Len Dineen who had been commentating on the game for Limerick’s Live 95FM played “Raindrops keep falling on my head” for those who had braved the elements to go to Thomond for the visit of Treviso as I drove back to Thurles. It made me smile as the upbeat tune was in stark contrast to the mood on the terrace where we had been glad to hear the final whistle. I felt sorry for the players, officials and those supporters caught in some nasty showers of rain and sleet in temperatures as low as 3C before you add in the wind chill factor. At least on the west terrace we had some shelter from the wind but at times the rain blew in. Luckily the terrace was not packed so I was able to step back a bit to escape the worst of it. Both the North and South terraces were closed as there was not a big crowd at the game, although the official attendance was almost 14k as it includes season ticket holders.
Treviso came to play. After beating Munster at home earlier in the season, and boosted by the return of their Italian team players they were keen to get their campaign back on track with a first league win in 2014. Keith Earls was straight into the action – Butler (also returning from injury) gathered the kick off, from the resultant ruck Williams box kicked and Earls chased to execute a perfectly timed tackle, displaying the form he had shown prior to his injury.
However Treviso took the lead within the first few minutes when Mat Berquist converted a penalty awarded against Sean Dougall. Shortly after, James Cronin put in the greatest tackle that never was as he came flying up the pitch chasing a garryowen, only to be sidestepped by Esposito as he went to tackle him, leaving Cronin grasping at thin air. Unfortunately John Ryan was injured tackling the same Treviso player and had to be replaced by Stephen Archer with just 8 minutes on the clock. John was later confirmed to be concussed.
Another memorable moment featured Felix Jones who kicked and chased his own garryowen, keeping his eye on the ball to reclaim it in the air despite the Treviso defender, a skill he also demonstrated in the second half. It is great to see him have an injury free run.
He also made several good breaks, once running an excellent support line to take the offload from Laulala while another good break broke down when the referee adjudged Dougall to have knocked on but it had come off his foot so it seemed harsh. However apparently we had a rub of the green when it was decided that there was no forward pass from JJ Hanrahan to Keith Earls allowing Munster to finally get on the scoreboard in the 36th minute. Earlier JJ had missed 2 kicks at goal to dent his golden boot stats but he had no problem with the conversion.
Just before the break Jerry Flannery, working as an analyst for TG4 got some friendly heckling for throwing back the ball (that’s not straight!) when a clearance kick landed in the camera gantry area above us from where he was watching the game.
Munster went looking for tries in the second half, turning down a penalty opportunity of three points to kick to touch. When Johne Murphy was held up over the line the resultant series of scrums (arising from free kicks and penalties) went on for 8 minutes while the backs on both sides were trying to keep warm as the rain poured down. The supporters were frustrated by this period of the game also. While the Treviso hooker was sinbinned there was no penalty try awarded. Rather Treviso won a penalty at the next scrum to clear their lines but from the resultant lineout misthrow, Damien Varley pounced on the ball to set up wave after wave of Munster attacks before a knock-on gave the possession back to Treviso. However Munster kept up the pressure and eventually James Downey scored in the corner – his second try ever for Munster. JJ converted from the touchline to bring the score to 14-3.
It was good to see Keith Earls, Paddy Butler and Damien Varley return to action after injury, taking their opportunity to stake a claim for the key games coming up, while Quentin MacDonald replaced Varley for his first league appearance for Munster. In his few minutes on the pitch he just had one lineout to throw in which went well and he got stuck into several rucks. He was added to the Heineken Cup squad during the week along with Gerry Hurley (to provide cover for the injured Cathal Sheridan) and Gerhard van den Heever. Rob Penney has some big decisions to make for the key games coming up to finalise his team.
Match highlights from the RaboDirect Pro12 youtube channel – the image gives an idea of the conditions by the time Zebo replaced Laulala:
Munster: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala (Simon Zebo 60), James Downey, Johne Murphy; JJ Hanrahan (Ian Keatley 65), Duncan Williams (Gerry Hurley 74); James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne 55), Damien Varley (Capt.) (Quentin MacDonald 74), John Ryan (Stephen Archer 7); Dave Foley, Billy Holland (Donncha O’Callaghan 55); Donnacha Ryan, Sean Dougall (CJ Stander 66), Paddy Butler. Replacements: Quentin MacDonald, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Gerry Hurley, Ian Keatley, Simon Zebo.
Treviso: Angelo Esposito; Christian Loamanu, Michele Campagnaro, Alberto Sgarbi, Ludovico Nitoglia (Leonardo Ghiraldini 50-); Mat Berquist, Edoardo Gori; Alberto De Marchi, Giovanni Maistri, Lorenzo Cittadini; Antonio Pavanello (Capt), Valerio Bernabò; Manoa Vosawai, Marco Filippucci, Robert Barbieri. Replacements: Leonardo Ghiraldini, Matteo Muccignat, Ignacio Fernandez-Rouyet, Marco Fuser, Corniel Van Zyl, Luke McLean, Tobias Botes, James Ambrosini.
The Six Nations Trophy was on display in the bar before the game and at half time Paul O’Connell, Conor Murray and Tommy O’Donnell were interviewed on the pitch about their recent success with Ireland.
Paul came over by the West Terrace to go to the TG4 studio for a chat with them so we were able to get a closer view of him with the Cup.
In the bar it was unfortunate that the lighting was right in the faces of people posing with the Cup but it was nice to have the opportunity to see it.
Thanks to Daryl Feehely for the use of his excellent photos, the full set are available here :
I enjoyed a stereophonic version of “Stand Up And Fight” in the final quarter as I was positioned between George and Kevin who were belting it out – more tunefully but as passionately as Peter O’Mahony sang the anthems in the recent Six Nations campaign. This prematch rendition led by Brian Hartnett was captured on video by regular reader “Downtown” and give a good idea of the weather conditions at that time – you can see the strong wind blowing the flags over on the east side of the pitch.
Finally, an early birthday card from a friend shows that there is a card for every scenario / interest these days…
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Until next weekend at the Aviva, back where this blog all started in Autumn 2012…