Working in rural Nigeria with VSO for six months in the second half of 2010 provided some challenges, including lack of electricity and hot water, the heat and humidity of the 5 month long rainy season and the constant risk of being involved in road traffic accidents given their general disregard for the rules of the road. There were some good experiences there also (see separate blog). It also entailed missing 3 league games, 1 Heineken Cup game and the friendly versus Australia at Thomond in the 2010/11 season. Fortunately where I worked had electricity supplemented by a generator and a slooooow internet connection so I watched the early part of the season unfold through text updates and match reports on various websites. That October the local mobile network offered free internet access for the weekend that Munster were playing Toulon in Thomond Park. I remember using the match tracker on the Irish Times mobile site with my old trusty Nokia, (long before I had a smart phone) hitting the refresh button constantly, excitement levels rising as I watched the great win unfold, wishing I was there on the West Terrace to cheer them on to a 45-18 victory. It is even more tense waiting for the screen to refresh in tight games, looking to see if the final whistle has gone yet before you can relax! Hence I can empathise with the supporters who are not able to attend in person or view on TV / online.
The away game in Treviso clashed with the Scotland-Ireland 6 nations game so TV coverage in Ireland was delayed but updates were available via Twitter. Unlike in Nigeria I was able to avail of a good broadband connection and a decent sized screen to keep track of progress, with the Six Nations game on the TV and twitter / munsterfans forum and a live stream from Italy open on my laptop.
Munster got off to a bad start, conceding 7 points in the opening 2 minutes. Treviso had the advantage of a strong wind in the first half. They scored a second try at the end of the first quarter and Munster had a mountain to climb from 12-0 down. Keatley pulled back 3 points before play was delayed due to a pitch invasion …by a dog! At least it made me smile unlike the scoreline which had stretched to 22-3 by half-time…
Early in the second half Munster pressure resulted in a penalty try from their scrum but it was Treviso who scored the 4 try bonus point in the final quarter before rubber-stamping their win with a 5th try in the last few minutes. The final scoreline of 34-10 is not one we will want to remember so it is good to have a home game next weekend to hopefully get back to winning ways.
It is hard to believe that Treviso lost 40-5 just last weekend in the RDS and while they have taken some notable scalps at home in the competition this season (Ospreys and Scarlets while losing by just a single point to both Leinster and Ulster) given that Treviso had provided 14 players to the Italian team I was not expecting them to dominate this game. Looking for positives, there were some nice attempts at offloads and the scrum earned a penalty try but there were too many forward passes, knock-ons and penalties conceded to build any continuity. Tommy O’Donnell made some strong carries but was sinbinned for a high tackle. Jones and Downey returned from injury while younger players (Ian Nagle, JJ, Ivan, Dave and Cathal) gained some more first team experience. As many of them will be back to B&I Cup action in April the game time should benefit them. That competition may be our best chance of silverware this season unless we reduce our errors.
The title of the blog was originally inspired by my experience in Nigeria, waiting for the progress bar to get to 100% to see the update but today it was more a case of refresh (or open new tweet) followed by “dammit, Treviso scored again!”
Earlier this weekend Connacht and Leinster had again won so a bonus point win would have moved Munster up to joint fifth in the table, but they remain stuck on 6th. Ospreys are due to visit Thomond Park next Saturday, 6 points ahead in 4th place in the league. That will be a crucial game and I hope there will be a good crowd to support the team after a bad 2 weeks on the road.
Game highlights (from a Treviso perspective) available on youtube.
Munster: F Jones; D Hurley, C Laulala, J Downey, J Murphy; I Keatley, D Williams; W du Preez, M Sherry capt, S Archer; I Nagle, B Holland; P Butler, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan. Replacements: D Varley, J Ryan, BJ Botha, D Foley, CJ Stander, C Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, I Dineen
Treviso: B Williams; L Nitoglia, A Pratichetti, G La Grange, G Toniolatti; A Di Bernardo, F Semenzato; M Rizzo, G Maistri, J Roux, V Bernabo, C Van Zyl (c), D Budd, F Giusti, C Loamanu. Replacements: F Sbaraglini, M Muccignat, P Di Santo, M Fuser, M Filippucci, J Ambrosini, L Morisi, T Iannone.
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P.S. if anyone is interested in checking out my blog of my Nigerian experiences here is the link: http://hattisar.wordpress.com/