Who’s playing 10? Is Murray playing 10? Did he not get the conversion of the penalty try? Was he blocked down? Why is the score not updated if he did? Smart phones were consulted in Break For the Border to solve the confusion…only the website consulted credited the conversion to JJ Hanrahan who we knew had gone off… eventually TG4 updated the score on the screen. Some minutes later we eyed up the next conversion opportunity after Tommy O’Donnell had touched down. From a more difficult angle would Murray go for it or leave it to Ian Keatley? With the match well won it was not a pressure kick but when he converted that try also Conor Murray got the biggest cheer of the night. Thoughts turned to the semi-final…with just one game remaining, what would happen if Zebre denied Glasgow a winning bonus point (and we managed to get one against Ulster) to be tied on 78 points? Bruce consulted the Rabodirect website to dash our hopes as it showed that the criteria to decide would not be down to points difference but to matches won, and Glasgow have won one more than Munster. So unless Zebre pull off the shock of the season, (or Leinster lose at home to Edinburgh?) we expect to have to return to Scotland in 2 weeks to try to repeat our successful guerrilla strike there when Munster were the first visiting side to win in Scotstoun this season (October 25). Glasgow got their revenge by being the first and only side (to date) to beat Munster at home this season so both teams will have a point to prove in the semi-final. Munster will need to bring their A game as Glasgow are currently the form side in the league.
Whatever about the players suffering a post Heineken Cup hangover, there was definitely one in Break for the Border on Saturday when I met up with some of the Dublin branch of the Supporters club to watch the game. Being a bank holiday weekend there were a lot less there than the 220 who had packed in for the semi-final the previous Sunday, but I enjoy watching events unfold in company with other exiles when I am not at the game myself. It was nice to chat to Dee from Waterford, first met after the Toulouse game, and to meet her husband Bruce, both readers of this blog.
It was Munster’s first visit to Meggetfield and it seemed a sensible move rather than playing in front of a few thousand in the cavernous Murrayfield. After making 11 changes it took a while for Munster to grow into game. The same applied to Jim who kept talking about Killer (Dave Kilcoyne)… after quarter of an hour I pointed out that it was James Cronin at loosehead for Munster this week. “Why didn’t you tell me earlier” he asked Kevin and Shane?
Edinburgh scored first, capitalising on a free kick awarded from a scrum to spin the ball wide, good interplay from Cuthbert, Scott who popped up the ball to Bezuidenhout who scored in the opposite corner in the 8th minute. Laidlaw could not convert. Munster took control, keeping possession for phase after phase to eventually win a penalty which Hanrahan converted to get on the scoreboard in the 14th minute. JJ was back again just two minutes later, this time to convert a great team try finished by Andrew Conway. It all started when O’Connell claimed the restart, Munster got the maul set, Murray kicked it downfield, Cuthbert returned it as far as Butler. The ball was passed to Hanrahan, Zebo, recycled by Murray back to Hanrahan, O’Connell, Murphy before it was O’Donnell’s turn to made ground, then Stander was next to carry, getting Munster deep into Edinburgh territory before he passed to Conway who sidestepped the defender to score under the posts.
Edinburgh lost Tom Brown to injury before Cuthbert nearly got their second try but was stopped just short, for Nel to score from the resultant ruck. The TMO was called upon to check that John Ryan had not managed to prevent the try before it was awarded for Edinburgh to regain the lead when Laidlaw added the conversion. Munster won another penalty, converted by Hanrahan to put Munster back in front 12-13 before the half hour mark. Duncan Casey was replaced by Damien Varley earlier than we expected. Approaching half-time Munster again put on the pressure, launching phase after phase of attack with good carries by John Ryan, James Cronin, Paul O’Connell and possibly did score but the referee could not see so play went on. Edinburgh cleared and Munster had to start again and again…but they kept coming, van den Heever tested the defence down one side, Cronin saved the ball when it popped out from a ruck, eventually it was CJ Stander who again made the last pass, this time to Denis Hurley on his inside who dummied and sidestepped before celebrating his new contract with Munster by scoring in the 41st minute which was converted before the whistle for half time to bring the score to 12-20.
Andrew Conway was replaced by Luke O’Dea for the second half. Luke has suffered setback after setback this season with injury so it was good to see him back on the senior team. Conway has been troubled with injury also so hopefully both will have plenty of opportunities to show what they can do next season.
The second half took a while to get going before Varley scored off a well worked maul right beside the post in the 48th minute. A few minutes later Munster were attacking the line again. The referee asked CJ if he needed to get the TMO to check (I assume he wanted CJ to say if he knew he had not grounded it but ever the optimist CJ gave him no reason not to award the try but the TMO said no try!) Before going back for an advantage there was a stoppage while the referee checked there was no health or safety issue from a van on fire in a nearby field. That stoppage made us reminisce about the European cup game nearly abandoned after torrential hailstones in Wales some years ago.
Paddy Butler will be disappointed not to have been awarded the next try as the referee opted instead for a penalty try just before he grounded the ball from a super Munster scrum which forced Edinburgh back over their line and the bonus point was secured.
Dave Foley replaced Paul O’Connell while Duncan Williams came on for Conor Murray. Williams was quickly into the action and had to make a great tackle when Edinburgh put on the pressure but a good defensive effort led to Munster getting back into Edinburgh territory where both props Ryan and Cronin carried well either side of Butler, for Cronin to pop up the ball out of the tackle to Duncan Williams to score in the 65th minute. Munster made more changes at 68 minutes, bringing on Keatley and Murray for Hurley and Hanrahan, while Coughlan replaced Stander and Kilcoyne came on for Cronin.
A second penalty try was awarded in the 72nd minute when Grant Gilchrist was yellow carded for deliberately knocking on the ball when Zebo was passing to O’Dea who would otherwise have scored try in the corner. That was the try which Murray converted but the score was not updated immediately.
Edinburgh did not give up despite the one-sided scoreline (12-48 at that stage) and made Munster defend but the extra man advantage paid dividends at the death when Tommy O’Donnell scored their 7th try of the night which was also converted by Murray.
Greig Laidlaw was the official man of the match (I assume selected by Scottish TV) but there were some great displays by Munster in particular of ball carrying by all the forwards as Munster retained possession for phase after phase, which bodes well for the remaining games of the season.
Thanks to Edinburgh supporter Watchoot for use of some of his action shots this week, you can check out his photo blog at http://watchoot.wordpress.com/
After the game there was the aforementioned discussion re the semi-final and possible venue for the final, etc. Niall, whom I had never met before was telling us about his weekend based in Toulon. I asked him if he had heard of this blog and gave him a card with the details, but I was surprised to be asked what qualified me to write about Munster rugby? Isn’t that the beauty of blogging – no qualification required? To be fair, in the dim light he probably could not read the line “Observations of a Munster Rugby Supporter” to realise that this is a not a Munster rugby blog but rather a blog about supporting Munster rugby, and that is something I feel well qualified to blog about! Besides, who would be better qualified to write about my observations than me! Sinead suggested that maybe Niall thought I would be more qualified to write about girly things like fashion.. While I can comment that both Dee and I happened to be wearing matching Munster jerseys, specifically the Canterbury ladies jersey from quite a few seasons ago, because the newer Adidas ladies jerseys are neither a nice fabric nor fit, I don’t feel qualified to write a fashion blog! While the WTView is not everyone’s cup of tea I do appreciate the regular readers who share it on Twitter, Facebook, Boards.ie and those who let me know that they enjoy reading it. I liked the tweet from Laurie Fisher who read the Toulouse blog in Australia as it meant I had achieved my aim:
Fee free to leave your own comment below. Looking forward to being back on the West Terrace in Thomond next weekend for the final round of the league, the Ulster game which should be good preparation for the semi-final.
Munster: Simon Zebo, Gerhard van den Heever, Johne Murphy, Denis Hurley (Ian Keatley 68), Andrew Conway (Luke O’Dea HT), JJ Hanrahan (Conor Murray 68), Conor Murray (Duncan Williams 56), James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne 67), Duncan Casey (Damien Varley 30), John Ryan (Alan Cotter 71), Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell Capt. (Dave Foley 56), CJ Stander (James Coughlan 67), Tommy O’Donnell, Paddy Butler.
Edinburgh – J Cuthbert; T Brown (S Beard 18), M Scott, A Strauss (P Francis 75), T Visser; C Bezuidenhout, G Laidlaw (G Hart 68); A Dickinson (W Blaauw 65), R Ford (J Hilterbrand 55), W Nel; G Gilchrist, D Denton; M Coman (B Toolis 72), T Leonardi, C Du Preez.