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Tight at the top heading into derby season

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After the bruising home and away European Cup games versus Clermont, the short 6 day turnaround to Glasgow combined with the injuries sustained in the first half to Johne Murphy and Sean Dougall plus an early second half substitution of Peter O’Mahony may account in part for the disappointing second half when Munster failed to score.  If JJ Hanrahan had managed to convert one or both of his penalty opportunities in that second half it would have been a different result but it was the missed tackles which did the most damage as Glasgow scored two tries.  Their goal kicker Finn Russell also missed a few kicks.  It seemed to be a nice evening in Glasgow but there was a wind judging by the flags blowing behind the posts.  At least Munster took a losing bonus point home with them but this felt like one which they lost.  That is not intended to be disrespectful to Glasgow who are a great team with a super home record, deservedly in the Top 4 for the last 2 seasons and finalists last year, but they seemed below par, especially in the first half.  Unfortunately so were Munster.  The match stats show that there were plenty of mistakes by both sides including turnovers, penalties conceded and missed tackles.

An early penalty for a scrum infringement got Glasgow on the scoreboard through Finn Russell.  When he missed his second attempt it seemed bizarre to be shown footage by Sky of a headphones-wearing Russell practicing kicking during the warm-up!  A turnover by Dougall gave John Ryan the opportunity to emulate Kilcoyne and Cronin as he charged into the 22 before being hauled down but Munster kept possession.  Jones, Hurley, Copeland, Zebo all edged Munster closer before Hanrahan darted through a gap to touch down.  He could not add the conversion so after 9 minutes the score was 3-5.  A second penalty on 18′ put Glasgow back in front and the referee issued a warning to Munster about the number of penalties conceded.  A block down by Felix Jones close to the Glasgow line led to the yellow card incident when O’Connell reached around the ruck to touch down.  I had initially thought it was a try when the ref blew his whistle but he deemed it offside and sent Paul off!  Denis Hurley went into the next scrum and Munster won a penalty when Glasgow pushed too early which Hanrahan converted to move Munster back in front.  Kevin O’Byrne was next to be penalised when he was challenging for the ball but then lost his footing so Russell moved Glasgow back in front.  The TMO looked at an incident when there was a boot to Murray’s head but could not see actual contact by Lamont so a penalty was deemed adequate sanction by the referee.  O’Connell’s return to the field was greeted by boos but 10 points in the last 5 minutes of the half through a penalty and a try moved Munster into a very strong position.  Prior to the try Sean Dougall had had to dive on a loose ball and he connected with the knee of a Glasgow player.  He was replaced by Dave O’Callaghan.  The second try was a good team effort, finished off by Robin Copeland after the forwards and backs retained possession through many phases as the clock ticked over the 40′ mark.

After the recent trend of Munster being stronger in the second half I was feeling optimistic but it was Glasgow who dominated after the break.  Their lock Nakarawa scored a try in the 52′ which Russell converted to move within 2 points of Munster.  Simon Zebo was grabbed by the collar as he made a good break but there was no penalty awarded.

DTH Van der Merwe almost got to the line after a wonderful break.  Glasgow piled in and Jonny Gray was awarded the try, but was O’Byrne blocked from getting to him by a Glasgow player?  The conversion was missed so their 3 point lead (21-18) set up an exciting final 5 minutes.  Seymour made a searing break down his wing and Munster were on the back foot.  Russell missed 2 attempts at goal to keep our hopes alive but Munster could not work themselves into a good position to snatch a draw or a win.
I was sitting beside John Crowley who reminded me we had met returning from Sale – after which trip he had checked out the blog and signed up to get it by email – and his commentary gave me an interesting insight.  As a qualified referee he was quick to call infringements, some of which were not picked up by the referee, such as the collar grab of Zebo and some offside calls.

Positives include another good game from John Ryan who was up against the experienced international Euan Murray in the scrum.  Both John and Kevin O’Byrne were very prominent in the loose.  Dave O’Callaghan also returned to first team action and put in 10 tackles in his 41′ shift.  Denis Hurley and Robin Copeland carried well also.  Bad news is that Johne Murphy broke his nose in the opening minutes and we have not had an update yet on the other injuries sustained.

Munster: Johne Murphy (Felix Jones 4′); Andrew Conway, Pat Howard, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo (Ian Keatley 61); JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray; John Ryan (Eusebio Guinazu 79), Kevin O’Byrne (Niall Scannell 74), Stephen Archer (BJ Botha 56); Billy Holland, Paul O’Connell; Peter O’Mahony Capt. (Donncha O’Callaghan 47), Sean Dougall (Dave O’Callaghan 39′), Robin Copeland.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Eusebio Guinazu, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Dave O’Callaghan, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley, Felix Jones.

The brief official highlights on the Pro12 YouTube channel:

After the game the sound was turned off and the soccer game audio blared out across the bar, providing a light-hearted moment when we could see Anthony Foley talking on the big screen but heard a very different accent to his Killaloe tones!

The updated league table showed plenty of movement as Ospreys, Glasgow and Leinster won while Munster, Ulster and Connacht lost but it is still pretty tight heading into seasonal derbies over the next two weeks.  Munster need to win on St Stephen’s day in front of a full Thomond Park to build momentum for the season defining game in London mid January and to remain inside the top 4 of the league before heading to Galway on New Years Day.

Still tight in the league table, the next 2 derby games will be crucial

Still tight in the league table, the next 2 derby games will be crucial

Speaking of that game in London tickets are like hen’s teeth through the supporters club so hoping to grab 2 when Saracens release what they cannot sell on Tuesday evening.  Their website is provoking some attention with it’s statement: “Callers with an Irish accent will be treated with suspicion” – with respect to our Irish friends, we would rather see every available seat filled by Saracens supporters.”
http://www.saracens.com/saracens-buy-now-for-munster/

Virtual becomes real
I enjoyed meeting some of my regular Twitter buddies in Break for the Border.  Carmel (from Limerick) had come in from Bray, Patrick and Jennifer were visiting family in Dublin and detoured to watch the game and my favourite photographer Daryl was also there.  It was odd to introduce people who regularly interact virtually but had never met before, especially Daryl and Patrick as it was from Patrick’s retweets of Daryl’s match photos that my collaboration with Daryl started about 2 years ago!

Poor lighting in B4TB but Jennifer took this snap of Daryl, myself and Patrick to mark the occasion

Poor lighting in B4TB but Jennifer took this snap of Daryl, myself and Patrick to mark the occasion

Buffalo Crisps, aka Jim explained the rules of the draw to new comers (throw €2 into the glass and pull 2 names from the hat.  If you pull the first try scorer or man of the match you win!)  It always seems disloyal to pull a player from the opposition team (celebrating conceding a try) but my lack of success in that bit of fun continued!

Looking back earlier this week at my two previous blogs re Glasgow games (Oct 13 and May 14) I was surprised to see that in the blog re the October game (Dogfight in Scotstoun) I had mentioned that the site had received 6,000 views.  With the support of regular readers and retweeters, especially those who sign up to receive the blog by email when I publish a new article, I have now passed the 23,000 view mark so thanks to all who have been so supportive.

Wishing you and yours a happy Christmas and all the best for 2015!

A seasonal gift grub to bring a smile if you missed it:

http://www.todayfm.com/player/podcasts/The_Ian_Dempsey_Breakfast_Show/The_Ian_Dempsey_Breakfast_Show/25192/2/Gift_Nativity_2014_

Update re Dermot and Eilis

When I called in on Friday Dermot and Eilis were delighted to have received my postcard of Lyon and even more delighted that the house they have been renting for over 60 years had not been sold at auction!  Dermot told me he had celebrated his 77th birthday on Monday and they were chuffed to pose for a photo as requested by Imelda when I last wrote about them 2 weeks ago. 

Eilis and Dermot

Eilis and Dermot, he has the printout of the blog in his hand!

Dermot’s view this week was that he could give no opinion on the likely outcome of the upcoming derby games when a team can make 14 changes from one week to the next as Connacht had done for their trip to the RDS. With an Irish camp next week many of the internationals could be unavailable for selection by both teams for the next derby game.

I only deliver dinners to 4 houses on a Friday but they are all getting in on the act, with Monica talking about the criticism of Leinster (maybe offset a little by their win that evening) while Cora was ready to discuss Johnny Sexton’s concussion which had been a major news story the previous day.

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4 comments on “Tight at the top heading into derby season

  1. The stats you quote show Munster with a 86% tackle success. That’s the losing of the game right there. Still, a LBP at Scotstoun ….

    Thanks for your blog in 2014. I think it’s been tough, with a few nice highs but some horrible lows and it’s nice to know that when I just can’t look anymore, you’re there keeping an eye on things. Thank you so much and happy Christmas & New Year.

    • Thanks for your comment and encouragement. Many happy returns.
      The stats weren’t great for Glasgow’s tackling either or turnovers so it did feel like a missed opportunity but hopefully we’ll be back on track next week.
      Toulouse was the standout game from 2014 and the rare Aviva win plus the WRWC game v New Zealand was a highlight. 2015 will have more highs and lows but all teams have those. The unpredictability is part of the excitement. SUAF.

  2. Hi Gayl, I’ve managed to find the blog, Jesus Gerry Thornley is likely to be out of work if The Irish Times cop on to this! All the best from Crosshaven

  3. Catching up with my reading. Didn’t get to see the game, only snatched on the radio. Lovely to see the photo of Eilis and Dermot. Delighted with their good news for the moment about the house. Wish them a Happy New Year

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