The pre-match fireworks were nothing compared to how Keith Earls lit up a blustery night in Cork! Gasps and cheers of appreciation greeted each replay as we saw him flick up the delightful grubber by Ian Keatley to score Munster’s third try of the evening on the big screen. The huge smile on his face was infectious and his well-deserved Man of the Match award reflected the impact he had on the game, not just with that try but with many other breaks and tackles, keeping Munster on the front foot, which got the crowd involved.
There were fireworks to mark the official opening of IIP which were operated from right in front of the Red Shed. Health and safety necessitated the fire extinguishers which you can see in the photo below! After Simon Coveney unveiled the plaque there were fireworks and when Munster emerged from the changing rooms there were more flames to greet them before they got down to business.
Like the Cardiff match two weeks ago the game was played at a high tempo with a lot of focus on offloading out of the tackle. Sometimes it paid off, other times the offload went to a Glasgow player and they had to start again, but it was exciting to watch and worked more often than not. From the match stats Munster are credited with 24 offloads compared to 8 by Glasgow which is up from 14 last week and 13 the previous week!
Denis Hurley continued his captaincy role and continued to build on his midfield partnership with Keith Earls. A great break by Earls in the 7th minute got our hearts racing as he tore up the field from just outside his own 22 almost to the Glasgow 22 but when he tried to get a pass away to Jack O’Donoghue who showed great pace to be up in support it was Niko Matawalu who got in between them and claimed the ball.
Minutes later Earls took off again, this time on the Red Shed side, from inside the Munster half almost up to the 5m line. He got the pass away to Conway in support but the latter’s pass went to a Glasgow player and the opportunity was lost but it was exciting and gave us hope that they would make the breakthrough and score soon. Surprisingly it took until twenty minutes for a first goal attempt but the penalty kick was unsuccessful and it remained scoreless for another 7 minutes!
There was lovely interplay between Hurley and Williams which got Munster close again to the 5m line but Glasgow won a scrum. The Munster pack put huge pressure on Glasgow in that scrum and when they cleared their lines it only got as far as Ronan O’Mahony who passed infield to JJ Hanrahan. When he was tackled Williams got the pass to Keatley who attacked the gain line, drew the defenders and got the pass to Jack O’Donoghue who scored the try, his third in three games! The conversion attempt was unsuccessful but Munster kept pushing forward.
Keatley made another break, this time it was Dougall on his shoulder. A few phases later Hanrahan put O’Mahony through the gap, he offloaded to Billy Holland who in turn got the ball to Williams. A series of pick and goes kept the pressure on the Glasgow line and when they infringed Munster took a 5m lineout. The maul was deployed and led to the first try for Munster by Eusebio Guinazu which Keatley converted. Glasgow came close to scoring at the end of the first half but I believe it was Williams who got the turnover and set Ronan O’Mahony off up the field but Glasgow scrambled back to cut him off and Nigel Owens blew for half time.
In the second half Niko Matawalu moved from winger to scrum half and was his usual lively self. He thought he was in for an early try but the TMO disallowed it due to a knock-on. Glasgow got their first penalty kick opportunity on 51 minutes but were unsuccessful. However a second opportunity straight afterwards gave Braid a second opportunity which he converted to make it 12-3. They then had a purple patch and held onto possession for phase after phase. Eventually they made a mistake and the ball came loose. However Dougall sliced his kick into touch handing them back possession which led to their try through their tighthead De Klerk who powered through several tackles to score under the posts making it an easy conversion and bringing the score to 12-10! However the magic moment came next. Not only showing his great pace but his excellent footballing skills to control the ball at pace, Zebo-esque! Unfortunately the conversion came off the post to leave the score 17-10.
An excellent period of possession just moments later got Munster deep again into the Glasgow half. Matawalu’s box-kick from a Glasgow maul was blocked down and Munster regained possession. O’Mahony set off on the counter attack, Williams gave a reverse pass to Holland who returned it to Williams before Stander and then Hurley took it on. Play switched to the other side where Keatley passed to Paddy Butler, then Archer, Guinazu, Stander, Butler, Kilcoyne, Stander, Williams, Keatley, Smith, all took it on. Their efforts deserved a try but they had to settle for a penalty. From the resultant lineout came the crucial bonus point try when the maul was deployed again and this time it was Stander who scored. A great period of the game which really demonstrated the offloading skills and the strength of the Munster bench, many of whom had an impact in the build up to that try.
Glasgow kept the pressure on, looking for something from the game, a try would gain them a losing bonus point. They came very close in the final few minutes. Nigel Owens was happy with the grounding but wanted to check if #22 Lee Jones had been pushed into touch by Billy Holland. The hawkeye system allowed them to split-screen the 2 camera angles – grounding ball and feet and the try was disallowed. A key contribution by Billy who had another good game after his call-up to train with the Irish squad during the week.
Shane Buckley, a late replacement for Dave O’Callaghan came on for Donncha who sprinted off like a young fella after a tough 78 minutes. Hard to believe just over a year has passed since his big night when he became the most capped Munster player and he is still going strong ( see my blog from last Feb “Storm Donncha, 241 caps not out”).
Just like last year Ireland was being hit by storms, with a yellow weather alert making me wonder if I should even travel to the game but it was not as bad in Munster as it was in the west coast. Still I could feel my car being buffeted as I drove to Cork and as the wind was swirling it made it a difficult night for place kicking.
Glasgow were missing 23 players to the Scottish team, injury or suspension but Munster were also missing players, including Donnacha Ryan who was interviewed pre-match and is hopefully nearing the end of his 10 month injury lay-off. Chances are high that these two teams will meet again when at full strength later in the play-offs. In the meantime it’s important to keep in the top 2 for the valuable home advantage in the semi-final.
Munster: JJ Hanrahan; Andrew Conway (Smith 58), Keith Earls, Denis Hurley – capt. (Dineen 78), Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams (Cronin 77); John Ryan (Kilcoyne 64), Eusebio Guinazu, BJ Botha (Archer 58); Donncha O’Callaghan (Buckley 78), Billy Holland; Jack O’Donoghue (Butler 61), Sean Dougall, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Stephen Archer, Shane Buckley, Paddy Butler, Neil Cronin, Andrew Smith, Ivan Dineen.
Glasgow Warriors – P Murchie (G Bryce, 77); N Matawalu, R Vernon, F Lyle, DTH van der Merwe; C Braid, M McConnell (L Jones, 45); A Allan (J Yanuyanutawa, 64), P MacArthur (D Hall, 37), R de Klerk (D Rae, 69); J Eddie (A Toolis, 77), A Kellock (capt); A Ashe (T Spinks, 69), W Bordill, J Strauss (R Hughes, 69).
Official Pro12 highlights:
Daryl’s photos are available HERE
There were some PA announcements about cars parked illegally in the neighbourhood. We were amused to hear of such a car blocking not one but two driveways! Joe tweeted me that one was in relation to Nigel Owens’ car but that was a windup. Meanwhile his sister Hilary who I assume was watching the game in Luxembourg sent me on the following twitter chat for the blog which brought back some themes from my recent “50 shades” blog!
All I will say is that the red ones were indeed lucky as CJ scored the key bonus point try! It is also a nice link to the song from “50 Shades..” which thanks to GiftGrub has been in my head for the past few days and features several Munster regulars!
So as Gift Paulie says, Munster “what are you waiting for?” Let’s build on this win and consolidate our position on top of the table next weekend in Wales!
Thanks to Hilary for pushing Luxembourg up the league table of countries viewing this blog, catching up on Luke’s views from Qatar! If any of you have rugby friends amongst the diaspora, especially in the US and Australia I would appreciate you sharing this blog with them.
Thanks to Tony for suggesting that I change the hyperlinks to open a new window in future. Any other suggestions will be appreciated!