Update: May 2017: It’s just over 2 years since Tyler made his debut on a Munster A team also featuring Niall, Darren, Jack, Conor Oliver, Alex, Peter and Dan who have all contributed to the senior team this season. It is worth checking out the video highlights from the game below. I enjoyed re-reading and updating it and hope you do also.
Naas RFC hosted the third and final leg in the series of inter-pro’s between Munster A and Ulster Ravens. After winning the opening (home) fixture at Nenagh 30 – 24 on March 19 a more experienced team lost narrowly at Banbridge 15 – 13 on April 16. So it was all to play for in Naas on April 29th and there was the added incentive of witnessing the debut of Tyler Bleyendaal after his serious injury plus two of the Academy Player of the Year nominees, captain Jack O’Donoghue and winger Darren Sweetnam.
There was a heavy shower of hailstones and rain as I arrived at Naas but thankfully for the actual game it remained dry but at times a very cold breeze blew across the pitch. Ulster had the best of the wind for the first half. Luckily the wet ground did not lead to an excessive amount of knock-ons and scrums. When the team was announced I noticed that it had a less experienced front 5 than the previous game and from the early exchanges it was clear that the Ulster pack had superiority in the scrum
Luckily Ulster were not able to capitalise as their penalty was kicked to touch and they knocked on from the following attack.
It was good to see Cathal Sheridan continue his return to action after his serious arm injury. Munster’s lineout was very good with Niall Scannell at hooker while their defence worked hard to keep Ulster at bay in the opening quarter.
It was disappointing to see Dave O’Callaghan pick up a leg injury as he has been in great form since his return to action earlier this season. He was able to walk off unaided and returned to watch the end of the second half wearing a knee brace.
As I was distracted by that injury I missed some of the build up to the first try scored by Munster #7 Conor Oliver but it started from a super break by centre David Johnston. From practically under the Munster posts David took play over the half-way line before offloading to Johne Murphy. Munster went through a few phases on the near side before Jack O’Donoghue broke the tackle and the defensive line before passing to Conor Oliver in support who finished off the move well. The conversion attempt was missed but Munster were on the attack again and scored a try touched down by Johne Murphy in the same corner just minutes later. That conversion was also missed so Munster were 10-0 up.
When Ulster worked their way back into the Munster half and won another penalty from a scrum they took the three points on offer through their out-half Michael Heaney, who did the same again later shortly afterwards to make it 10-6. Luke O’Dea was next to score, again in the opposite corner from me. It came from a scrum in the Ulster 22, Jack picked and went and the ball was passed quickly out to the wing. Tyler kicked the conversion.
However just before the break the Ulster pack mauled their way over the line to leave it at 17-13 and set up an exciting second half, prop Kyle McCall credited with their try.
During half-time I enjoyed the company of Marsha with Ava and Daniel. Poor Daniel was very confused that we were not supporting the team in red! Ava had her Munster bear with her for luck, it is called Conor as Conor Murray is her favourite player and he had signed it for her when she was a mascot for a game.
It was lovely to meet Miriam there also. Going to the A games is a very different experience than a big game at Thomond or Musgrave Park. Not just because you may not have the mod cons like a clock to know how much time is left or a big screen to see replays of what just happened! There was no PA either yesterday, but you can be much closer to the action to see who stands out as a leader and hear how the players communicate and motivate each other. Naas was a good venue, albeit reached by driving down a very minor road. There was plenty of parking and a nice clubhouse. The pitch looked in good condition to me despite the rain! They even had Leinster flags up to reinforce the neutrality of the venue 🙂
Ulster kept up their momentum in the early exchanges of the second half but the Munster defence scrambled well. However the pressure paid off and Ulster took the lead for the first time with their 2nd converted try, touched down by Peter Nelson who capitalised when Munster could not gather Heaney’s crossfield kick when Ulster had advantage anyway.
John Madigan powered into open country showing great turn of pace after taking a lovely pass from Bleyendaal. In turn he offloaded to Olly Lyons who scored to give Bleyendaal his easiest conversion and thereby putting Munster back into the lead: 24 – 20 entering the final quarter.
There were lots of substitutions in the second half and one of them included Diarmuid McCarthy fresh from his exploits with Young Munster who finished off a good move well in the near corner, showing great composure to step inside the tacklers. The pack had done well to set that one up.
David Johnson had moved to out-half and kicked an excellent conversion and shortly afterwards a penalty. However Ulster were not finished, they scored another try through #22 Stephen Mulholland who barged his way over the line to make it 34-27. However McCarthy scored his second try in the closing stages which was again converted by Johnson to bring the final score to 41-27.
Check out the match report from The 42.ie and the Examiner for a good analysis of the input of Tyler for the first half tries which were at the far side of pitch from me. I enjoyed the game, plenty of action, some mistakes and 6 tries to appreciate. I thought some of the new faces showed plenty of promise while Jack O’Donoghue continues to be a class act. He went on to win the Academy player of the year award on April 30th.
Munster A: Johne Murphy; Darren Sweetnam, David Johnston, Dan Goggin, Luke O’Dea; Tyler Bleyendaal, Cathal Sheridan; Liam O’Connor, Niall Scannell, Peter McCabe; John Madigan, Frank Bradshaw Ryan; Dave O’Callaghan, Conor Oliver, Jack O’Donoghue – capt.
Replacements: Luke O’Halloran (Young Munster), Niall Horan (Academy), JP Phelan (UCD), Lee Nicholas (Shannon), Diarmaid Dee (Young Munster), Olly Lyons (Exiles), Neil Cronin (Garryowen), Gearoid Lyons (Academy), Robbie Deegan (Shannon), Alex Wootton (Academy), Diarmuid McCarthy (Young Munster).
Ulster Ravens: Peter Nelson; Michael Allen, Mark Best, Sam Arnold, Matthew Hooks; Michael Heaney, David Shanahan; Kyle McCall, John Andrew, Ricky Lutton; John Donnan, Lewis Stevenson (captain); Connor Joyce, Clive Ross, Lorcan Dow.
Replacements: Paul Jackson, Ruairidh Murphy, Alex Thompson, Neil McComb, Frankie Taggart, Sean Reidy, Stephen Mulholland, Conor Young, Kieran Joyce, Adam Lidell, Peter Dunlop.
The match highlights video:
If you missed it, check out “A day in the life” of the A team captain Jack O’Donoghue
A final photo to show the threatening sky – luckily it stayed dry.
Postscript: May 2017:
- In 2017 Tyler and Niall were both nominated for Munster player of the year along with John Ryan – Tyler won. Tyler was also included in the Pro12 team of the year and nominated for European Player of the Year. Niall won his first Ireland senior cap in the Six Nations in 2017.
- At the same Awards ceremony Darren Sweetnam won the Young Player of the Year while Conor Oliver won the Academy Player of the year. Jack O’Donoghue won the YPOTY the previous season and won his first Ireland senior cap during the November internationals in 2016.
- Meanwhile Alex Wootton, Dan Goggin, David Johnston, Peter McCabe and John Madigan all featured along with Conor Oliver for the A team which won the British and Irish Cup competition.
- Eleven of the team who are still with Munster are accumulating senior caps: Dave O’Callaghan (75), Jack O’Donoghue (61), Niall Scannell (54), Darren Sweetnam (35), Tyler Bleyendaal (30), David Johnston (10), Conor Oliver (16), Alex Wootton (8), Dan Goggin (5), Peter McCabe (5) and John Madigan (3).
- Sam Arnold who joined Munster from Ulster in 2016 also featured in the victorious British and Irish Cup campaign this season and played one senior game for Munster. A quick search through this blogs archives also revealed that he featured for Ulster against Munster in two Pro12 games in the 15/16 season.