After watching the Limerick 7s for the day the contrast between it and the 15s pre-season friendly between Munster and Connacht on Friday evening was stark. No tries scored from deep in their own half or watching a player accelerate through a gap to be chased down like something in a wildlife movie, wondering if the lion would get it’s prey or not! Instead we had more of an arm wrestle, one of the early scrums was reset three times and it was the visitors who had more fleetness of foot, particularly Kieran Marmion who scored two of Connacht’s four tries on the night. However there were some positives for Munster as 7 more forwards and 3 backs made their first starts of the season including debutant Shane Monaghan and off the bench the latest overseas player Francis Saili.
None was more welcome back than Mike Sherry who had been out for 21 months during which time he rehabbed from several operations on his shoulder and knee. He was straight into the action and played the first half.
It was super to see him mark the occasion by scoring the first try of the night, a training ground move from a lineout deep in the Connacht half. His lineout throw was secured and the forwards took it on, with Sherry at the back of the maul to touch down over the line. Welcome back Mike!
However Connacht hit back with two quick tries, both scored by Marmion breaking down the blindside and both were well converted by Jack Carty to take the lead 5-14. At the time of the second try I believe Matt D’Arcy was in the sinbin.
Jack O’Donoghue jogged off after some on-pitch medical treatment so I thought it might be a blood injury as he was replaced by Jordan Coughlan but Jack did not return. Hopefully it was not too serious as this is a big year for the recipient of last season’s Junior Player award, particularly with Tommy’s injury and Peter expected to be at the World Cup.
Munster moved back up into the Connacht half and won 2 successive penalties which they kicked to touch. Connacht were not about to let them maul again so Munster had to go through the phases and eventually CJ Stander crashed over under the posts
The Connacht pack continued to show their power which resulted in their third and fourth tries – the third was scored by Nepia Fox-Matamua to make it 12-21 at the break and the fourth was a penalty try when Munster pulled down their maul in the second half.
That was the only score of a disrupted 2nd half, with lots of substitutions including the introduction of Francis Saili. Even the sinbinning of Bundee Aki for a dangerous tackle could not kick-start a Munster come-back on the scoreboard.
Some of the lighter moments which entertained the crowd included a great take by Gerhard van den Heever on his knees, an acrobatic tumble by the referee David Wilkinson, and the crowd appreciated a big tackle in midfield by academy full back David Johnston to stop a breakaway try. There seemed to be a good representation of Connacht supporters on the East side, they could be heard for sure but then they had more to cheer also. Hopefully we will have plenty more to cheer about when we return to Thomond Park on October 2nd to play Glasgow.
MUNSTER: David Johnston; Shane Monahan, Cian Bohane, Matt D’Arcy, Gerhard van den Heever; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; James Cronin, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer; Sean McCarthy, Dave Foley; Dave O’Callaghan, Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander (capt).
Replacements (from): Kevin O’Byrne, John Ryan, BJ Botha, Donncha O’Callaghan, Shane Buckley, Cathal Sheridan, Bill Johnston, Francis Saili, Niall Scannell, John Madigan, Jordan Coghlan, Stephen Fitzgerald.
CONNACHT: Darragh Leader; Tiernan O’Halloran, Rory Parata, Bundee Aki, Matt Healy; Jack Carty, Kieran Marmion; JP Cooney, Tom McCartney, Rodney Ah You; Ultan Dillane, Andrew Browne; John Muldoon (capt), Nepia Fox-Matamua, Eoghan Masterson.
Replacements: Finlay Bealham, Dave Heffernan, Nathan White, Quinn Roux, Ben Marshall, Eoin McKeon, George Naoupu, John Cooney, Craig Ronaldson, Danie Poolman, Dave McSharry.
I have saved 14 of my photos of this game and more from the 7s action on my Facebook page.
As mentioned in the previous blog I had media accreditation for the weekend. The press room was not very busy during the day but it was great to be able to go there to recharge the phone or camera and upload the better quality photos from my camera to my WTView Facebook page or Twitter during the day, taking advantage of the free wi-fi. Being there for the day it was also great to have access to tea, coffee and sandwiches 🙂
It was a genuine highlight to meet Len Dineen in the Press room before the Connacht game. I have often tuned into him on Limerick’s Live95fm to hear his (totally!) unbiased commentary on games along with requests from listeners around the world and sometimes by the time I get back to my car he is back in the studio after the game playing music. I told him how he had inspired the title of the blog one week when the first song he played for those returning after the game at a cold and wet Thomond Park was “Raindrops keep falling on my head” – Munster v Treviso, March 2014. Maybe he will give my blog a mention on one of his programmes.
I also enjoyed chatting with Joanne, another blogger and well known as one of the tweeters behind the @ account. Ivan O’Riordan a regular photographer at Munster games was there both days and got some great photos. I was also talking to journalist Declan Rooney (@ and another blogger Aoife (@Aoifs2707) over the weekend and got to know my latest email subscriber and commenter Dylan who was working there for the event.
I appreciated getting the media pass but I missed the energy of the crowd which as regular readers know is a big part of my blog. Being over on the west stand when only the east was open to spectators was a bit like operating in a vacuum. I spent most of my time sitting outside the MRSC bar area, normally reserved for those requiring wheelchair access, as the view from there was more like my normal west terrace view, the press seats are a bit higher up and further away . For the 15s game it was a bit disconcerting to have 4 police officers standing just behind to my left! Crowds were small but there would have been more craic and banter over on the terrace.
Just hours after publishing my last blog I was delighted to see it warranted inclusion in the daily “Harpin’ on Rugby” Front 5 quotes. I am always quite curious to open the link and see which line they quoted from the latest blog and am often surprised by the random thoughts that they choose. This week it was one about the music choice to celebrate tries at the 7s!
The Knockout stages at the Limerick 7s (see day 1 report in prior blog post)
The mood had been a lot better after the Grenoble game despite that defeat as Munster had scored some good tries and it was the first game back so looking for more positivity to blog about this week I returned for day 2 of the Limerick 7s. Munster and Connacht were in the same half of the draw which unfortunately also included the defending champions Daveta from Fiji.
I arrived in time to see Connacht win their opening game against New York. They had led 19-0 at half time but conceded three 2nd half tries and it was poised to go to extra time and sudden death if the conversion of the final try had gone over but it came back off the post to great cheers. I felt sorry for the kicker but delighted for Connacht. Next up Munster took on Daveta and took an early lead through Ryan Foley! However Daveta were 21-7 up at the break as their experience and expertise shone through.
Alex Wootton scored a superb try in the second half but Daveta went up a gear and scored three more to qualify for the semi-final.
Leinster and Ulster played out an entertaining Bowl final. Leinster were storming ahead with 2 tries in 3 minutes including a great effort from near their own goal-line to the opposite one finished off by Billy Ngawin who also scored their third from a shorter distance. However discipline let them down and a man was sent to the bin which seemed to ignite Ulster who went on to score three tries in quick succession in the second half but their comeback was too late. Leinster won 33-17.
As a result of the quarter-finals it was Connacht who played Daveta in the semi-final while Munster played New York in the Plate in what was their best scoring performance of the tournament, scoring 5 tries to the delight of the home support. Steven McMahon was first to score.
Alex Wootton gathered a high kick and weaved his way through all the way to score the second under the posts. I also noted his defensive performance in that game as twice on the east wing near me he shepherded an attacking player out over the line to win a lineout, showing great pace and composure. Sonny Dwyer got the third for Munster before Cian Aherne made a great break down the west wing showing great pace before he moved infield to make the conversion more straight-forward.
McMahon added a second try to make it 33 -10 and earning Munster a place in the Plate final.
The Plate finalists were unfortunate that the weather decided to absolutely pour down. The noise of it on the roof of the stand was almost deafening. The ball was slippery and conditions were tough for players and officials alike. You can get a sense of the weather from my photos.
The third try by Alan Bennie was scored from long distance and he needed a moment to catch his breath afterwards before successfully converting it.
Connacht failed to score against Daveta in their semi-final so went into the 3rd v 4th place play-off against the Golden Lions where they were ahead coming into the final quarter but got on the wrong side of the referee. Two cards were shown in quick succession leaving them with just 5 players on the pitch at one stage and the Lions moved in for the kill. However they had the put-in to the scrum and one of their players returned from the bin in time to help shore up their defence so they held on to win. A great result for them and with Pat Lam looking on I am sure they will build on their performance.
Daveta won an exciting final by just 2 points in the end after a great fight back by the Samurai. Indeed the Samurai thought they had snatched victory with the final play when they chased a kick-through and tried to touch down just over the line but the referee did not award it. Munster had drawn with the Samurai in their pool game and there were narrow margins between victory and defeat in many of the games especially on day 2 with several going to sudden death in extra time, all adding to the excitement of the event.
All in all, an enjoyable weekend and no one enjoyed it more than the mini’s who took to the pitch in the afternoon to emulate their heroes.
PS Oscar was also busy for the weekend and looked cool in his new black jersey for the friendly! He has also been let loose on twitter
@supportersclub2 and has already tweeted out this weeks blog so maybe he thinks it is a good read for junior members or to be read to them as their bedtime story 🙂