An amazing game of rugby on Saturday helped make up for the lack of television coverage of the Munster game on Friday night! Ireland backed up their new world ranking of 3rd in an encounter with so many ebbs and flows you couldn’t take your eyes off it. The flair of the first half featuring 5 tries contrasted dramatically with a more tense, chess-like second half when only 3 penalties were scored. Paul O’Connell had called for Ireland to play for 85 minutes and he definitely walked the talk as he led the defensive line, making massive tackles in the closing minutes! Donal Lenihan described it as “unreal!” which summed up his performance and that of the team.
I watched the game on TV and twitter. Ireland opened strongly, Peter O’Mahony ripped one ball to earn the turnover which led to the first penalty and the dream start went on with Simon Zebo being played into space by Jonathan Sexton to score the first try after Rory Best had ripped the ball from Luke Jones. Australia counter-attacked but Tommy Bowe’s gamble on the intercept paid off and he ran practically the length of the pitch to score. Australia however were not about to wave the white flag. Their second try involving the TMO decision that the try was good almost caused a meltdown in twitter! Surely a forward pass and even if not was the ball actually grounded? Apparently it was indeed the right call as Conor O’Shea highlighted during his half time analysis. The third Australian try run from deep in their own half was very impressive but there are plenty of analytical reports out there so I won’t attempt to compete!
For me the “bodies on the line” commitment especially in the tense second half where there were never more than 3 points between the sides was epic! Shame Rob Kearney’s drop goal attempt came back off the post! After the heart-breaking loss to the All Blacks last season, Ireland showed their determination with every tackle and turnover, penalty won and clearance kick, not to let history repeat itself. Despite the enforced changes, especially in the backline when Darcy and later both Sexton and Kearney had to be replaced, the defence scrambled but held firm.
Is this how the Romans felt watching the gladiators? A tackle by Madigan on Hooper turned over the ball which Robbie Henshaw booted downfield felt as good as a score. The noise-levels when Bowe won the final penalty – foraging for the ball with Madigan while the Australian held on – sounded incredible on the TV! What a great win and Autumn series, yet plenty of room for improvement before RWC2015 to keep feet firmly on the ground.
According to the ESPN Statistics site Ireland only conceded 5 penalties while Peter O’Mahony was the top tackler with 17 while Simon Zebo also had a busy afternoon making 10.
Those who started from Munster and Ulster are unlikely to feature in the derby encounter next Friday in Limerick as they will need to recuperate before the European Cup games the following weekend but I hope there will be a good crowd for that game so that SUAF drowns out SUFTUM!
Thanks to TG4 for the 8 minutes of highlights they showed on Saturday night. it was good to see JJ Hanrahan combine well with Ian Keatley to set up 2 of the 5 tries (for Andrew Smith & Ronan O’Mahony). I also noticed how Ronan joined both mauls for 2 other tries so maybe he is learning from his flanker brother Barry who unfortunately was injured in training last week, requiring surgery.
Robin Copeland picked and dove over the line to score the first try after the pack almost mauled their way to the line. Dragons scored 3 penalties in the first half to make it 9-7 at half-time. It was another game of 2 halves for Munster who blitzed the second half.
Donncha claimed the lineout, the pack got into mauling positions and forced their way over the line for Duncan Casey to score in the corner. An excellent conversion by Ian Keatley made it 9-17. The third try was a great piece of work by the backs, specifically a lovely pass from Ian set JJ in space. His excellently timed pass to Andrew set him free to run in beside the post. Dragons only score of the half was a penalty which brought the score to 12-24.
Another lineout near the 5m line, this time thrown to the front to CJ. Another maul formed and drove determinedly for the line. This time it was Paddy Butler who scored the try to secure the valuable bonus point. The fifth try was another for the backs, Ian passed to JJ who this time put in a grubber kick for Ronan O’Mahony to chase and score.
Hopefully Andrew Conway who went off in the first half is not too seriously injured. Eusebio Guinazu was withdrawn due to a tight hamstring so Duncan Casey started with Niall Scannell promoted to the bench for his first game of the season. Dave O’Callaghan also featured from the bench for his first game since February while newest arrival Pat Howard made his debut for Munster.
The Munster game should be in the 2nd half on the TG4 player but currently it is only showing the Ulster game from the first half. Hopefully they will fix this link: http://nasc.tg4.tv/11K7qvP
From the video it looked like it was a misty, murky night in Newport but seemed to be dry for the game itself. The win by Ulster over Ospreys and the loss by Glasgow to Scarlets has put a top 2 spot in Munster’s reach although Glasgow could overtake them with a bonus point win over Dragons next weekend.
MUNSTER: JJ Hanrahan; Andrew Conway, Andrew Smith, Denis Hurley, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Cathal Sheridan; John Ryan, Duncan Casey, Stephen Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan (capt), Billy Holland, Paddy Butler, Sean Dougall, Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Alan Cotter, BJ Botha, Dave O’Callaghan, CJ Stander, Duncan Williams, Pat Howard, Johne Murphy.
An excellent eye witness account from Newport can be found on the Munsterfans forum.