Red? Black and blue? Blonde? Steam? Let’s come back to it later
Where would I rather be on Valentine’s day – at the cinema checking out the latest movie releases including the much hyped “50 shades of Grey” or in Cork on a cold misty evening checking out the up and coming Munster players as they resume their league campaign? No contest really so after watching the first half of Ireland v France on the TV I tuned into the radio coverage and set off for Cork to the upgraded Musgrave Park, now officially known as Irish Independent Park. My terrace ticket got me into the newly roofed East Terrace renamed as the Red Shed. The roof was funded by the MRSC and was a welcome enhancement. I remember getting completely drenched at a game there two years ago; there were steamy windows in the car that night as I had the heaters on full blast trying to dry out and warm up on the trip back home!
A good crowd were in attendance, which given the clash with the Six Nations and Valentines Day was great and hopefully the next game on the 28th against Glasgow will be even better attended when Munster take on a key rival for a top 2 finish in the league.
Given that both Ian Keatley and Andrew Conway were late withdrawals from the team due to flu plus six Munster players were involved with Ireland (including Tommy O’Donnell as cover) while players such as CJ Stander, Duncan Casey, Dave Foley, Robin Copeland and Andrew Smith were unavailable due to injury this was a very different team to those selected in January.
However the experience gained by some younger players in the British and Irish Cup and the involvement of John Ryan and Ronan O’Mahony in the European Cup was supplemented by the experienced heads like Donncha, Denis, Billy, Keith and BJ. The recent camp in Lanzarote also stood to the team. It was great to see Luke O’Dea back in action after a run of bad luck with injuries while Jack O’Donoghue who had appeared off the bench in the early rounds of the Pro12 made his first league start, not bad for the captain of the Irish Under 20s just 8 months ago. Rory Scannell had played in the away Pro12 game Cardiff game at 12 and had guided Munster A from outhalf for most of their B & I Cup campaign after Jonny Holland was injured but this was his first league start at 10. Cardiff were missing three players to the Wales squad (Cuthbert, Jenkins and Warburton) so they travelled with a strong team including Adam Jones. John Ryan has really grown into the loosehead role, taking his opportunity to compete there due to the injuries to Kilcoyne and Cronin and his experience gained in the position stood to him in this game against a very experienced former international. Ryan was also prominent as a ball carrier, showing he is prepared to fight for the jersey and not meekly hand it back to the two internationals!
Before the game (and repeated at half time) we were shown a video where Cian Bohane took us on a tour of the upgraded facilities while Andrew Smith participated in the pre-match pitchside interview. The MRSC choir were drowned out by the backing track so the sound engineering needs to be fine tuned. Overall I liked the Red Shed, the roof seemed to amplify the noise made by the supporters and there was even an outburst of song at one stage in the second half.
To mark the first game in the stadium there was a pre match team photo which seemed a little unfair to Cardiff, already waiting on the pitch.
JJ Hanrahan in the #15 shirt kicked off with Rory Scannell standing directly behind him and there was a lot of interchanging of positions between them all evening with JJ taking the restarts and penalty kicks. Denis Hurley blocked down a kick by Rhys Patchell but Patchell regained possession and it took a great tackle by Rory Scannell to take him down and earn a turnover. Quick hands by Hanrahan and Hurley put Earls in space on the east side but his pass to Ronan O’Mahony on the wing was just blocked by a Cardiff player giving rise to the first scrum of the night. The Cardiff pack had the weight advantage but the Munster players had greater mobility. The scrum held up well and Scannell got close to the line before Dougall was pinged for accidental offside. Cardiff cleared their lines but a few minutes later Munster got a penalty when Cardiff went offside. JJ Hanrahan’s kick came off the post but an excellent chase by Ronan O’Mahony won another penalty and JJ made no mistake that time to take the lead after ten minutes.
It was a fast open running type of game almost barbarian-esque at times with great offloads and interplay between forwards and backs as the stats show. Ronan O’Mahony, Keith Earls and Jack O’Donoghue led the metres ran stats while Rory Scannell was joint top tackler with 10:
Cardiff scored three penalties – for tackler not releasing, twice and then for taking out the lifter in a lineout to take a 6 point lead half an hour into the game but Munster fought back to draw level before half-time.
Highlights of the half included Ronan O’Mahony who showed his excellent fielding skills but he was tackled in the air. The referee played a long advantage and a few phases later Hanrahan put Luke O’Dea through a gap but when he was tackled the referee came back for the penalty. Hanrahan was isolated and penalised for not releasing and Cardiff were off the hook again.
The minis did not get the same amount of attention as usual but the two teams from Dungarvan RFC and Dunmanway RFC seemed to enjoy themselves.
We were distracted by the Kiss Cam which would zoom in on people in the crowd and they had to kiss or hug before it moved on. There was plenty of good humour and even a little romance in the air, thankfully it did not come near us 🙂
Just minutes into the second half, Billy Holland stole the Cardiff lineout. From the resultant ruck Cardiff were penalised for not releasing and Rory Scannell found touch inside the Cardiff 22m.
Dave O’Callaghan secured the lineout ball, Jack O’Donoghue charged into the defence, getting within 8m of the line. Botha was next to carry, then Holland before Ronan O’Mahony got even closer. Another phase or two and JJ was practically there but could not get through the pile of bodies on the line, so the ball was recycled to captain Denis Hurley who grounded the ball, Hanrahan converted and Munster had a seven point lead.
The team try of the night came as the hour mark approached. Rory Scannell turned over the ball and first they probed the west side before Hanrahan set Hurley in space down the east wing. He cut through the defence before releasing Earls who made great ground, twirled and pirouetted past more tacklers before he offloaded to Hanrahan arriving at pace. When JJ was tackled Williams got the pass to Holland who gave a sweet offload to Jack O’Donoghue who charged over the line. Another successful conversion made it a 14 point lead but Cardiff were not lying down.
Darren Sweetnam replaced Luke O’Dea to get his first 13 minutes of Pro 12 action and one of his first actions was to try to prevent Navidi scoring a try for Cardiff. The TMO awarded it and Patchell converted to set up a final 10 minutes with just a 7 point difference, like the Ireland v France game earlier. Sweetnam had a chance to show his great fielding skills when JJ sent a garryowen from deep within the Munster half which Darren claimed just inside the Cardiff half and he showed his pace as he raced into their 22 before being hauled down. He was able to present the ball well and Munster were back on the attack, winning a penalty which Hanrahan put between the posts to make it 26-16 and a 2 score game.
The bench was emptied for the final few minutes. As steam rose from yet another scrum Munster turned the screw and won a penalty and after going through a few phases Ronan O’Mahony topped off a super performance with a try, a great way to celebrate his new 2 year contract with Munster! However the TMO went back to review the play try leading up to the try. As the referee had been playing advantage the try was awarded and Hanrahan converted as the final kick of the game to bring the score to 33-16.
Ronan O’Mahony was my Man of the Match although JJ Hanrahan had a great game too so I was smiling when I watched the game back on TG4 to see JJ say that there had been some slagging between Ronan and him about that, Ronan accusing JJ of robbing him! Well played to both and to all the younger players who were a credit to the jersey. Their ability to step up to the Pro12 level is key during this period and their experience in the British and Irish Cup is standing to them. Away to Scarlets next week will be a tough challenge but this performance will give the squad confidence.
Munster – JJ Hanrahan; L O’Dea, K Earls, D Hurley (capt), R O’Mahony; R Scannell, D Williams; J Ryan, E Guinazu, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, B Holland; S Dougall, D O’Callaghan, J O’Donoghue. Reps: N Scannell, D Kilcoyne, S Archer, S Buckley, P Butler, N Cronin, D Sweetnam, I Dineen.
Cardiff – J Tuculet; R Smith, C Allen, G Evans, L Amorosino; R Patchell, L Williams; S Hobbs, M Rees (capt), A Jones; M Cook, F Paulo; J Turnbull, J Navidi, M Vosawai. Reps: K Dacey, T Davies, T Filise, M Normandale, E Jenkins, T Knoyle, G Davies, T Isaacs.
With other league results going our way Munster have climbed into the top 2 and earned a little breathing space in the table but there is no room for any slip-ups in the coming weeks. If both teams win next week the Munster v Glasgow game will be a top of the table clash the following weekend.
Link to the full game on the TG4 player: nasc.tg4.tv/1Az59Eb
The Sky summary highlights mentions a bonus point so not accurate but if I find a better link I will add it later
So back to the Fifty shades theme which has probably been done to death over the past few days but did get me thinking. My friend Ronan had suggested it as a title about 2 years ago and I joked that I did not think I wanted to attract that type of readership but it did get me thinking about what there would be fifty shades of…
I mentioned steam above as I love the atmospheric look to these photos of the steam rising as the players prepare to scrum
while the 50 shades of blonde is also appropriate looking at the photos of the west terrace with so many blonde heads there and of course blonde bombshell himself Jerry Flannery, whose golden locks catch the eye as he runs onto the pitch with the kicking tee or water bottle! However I decided to focus instead on euphoric moments as a supporter. There are many to chose from, some of which I have already included in earlier editions of this blog so let’s start with the classic final few minutes and 40 phases of Munster v Northampton, told in a more “when Harry met Sally style”:
Bodies straining to see, standing on tiptoes, dry mouthed but sweaty palmed as Munster a point behind with 2 minutes to play are on the brink of the abyss. Time after time they throw their bodies on the line, clear out rucks, protect the ball at all costs while not conceding a penalty. Noise levels rise as the crowd urge them on, clawing their way into the Northampton half. A collective intake of breath as O’Mahony juggles the ball. Wave after wave of defenders push them back but they retain possession until the 40th phase when Leamy as scrum half throws a pass to ROG who puts the ball over the bar, the noise levels rose even higher as YES, YES, YES over it goes! Game over.
Jumping up and down with delight, fists pumping the air, faces wreathed in the biggest smiles. “Munster, Munster..” we could have chanted it all night, not wanting to leave the stadium.
Here are some other euphoric moments that came to mind:
- The 40 phases to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat versus Northampton
- O’Gara hurdling the hoarding after scoring a try at Lansdowne Road in the 2006 semi-final
- Stringer’s oh so cheeky try in the 2006 final
- The energy surge when the cameras cut to he crowds watching Limerick during the 2006 final and the crowds went wild in Limerick and in Cardiff
- The double Haka in 2008 – still sends tingles down my spine.
- Barry Murphy’s try against the All Blacks 2008 – it looked like another miracle was on!
- The 1978 win over the All Blacks, even though I was not there to witness it myself, the Guinness ad shows a great atmosphere.
- The pack driving Sebastien Chabal back at a rate of knots in Thomond as the crowd roared them on
- The miracle match – the team jumping around with excitement after the final whistle – Donncha and Jim Williams stand out in my memory.
- Barry Murphy’s try v Sale was a piece of magic.
- Hanrahan’s last gasp try in Perpignan 2013
- Keatley’s last kick of the game drop goal in Sale 2014
- The try saving tackle by Tomas O’Leary on Benoit Baby
- The crunching tackle by James Downey on Mike Brown of Harlequins in the quarter-final 2013
- Hearing the Fields of Athenry ring out at so many away games around Europe
- The party atmosphere after the final game of the 2006 season in Thomond with the Heineken Cup on display and a great singsong going as we bade farewell to real legends of the team, Mike Mullins, Rob Henderson and co.
- Zebo’s hat trick against Northampton in Milton Keynes certainly got the pulses racing.
- Zebo’s hat trick against Racing Metro to secure quarter-final qualification in January 2013, and the chorus of “Alive Alive-O” which rang out around Thomond
- Serenading Tommy Bowe with “Black Velvet Band” in the quarter-final against the Ospreys in 2009
- Suggested by John via the comments below three classic moments against Leicester – Donncha’s intercept try, ROG nailing the final penalty in the rain and from the quarter final at Welford Road the hit by Rob Henderson on Austin Healy.
- What else would you add – what moments made the hair stand on the back of your neck? Listening to Damien Varley on GameOn2Fm talking about his premature retirement the win over Australia in 2010 was mentioned. I was working in Nigeria at that time so missed the game. I heard about the weather but what moments stood out? Was there another superb Paul Warwick drop goal or the fact that with so many younger players it was a classic David v Goliath contest?
So what euphoric moments would you add to the list? Just add your comment below or tweet me and I can add it.
Last week I wrote about being nominated by another rugby blogger for the Liebster blogging award and I was also chuffed to get a call from a rugby journalist who came across my blog of Munster v the All Blacks 2008 and wanted permission to quote from it in a book he is writing. I guess it is a back-handed compliment that he had assumed I was male even though he knew my name is Gayl. Obviously not a regular reader or he would have come across my photo but it is positive feedback about my writing! That edition of the blog continues to have regular hits, generally from searches, so I wonder if the current Guinness ads showing the 1978 game have anything to do with the interest.
Finally, I created this short video for the recent Irish Independent competition so instead of reading my words you have a chance to hear me speak about supporting Munster. Imelda said it is better than the one which won the competition but she is biased since she features in it! I am not even sure if it was received in time as one page said closing date Monday while another stated enter before Monday but it would not have won anyway since it is basically a promo for this blog but it was fun to try a different medium:
Hope you enjoy this weeks edition.