Double disappointment with Tipperary losing the All Ireland Hurling Final replay to the Kilkenny Cats and then Munster losing to the Ospreys at home to make it a poor return for the Irish provinces this weekend, with only Leinster winning. The Ulster defeat away to Zebre was the biggest surprise but losing 2/3 home games makes it a poor start to the season for Munster and hence puts the cats amongst the pigeons (making people worried or angry from the definition here.) Conor Murray spoke after the game of needing to make amends next weekend in the Aviva which is a key game for both teams to remain within touching distance of the top 4. If you don’t have a ticket to that game and would like to accompany me see below for details.
There was a good crowd in the MRSC bar at 5pm watching the All Ireland hurling final. Before it started I spotted Daryl Feehely and was delighted to have the opportunity to meet him and his fiancé in person to thank him for the use of his photos in this blog as they bring so much colour to the text. His collection from this game are here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dfeehely/15378828791/in/set-72157648126975302/ I should have gotten a photo with him but since I was distracted by the hurling I am including this one of Daryl with Ivan taken at the new fun zone for the younger fans outside Thomond.
The cheer when Tipperary scored their first goal was as loud as if Munster had scored a try. A lot of ABKs supporting those from the Premier county! I watched the first half and listened to the second half on the radio from the terrace. There was a lot of criticism about the referee from the radio commentator but when Kilkenny got two goals in quick succession it proved too big a hurdle for Tipperary who sadly lost by 3 points.
The crowd at Thomond was disappointing for the first Saturday game of the season against the table toppers. With the north and south ends closed and plenty of space in the stands there was not much of an atmosphere. Kevin did his best, kicking off “Stand up and fight” in the first half and again in the second plus “The Fields of Athenry.” Sky sports must have been surprised by the difference to their previous visits for a high intensity European Cup game.
It was a lovely evening on the terrace, but you could see the flags blowing at the end and the breeze was favouring Ospreys in the first half. Scrummaging went well for Munster in the early exchanges as did the lineout. There was plenty of speed on both wings in Andrew Conway and Gerhard van den Heever and they were given plenty to chase with a lot of garryowens and box-kicks. The assistant referee came in for plenty of criticism, particularly for not monitoring the offside.
Munster put on the early pressure and it paid off when Butler secured the lineout, CJ carried it towards the line with plenty of support from the pack. The next phase was carried by Kilcoyne, then Casey, Dougall, then Murray had a go himself, before CJ carried again. Murray passed to Keatley who spotted space on the wing and gave a double skip pass to Gerhard to score in the corner.
The Ospreys responded quickly scoring a great try down the same side through Jeff Hassler which Dan Biggar converted to take the lead 5-7. Hassler thought he had scored again approaching the half hour but that try was disallowed for obstruction as another player had taken out Dougall. Biggar did add another penalty before Hassler conceded a penalty when he collided with van den Heever in mid-air just before half time. From the resultant lineout Denis Hurley carried it up the midfield but when Conor Murray was taken out by Dan Baker there was advantage to Munster which nearly resulted in a try for Murray but the referee brought it back giving Ian Keatley a penalty opportunity in front of the posts to bring the half time score to 8-10.
The weather deteriorated just approaching half time so we had to put on our rain gear as it was blowing in a bit on us while the TV analysts in the far corner took shelter under umbrellas. A cheque was presented to the Munster supported charities by Felix Jones and Simon Zebo.
An early penalty restored Munster’s lead and when lock Rynier Bernardo was sent to the sinbin we expected Munster to increase the pressure and convert it into points but it was not to be. The penalty kick went wide and Ospreys were happy to play down the clock in Munster’s half. Andrew Conway chased hard and collided with Eli Walker to win possession back for Munster. It ultimately lead to a penalty for Munster to regain the lead on 56 minutes but that was the last score for Munster.
Van den Heever was penalised for not releasing which Biggar converted and shortly afterwards Munster were penalised again for being in front of the kicker for yet another box kick. Biggar increased the gap to 5 points (14-19) but there was still ten minutes left to rescue the game.
The replacements made an impact, not least U20s JWC captain Jack O’Donoghue on his second senior appearance. The forwards laid siege to the line but Ospreys defence held firm as the game came to an exciting but ultimately disappointing climax. The ball was turned over and the final whistle blew. Scrumhalf Rhys Webb was awarded MOTM.
So the season continues with the tough trip to the Aviva next Saturday. After experimenting with permutations in the backrow and backline in particular hopefully the management have determined their best combinations to optimise the team performance. I am not suggesting the same 15 start every week, you do need rotation to keep things fresh but with different pre-season schedules it has been challenging to manage the reintegration of players into the squad.
If you don’t have access to the extended highlights on the TG4 player you can find 2 minutes of highlights and a minute of Sky advertising here!
Munster team: Johne Murphy, Andrew Conway, Ivan Dineen (Hanrahan 70), Denis Hurley (Smith 63), Gerhard van den Heever; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray – capt; Dave Kilcoyne (Cronin 58), Duncan Casey, BJ Botha; Donncha O’Callaghan (Foley 54), Paul O’Connell; Paddy Butler, Sean Dougall (O’Donoghue 65), CJ Stander. subs not used: Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Duncan Williams.
Accompany me to the Aviva..as my “apprentice”
If you would like to go to the game in the Aviva to see 5th play 6th you can “apply” for a one-off opportunity to accompany me as my “apprentice” by entering a comment below making your case for selection! Open to all, the requirements are to wear red, to be loud and proud and positive (i.e. glass half full). An interest in social media, photography and / or blogging would be an advantage (especially the photography as Daryl is not attending). If no one enters I’ll have to bring a Leinster supporter so please save me from that fate :-(. I will confirm a winner on Wednesday morning and my decision is final.
European Cup watch shows that Saracens beat Sale 40-19 (4 tries to 3) so plenty for the video analysts to study from that game which included a penalty try apiece. Also last week Anthony Foley finalised his 38 man squad for the opening rounds of the European Cup – see details here
The leader of our unofficial WT choir – Kevin on my left, before the game started.
In case you missed it, there was a good interview with Peter Stringer in the Irish Times. If you are going to the Aviva look out for the MRSC Dublin branch handing out flags before the game, you might see a familiar face amongst them.
From Twitter this week.. many of us have happy memories of Ospreys coming to Thomond for the ERC quarter final on a lovely sunny Easter Sunday afternoon, a month after Ireland had won the Grand Slam and Tommy Bowe had sung to the supporters at the home coming.
Finally, regular neighbour on the terrace, season ticket holder Conor tweeted from his holiday in Portugal during the game to say he had seen the WT crew on TV there. We’re going international 🙂