 effort and had a wry smile as he returned to the backline after it. The crowd were delighted and it seemed to mark a change in how the scrums were refereed as for the remainder of the game (even with BJ restored to the side) Munster won more scrum penalties than they conceded. Edinburgh had not been able to take advantage as when they kicked to touch from those penalties Munster had done a good job to disrupt their lineout so had only been 3-0 up after the 4 penalties but Ian Keatley now had a chance to equalise and made no mistake.
The score at half time was only 6-3 to Munster and we hoped for a better second half. The atmosphere in Musgrave Park lacked the intensity of the last home game at Thomond but the weather did not help. I took advantage of the upgrade to the stand which was probably only about half full. The MRSC choir sang before the game but I did not hear any singing during it. There was cheering and clapping, a thunderous sound made by stamping our feet on the wooden floor of the tiered seating area (which was reminiscent of the sound of the DART passing by Lansdowne road) and the youngsters banged on the metal hoardings around the edges of the terrace to make some noise.
The second half started well and when Munster stretched their lead to 12-3 at about 52 minutes and were thus more than a score ahead I was surprised that they continued to opt for penalty kicks rather than lineouts and try scoring opportunities. Maybe the poor weather conditions did not suit such an approach but a bonus point win would have improved their league standing and may be relevant come the end of the season. Anyway by 63 minutes Munster were winning by 18-3. Two tries were almost achieved by balls kicked through which just evaded the chasing players (Johne and JJ) to touch down. There was a lot to enjoy in some of the backline moves and interplay which given the conditions did not always come off but showed an appetite for a creative style of rugby.
The first try came on 68 min, JJ provided a lovely pass to Ivan Dineen who made a great break and kicked infield before he was taken out of play but CJ Stander and Danny Barnes were in support and CJ scored under the posts to bring his try tally in the League to 3 since he joined Munster in November, despite missing some games after breaking a bone in his hand in the Glasgow game.
JJ was also involved several times in the build up to the 2nd try on 74 mins. By this stage he had moved to fly half and chipped ahead, the Edinburgh player failed to secure the ball and Tommy O’Donnell pounced and carried play into the 22 before being tackled. Quick recycling and good hands saw the ball passed from Cathal Sheridan to JJ on to Paddy Butler and Billy Holland before Mike Sherry managed to cross the line. The TMO confirmed the grounding was achieved and Munster moved out of sight to 30-3. The conversion was unsuccessful and there were no more scores for the remainder of the game. Overall it was a good result. The conditions impacted the flow of the game as did the referee’s interpretation of the scrum and advantage which were a bit puzzling, even after watching the game back on TV.
Of the younger players on view the centre partnership of JJ Hanrahan and Ivan Dineen caught the eye while Ian Nagle was imperious in the lineout – stealing or disrupting the Edinburgh throws as well as securing his own ball for Munster and John Ryan showed that there is some depth appearing at tight head. The more experienced Denis Hurley and Johne Murphy were hungry for work and the lineout worked well. Captain James Coughlan led by example and carried a lot of ball. Varley was busy, achieving some excellent turnovers before he limped off after 51 mins. Ian Keatley won the Man of the Match award, he kicked his penalties well, keeping the ball low due to the conditions and controlled the game well while Marcus Horan showed he still has a contribution to make to the team. The competition for places in the back row is intense with all 5 players contributing well to the team performance while a 6th (Peter O’Mahony) is away on Ireland duty.
Munster: Denis Hurley; Johne Murphy, Ivan Dineen, JJ Hanrahan, Danny Barnes (Deasy 69 min); Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams (Sheridan 69 min); Marcus Horan (du Preez 54 min), Damien Varley (Sherry 52 min), BJ Botha (Ryan 66 min); Ian Nagle (Foley 71 min), Billy Holland; CJ Stander, Sean Dougall (O’Donnell 67 min), James Coughlan capt. (Butler 66 min).
Edinburgh Rugby: Greig Tonks; Dougie Fife, Ben Cairns, Ben Atiga, Tom Brown; Piers Francis, Richie Rees; John Yapp, Andy Titterrell, Willem Nel; Perry Parker, Izak van der Westhuizen; Sean Cox capt, Stuart McInally, Netani Talei. Replacements: Steven Lawrie, Allen Jacobsen, Alex Allen, Grant Gilchrist, Hamish Watson, Chris Leck, Gregor Hunter, Lee Jones.
Highlights available: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3omPUWbSVg&feature=em-subs_digest
After 14 rounds of the league Munster remain in 6th place in the league table so the next few weeks will be crucial as they need to get into the top 4 to ensure qualification for the play-offs at the end of the season. Next weeks away game to Scarlets is a must win to climb above them in the table and with less than 1 win (4pts) between teams 3-6 it is very competitive at the top end of the table.
I enjoy writing my blog and seeing the number of views I get and where they come from – mainly from people clicking on links on the MunsterFans forum, Twitter or facebook but some come in via search engines and it was interesting over the last week to see the impact of Simon Zebo’s new international fame as WestTerraceView received views from people looking up the following:
If anyone knows what John Ryan’s flick is about let me know! On a more serious note here’s hoping for a speedier recovery for Simon after his injury today than the ten weeks mentioned, hopefully as a worst case scenario.