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Stalemate

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When two of the three teams with the best defensive records in the league go head to head it was probably inevitable that line breaks and try scoring opportunities would be few and far between. And so it came to pass as the teams were locked at 6-6 at half time and 13 all at full time in Thomond Park.  My “Stuck at 6th” blog from a few weeks ago is sadly looking prophetic as Munster remain at 6th in the table with more danger of being overtaken by Treviso than moving up into contention for the playoffs.

Ospreys have lowest number of Trys Against (TA) column with Munster 3rd best.

Ospreys have lowest number of Trys Against (TA) column with Munster 3rd best.

It was a lovely dry crisp night in Limerick.  There was a good crowd on the terraces, plenty of empty seats in the stands as is the norm for League games.  Everyone knew how important the game was for veteran outhalf Ronan O’Gara as he needed to find his form and put himself back in contention for the Six Nations.  Hence when the player names were being announced there was an extra loud cheer for him to send our support and again when he landed his first penalty within a few minutes, awarded against the Ospreys scrumhalf (who otherwise had an excellent game and won MOTM) for backchat.   While Ronan was unlucky several times with the bounce of the ball as he sought to push Ospreys back deep into their half, he had a much better game than in his last outing for Munster against the Scarlets.  On Sunday evening it was announced that Ronan O’Gara was not included in the Irish Six Nations squad for the game against France next weekend, losing out to Ian Madigan.

Cathal Sheridan made his senior team debut at scrum half and it was good to see him firing out the passes quickly.

Cathal's senior team debut

Cathal’s senior team debut – photo courtesy of Daryl Feehely

Yes he was pinged for a forward pass in a good position but the player who had moved in front of him was in the wrong also.  Dave did make up for it with some some great ball carrying and was very dynamic as usual around the park as Daryl’s photos show.

Two shots by Daryl of Killer on the charge

One of the highlights of the evening was having an all Irish front row for the first fifty minutes.  It brought back memories of our last all Irish front row in the glory years of Horan, Flannery and Hayes.  Stephen Archer continues his good form after returning from injury while Damien Varley was more accurate in the lineout and scored the only try for Munster after some good work entailing twenty phases early in the 2nd half.  According to TG4 Damien has been working on his throwing with retired Munster legend Jerry Flannery and it is paying off.  Unfortunately, for Stephen Archer it was his tackle on an Ospreys player without the ball which changed the game in the wrong way for Munster as he was sinbinned on 49 minutes.  Ospreys scored their try from a penalty awarded subsequently, mauling over the line on 51 minutes.  Despite plenty of effort by both sides for the remaining time there was no further scoring.

Kevin was beside me on the terrace.  I first met him and Joan on the bus to the Milton Keynes game in January 2012 and while that game will always be special for Zebo’s hat trick, the craic we had on the 45 minute bus ride from the shopping centre to the stadium was worthy of a blog if I had been blogging then!  During a break in play in the second half last night, Kevin launched into “Stand Up and Fight” and we all quickly joined in.  The sound swelled as the other side of the terrace and the stands sang along, it sounded nearly as impressive as when there is a full house there.  Later he kicked off a chorus or three of “The Fields of Athenry”.  It goes to show that it just takes one person to start it off.  Maybe that is what is lost in the Aviva Stadium without the terraces where people can easily be with their friends.  Individuals may feel too intimidated to start something off, or maybe they are there to be entertained, to “experience” the atmosphere rather than to create it.  In fairness they have paid enough to be entertained….hopefully there will be a better atmosphere for the Ireland v France game next Saturday as the team will need to be lifted by the supporters after their misperformance in Edinburgh. Who could have foreseen that France would come to Dublin with zero points in the table and a lot to prove themselves?

The highlights for me last night included:

  • The return to action of Captain Doug Howlett who was hungry for action all evening, even in the scrum during the sinbinning, alternating duty there with Denis Hurley.
  • Doug Howlett competes for the high ball. Photo courtesy of Daryl Feehely

    Doug Howlett competes for the high ball. Photo courtesy of Daryl Feehely

  • The blooding of a young scrumhalf who acquitted himself well.
  • The all Irish front row as outlined above with special mention for the ball carrying and ability to break the line of Dave Kilcoyne.
  • The busy back row who carried well.
  • Felix Jones continues to return to form after his injury layoff and made several try saving tackles while in the second half there was more use made of James Downey to try to make holes in the Ospreys defence.

I liked this tweet from @EamoRugby who generally blogs match previews:  “Sheridan brought snap, Killer crackle,Archer pop.A start.We’ve something to build on. Coughlan relentless; will sleep better than last Sunday.”

.. pity we did not have more “Krispiness” in execution, particularly with the predictable side to side backline moves which proved easy to defend but maybe we are saving some surprises for Harlequins in April!

I bought a raffle ticket on my way into the game to win 2 tickets (flights, hotel etc) for that game. I am lucky to have 1 ticket due to being a combined venue season ticket holder with the MRSC but would love 2 tickets together so it was worth €5 to try to win that.  Should I be successful it would be fun to offer my original ticket as a prize for readers of this blog and see how many hits that triggers…I’ll keep dreaming…

Congrats to Cashel U/11s who scored more tries in their half time interval game than we saw in 80 minutes of the senior game!

Thanks to Daryl for use of his great photos again, the full collection from this game are available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dfeehely/sets/72157632902639369/with/8525043420/

Eamonn’s blog is here: http://www.eamorugby.com/

Munster: F Jones (I Keatley 71 min); D Howlett, C Laulala, J Downey, D Hurley; R O’Gara, C Sheridan (D Williams 60 min); D Kilcoyne W du Preez 63 min), D Varley (M Sherry 60 min), S Archer (BJ Botha 60 min); I Nagle (D Foley 61 min), B Holland; P Butler, T O’Donnell, J Coughlan.

Ospreys: R Fussell; T Habberfield, J Spratt, A Beck, T Isaacs; M Morgan, K Fotuali’i; D Jones, S Baldwin, C Griffiths; A Wyn Jones capt, L Peers; J King, S Lewis, J Thomas. Replacements: M Dwyer, M Thomas, D Arhip, I Gough, D Baker, A Ellis/S Davies, R Webb, T Grabham.

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