Welcome to the first anniversary edition!
Thirty posts and almost 6,000 views later, from near and far, I appreciate your interest in my observations. Thanks to the photographers whose contributions add colour and help me bring the game to life and to those who regularly retweet or share the blog.
Munster went to Glasgow to take on the unbeaten league leaders. In their 2 encounters last season the home team had big wins and for Munster their defeat at Scotstoun wasn’t just humiliating, it also marked the end of Doug Howlett’s career when he was injured scoring a try. Recent injuries to Zebo, Hurley and Jones provided a good test for the credentials of Conway, Dineen and Ronan O’Mahony supported by an experienced pack, not least the “elder lemon” O’Callaghan. It was also a good test for James Cronin up against Moray Low. There were late changes with Casey Laulala replacing Keith Earls while Billy Holland started in place of Paul O’Connell.
In “Break for the Border” I joined the MRSC Dublin group and enjoyed the banter there. Jim kindly volunteered to translate for anyone struggling with the Irish commentary. There was a lot of concern from some of the gentlemen that the ladies present may be shocked by the exposure of Billy Holland’s backside during a maul when the Glasgow player came close to pulling his shorts down too far but while that was averted we did glimpse more than a builders bum view 🙂
After the first play the ref called over Donncha and #14 Byron McGuigan and warned both that their off-the-ball wrestling had to end there, just 6s into the game. The game itself failed to ignite in the first half with just a penalty separating the sides at half-time when the score was 6-3 to Glasgow – scored by Weir after 2 and 25 minutes, Hanrahan after 23 from just inside his own half. Maybe their recent exertions in the European Cup (including Glasgow’s 4 tries in their defeat to Toulon) had taken it’s toll on both sides. Munster were under pressure in the scrum, Stander did well to retain possession when being driven backwards. Yet Glasgow failed to take advantage and the nearest they came to scoring a try was called back for a forward pass. Conway made a good break up the wing at 10′, while at 32′ after a great turnover in their own half, JJ released Laulala who made a good offload to Murphy and onto Stander who took it into contact. Murray fed JJ who danced through the midfield into their 22 before being hauled down.
JJ Hanrahan lit up the second half with a man of the match performance, making another break, evading tackles to score and convert his own try to give Munster the lead on 44 minutes before kicking a penalty to bring the score to 13-6 after 47 minutes. Just three minutes later, Glasgow were pressing hard and Cronin, after enduring a raking from Strauss found himself in the sinbin for cynically killing the ball at the post. The TMO could not see any foul play in the ensuing melee. Boos rang out from the crowd when Cronin bumped Glasgow #7 Tyrone Holmes as he left the pitch.
Dougall had to go off to let Kilcoyne on and James Downey, a replacement for Conway who was seen being stitched up on the sideline, added his weight to the great defensive scrum effort as Glasgow looked to push over the try line only to be repelled repeatedly. The rest of the front row was replaced at 57′ to provide fresh legs for the physical battle upfront, and 4 minutes later Coughlan replaced Stander. Ronan O’Mahony put in a crucial tackle to prevent Glasgow scoring off a quick tap penalty but there were great tackles going in all night.
Booing again from the Glasgow supporters when Maitland was lifted in the tackle by 2 Munster players but the TMO confirmed that it was not dangerous play. At 73 minutes the ref lost patience with the scrummaging issues and warned the players that a card was imminent. On 75 minutes Kilcoyne and Welsh were binned for not stabilising the scrum. There was great confusion in BFTB as to whether it was both props or Botha from Munster. The original props (Cronin and Low) had to return to play, Dougall was again replaced as was Harley. As the clock ticked down it looked like Munster would hold on to a precious away win, but a missed lineout on 79 minutes gave the chance to Glasgow to equalise. The rain was pouring down to add to the challenge. Bodies were put on the line again, Donncha’s face was battered and bruised as he informed the ref he had been bitten on the forearm but the ref did not refer to the TMO, saying to go off and get it seen to if he wanted, but Donncha was having none of that and took his place in the defensive line to see the game out. Our nerves were nearly shot by the time the referee blew the final whistle after almost 5 minutes past the 80. So while not a pretty victory it was a superb defensive effort especially when down to 14 men.
You could see how much it meant to the players, arms raised aloft at the final whistle. I like this photo of Axel with a smile, and for those watching the Glasgow game, at 77 minutes you can see Penney with a smile on his face talking to Anthony Foley!
I can’t find any stats online but this was one of the most dogged defensive displays we have seen all season from Munster. There will be sore bodies this weekend but hopefully all will be healed for their next top of the table encounter next weekend v Ospreys at Thomond.
Update Oct 27: @MichaelC_RTE: Glasgow’s Niko Matawalu cited for foul play contrary to law, biting. Conor Murray also cited for striking with elbow (Matawalu)
Team v Glasgow:
Munster: Johne Murphy; Andrew Conway, Casey Laulala, Ivan Dineen, Ronan O’Mahony; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer; Donncha O’Callaghan, Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony Capt., Sean Dougall, CJ Stander. Replacements: Damien Varley, Dave Kilcoyne, BJ Botha, Dave Foley, James Coughlan, Cathal Sheridan, James Downey, Cian Bohane.
Early start for Movember (best beard) award to Glasgow #8 Josh Strauss
Denis Fogarty wrote a very interesting article about how hard it is to be a fringe player at Munster and why he went to France. I recommend his blog if you have not seen it yet..
To mark the testimonial held for Ronan O’Gara in Cork the Irish Examiner produced a digital magazine tribute to him.
So if you got to the end, maybe as an anniversary gift to me you might leave a comment, a like, share it on Facebook or on Twitter give me a follow, of if following already, a favourite or retweet…. thanks
All photos taken from Daryl’s collection
Postscript: I have been intrigued by how random search terms result in hits on my blog. “Pretty Munster Supporters” as you can see below brings back over 2 million results and I was very amused recently to see my blog in 4th!
It also made me realise I use the term “pretty” on a regular basis in my blog so must do better with my command of English, but seriously who would be searching for that term and what were they hoping to find? Maybe I should ask Daryl to take a few photos to meet that demand at the next home game and see if we can go viral 🙂