It was a big weekend for players pushing for a starting place on the team for the European campaign especially for those promoted from the bench and the A team. I was delighted to be able to go to both games, travelling from Dublin to Limerick on Friday and to Clonmel, just forty minutes down the road from my parents on Saturday. There was plenty of action and atmosphere in Thomond but let’s start with the British & Irish Cup game.
What weather for an October afternoon! The sun beat down on the pitch throughout the game, making it difficult for players under the high ball on the side furthest from the club house – Moseley in the first half and Munster A in the second half. There was not much of a wind, which was fortunate given the area is called Ardgaoithe (Windy Heights?). Spectators were directed to park in the Boston Scientific carpark. As I walked to the rugby grounds I met some people from Limerick and joked that we would be warmed up ourselves by the time we got there in case our services were required. I asked if they had anyone playing and Mrs Cotter replied that her son Alan was on the team. Curious about Alan’s twitter handle (@i_is_barney) I asked her about his nickname. I had assumed it was from the Flintstones and was amused to be told by Alan’s girlfriend it was the “I love you, you love me” Barney the purple dinosaur instead! Not that his role in the front row would in any way remind you of a soft and cuddly toy!
Smaller grounds generally allow you to get close to the action so you can hear a lot of the communication between players. If it had been televised there would have been a lot of beeping required especially for some of the Moseley players! You could also hear the thuds of collisions and there were plenty of those in a fast paced, physical game. It was lovely to meet up with Patrick and Jennifer there
The A team which had won well in Donnybrook the previous week had “lost” the experience of Donncha O’Callaghan, Ivan Dineen and Johne Murphy. Shane Buckley moved into the 2nd row in place of Donncha with Paddy Butler taking his place in the backrow on his return after suffering concussion a few weeks ago, while Dan Goggin one of the Wolfpuppies from the JWC in the summer was promoted to start in place of Ivan. Young Stephen Fitzgerald reprieved his role at fullback from the pre-season friendly in Gloucester. With injuries to both Duncan Casey and Damien Varley last week both Kevin O’Brien and Eusebio Guinaza had also been promoted to the senior team so another wolfpuppy Max Abbott started at hooker. Rory Scannell moved from 12 to 10, retaining his kicking duties with Niall Kenneally taking his place in midfield. Ronan O’Mahony who had been on the bench in Thomond the previous night was available to take his place on the wing, and first points went to Ronan when he got onto the end of a deft kick through by Scannell to score in the corner after Munster had gone through multiple phases to stretch Moseley in the opening two minutes. The conversion went wide. Moseley got on the board when Munster were penalised at the breakdown. Munster restored their 5 point advantage through another penalty (8-3) before conceding a scrum penalty which brought the score to 8-6.
When Munster were awarded a penalty at the end of the first half it looked like a long way out but time was up so Rory Scannell gave it welly and we were all delighted to see it clip the crossbar and go over to put Munster into an 11-6 lead at half time. Highlights of the half included a good break down our wing by Luke O’Dea while Scannell gathered a garryowen to make another good break and the defence won several turnovers but there were a few errors too and kicks to the Moseley backs allowed them to counter-attack.
Moseley opened the second half strongly, taking a lineout from a penalty and forcing their way over to level the scores. There was a strong reaction to this from Munster resulting in a penalty which Scannell converted for offside before the tighthead prop was binned allowing Rory the chance to add another 3 points (17-11). However losing a man galvinised Moseley and they pushed hard, eventually settling for a penalty to ensure a close finish (17-14) as the clock ticked down.
Scannell also converted the next penalty opportunity to make it 20-14 before the decisive scrum penalty won by Munster on a Moseley put-in which set up the win. From the resultant lineout the pack rumbled, Kenneally made some good ground and a few phases later Paddy Butler crashed over the line. The announcer was quick to point out that it was a local Tipperary man who scored the try which Rory Scannell converted to move Munster A well clear. Moseley though were not giving up and salvaged a losing bonus point with the last play of the game, their scrum half darting through a gap after the defence was stretched to score a try which was converted. They deserved that much but Munster A’s defence and the excellent kicking of Rory Scannell earned them the win.
I was impressed by Moseley, coached by Kevin Maggs. They had a great offloading game and looked to attack from everywhere. Their loose head prop had pace to burn and made several breaks often requiring two tacklers to take him down. Munster’s lineout worked very well, the scrum was more of a lottery judging by the referee’s decisions, the defence was tested and scrambled well, winning several great turnovers and playing with aggression, including late on a great drive by Kenneally who lifted and drove the attacker backwards as Moseley launched phase after phase of attack looking to salvage the game.
Best of luck to Munster A who play Worcester at 3pm next Saturday and will be in Temple Hill on November 29th to take on Nottingham. Mark your diary now 🙂
Munster A: Stephen Fitzgerald (O’Shea 60); Luke O’Dea, Dan Goggin, Niall Kenneally, Ronan O’Mahony; Rory Scannell, Cathal Sheridan; Alan Cotter, Max Abbott (O’Driscoll 61), Rory Burke (Condon 53); Shane Buckley, Sean McCarthy; Paddy Butler, Barry O’Mahony (Moloney 65), Jack O’Donoghue (Capt.) Replacements: Andrew O’Driscoll, Christy Condon, Darragh Moloney, Ryan Murphy, Jamie Glynn, Tomas Quinlan, Greg O’Shea.
Hermitage Green and the FanZone official opening
Best laid plans etc, I did not get to Limerick as early as expected due to 3 sets of roadworks and a diversion at Moneygall but I wandered over to the east side to check out the official opening of the fanzone about 5.50.
I was in time for the official speeches and ribbon cutting, though surprised to see Felix Jones on stage with Paul O’Connell as Felix had been named at full back but that mystery was solved when the announcer went through the team sheet prior to the game to reveal that Johne Murphy had been promoted to fullback and Ronan O’Mahony to the bench.
I had a front row view of Hermitage Green who sounded great live, I had downloaded their CD last year so I knew most of the songs they played. I love their acapella cover of Teardrop and Barry paid tribute to Felix Jones who had been an original bodhran player in the band with a great rendition of “Cosmic Love”
Isn’t that as good an excuse as any to reminisce about that try by Barry Murphy formerly of the #13 jersey and now in the band when Sale came to Thomond in 2006 (oh the memories, Fla at hooker, Halstead in midfield, the old Thomond terraces heaving and a piece of magic by Barry Murphy aka Bambi)
I wandered away to check out the museum but it did not seem to be open so I headed over to the west terrace where I grabbed a cookie and tea at the Masterchef to keep me going. I found my friends in their usual places on the terrace talking to Mark who Tony was encouraging to check out the blog so I gave him a card with the details. As it filled up we noticed that Kevin and Joan were missing and wondered who would step up from “the bench” to take over leading us in song!
There was a pre match interview with Duncan Casey who hopes to be back in action soon. Oscar was jumping around like a boxer during Stand up and Fight – I wondered if he had been at Paulie’s training session with Katie Taylor which was all over social media during the week! (in case you missed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEVSxcLkWXo)
The Scarlets away kit was the subject of much discussion on the terrace, none of it complementary! As Imelda pointed out, none of it was scarlet either, it seemed to be more of a tie dyed orange merging to pink so when seen against the red of Munster and the pink shirt of the referee it was too much! Jerry Flannery was also setting a new fashion trend in his woolly hat and shorts
There was a better atmosphere as the feel good factor carried forward from last week and the team brought a continuation of the physicality they had shown then to this game. The execution was not as crisp as at the Aviva, maybe some fatigue or a case of trying too hard. The referee in his 8th game at this level seemed to frustrate players and supporters alike on both sides. It gave us something to shout about, boo and slow hand clap on occasion but he did not seem to get much support from his assistant referees. In the post match interview Peter put the blame on the players for the stop start nature and said the ball was quite greasy leading to handling errors, scrums and penalties. There had been a very heavy shower as I arrived in Limerick and a damp chill came as a mist blew in from the north end.
No one exemplified the fight for his starting shirt in the early exchanges against Scarlets more than BJ Botha who seemed to pop up carrying the ball more in the opening minutes than you would often see from him in an entire game!
However it was Scarlets who scored first, playing with advantage Priestland took aim with a drop goal which just crept over the bar. JJ missed his first kick at goal but 25 phases involving too many players to mention as both ball carriers and clearing out rucks resulted in the first try for Andrew Smith when the ball was finally spun wide. The touchline conversion just missed the posts.
Priestland also missed a few kicks, one came back off the posts. Captain Liam Williams could be heard shouting out the orders as Priestland prepared to take one of the kicks and even he was shushed by the crowd.
Johne Murphy appeared to be in excruciating pain right in front of us at one stage and the medic went to his assistance as play had moved to the east side. However when play came back we were all disgusted to see the scrumhalf kick the treatment bag out of his way and send the contents scattering. It was poor form and did not endear Aled Davies to us. You can view the incident here from TG4: http://bcove.me/p10if5ue
First half highlights included the backrow – it was great to see Peter O’Mahony poaching turnovers again as he did so well last season while Tommy and CJ carried on their barnstorming performance of the previous week. I noticed Simon Zebo chasing the kick-offs and putting pressure on the receivers, a tactic that had worked so well in that hat trick performance in Milton Keynes a few seasons ago. There were also some deft offloads and reverse passes to keep the opposition guessing. The game was stop-start though with 7 penalties conceded in the opening 27 minutes (2:5). When the ref spoke to Peter about not rolling away I heard on TV that Peter argued that the Scarlets players were preventing this and Marcus Horan on TG4 had also pointed that out in the penalty awarded against JJ for that offence. There was a worrying moment when Conor Murray was surrounded by three medics but like Johne he was ok to play on.
I was talking to Eilis at half time who was standing behind me and very amused to be told that she had heard people use me as a landmark to tell people where they were on the terrace with respect to the “blonde always on tv”. I told her that there are 4 blondes who are usually in the front row in that section and people probably get us mixed up! On the east side the Munster Ladies who recently won the Interpro championship were introduced and congratulated. There were four minis teams in action at half-time – Muskerry RFC taking on Kilrush RFC, Ballincollig RFC play Newcastle West. One of the young lads came off at the end in a lot of pain and later on the medics were asked for assistance.
The MRSC committee folks in front of us did step up and kicked off “Stand up and fight” in the second half while later on Michael led us in the “Fields of Athenry”. They were in great form, with lots of banter about who would or would not be invited to the wedding of Ger and Fiona (Imelda and I admired her lovely ring).
Eusebio Guinazu made his Thomond debut after 52 minutes. His first lineout throw was a defensive one as Munster were on their own 5m line! The ball was cleared.
A few minutes later Zebo kicked a ball in our direction so we did our bit to put Liam Williams off and considered our 16th man effort to be successful when he fumbled the ball. In the first half we had also done our bit to drown out their lineout call and when Peter stole their ball we were pleased with our contribution to the effort!
Tommy O’Donnell was practically a pickpocket in the second half when the Scarlets player did not protect the ball and Tommy picked it up and set off down the field, supported by Peter and Simon who took a super offload from Peter but could just not control it at that pace and it was knocked on.
Further proof of the physicality of the players and another cameo that reminded us of prior encounters with Sale came when Gerhard and James Cronin with support from Billy drove Liam Williams back towards his own goal line!
That got the terrace rocking and reminiscing about Chabal!
Unfortunately Williams got the pass away and #23 (Michael Tagicakibau) counter attacked. Zebo stepped on the gas and accelerated past us to stamp out the danger. There was an exciting final few minutes with not one but 2 potential but unsuccessful tries referred to the TMO – one by James Cronin and the other by Johne Murphy. So points secured the focus now turns to the Champions Cup and there will be plenty of work to be done this week as the intensity is ratcheted up again.
Check out all the great photos from Daryl of the Scarlets game here
After the game as I was starving I headed to the MRSC bar where we were delighted to be offered sandwiches, cake and Clonakilty black pudding! Leftovers from the official opening celebrations or a new initiative I am not sure but we enjoyed it! Daryl came by so I introduced him to Tony who complimented him on his super photos which make my blog worth reading 🙂 He asked Daryl if there were any photos of my altercation with the Gardai the previous weekend and Daryl looked confused for a moment and then the penny dropped, “oh”, he said, “the flags… I read the blog!”
I will be in Sale next weekend so safe travels to all the Red Army as it converges at the AJ Bell stadium. The Friday night games have not been well attended to date. I suspect that will change significantly in 2 weeks as people make a special effort to get there for the visit of Saracens!
Highlights from TG4 are longer than the official Pro12 package embedded below and include the Chabalesque moment: http://bcove.me/jfb0eah1
Team details: Johne Murphy, Gerhard van den Heever, Andrew Smith, Ivan Dineen, Simon Zebo; JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Kevin O’Byrne, BJ Botha; Dave Foley, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony – capt, Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander
Replacements: Eusebio Guinazu, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, Robin Copeland, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Ronan O’Mahony
SKY sponsored 2 mins of highlights