There has been a lot of talk about the use and non use of TMOs during the world cup in particular. Before the game we were chatting about the Craig Joubert situation and the statement from World Rugby after the Scotland – Australia quarter-final. Amongst the Munster supporters gathered in the River Bar to watch the game was our own qualified referee John who was called into action several times during the course of the evening. Only Peadar was convinced Conway had scored a try and fortunately the TMO agreed with him! The 2 second half tries also called the official TMO into action as did the high tackle on Conway. We desperately looked for evidence of a forward pass or an elbow in touch leading up to the Scarlets first try after half time scored by DTH van der Merwe who had impressed in the world cup for Canada and the previous weekend against Leinster. None was found by the TMO. Their second try did not require so many replays to be confirmed. Later we watched the end of the Leinster game and disputed whether Fergus McFadden would have scored a try or not but that TMO had no problem awarding a penalty try and yellow card.
The person responsible for the onscreen scores came in for some criticism also, being slow to add the 2 points for Keatley’s conversion and then assigning the yellow card initially against Munster! We are a tough audience.
Overall it was a disappointing result, after dominating the scrum, lineout and possession (see stats here) it was disappointing that Munster could not dominate the scoreboard. Conditions were not ideal for running rugby. At first we wondered if it was a foggy night but it was just the fireworks to welcome the Scarlets team which took a while to clear away. We were surprised to see that Ian Keatley had started so a quick check of twitter revealed that Tyler Bleyendaal had been withdrawn with a tight quad.
A penalty awarded against Scarlets in the scrum gave Keatley an early opportunity to put points on the board and he duly obliged just five minutes into the game. A few minutes later BJ Botha was penalised even though he had rolled away but Steven Shingler missed the penalty opportunity. The unorthodox restart did not work out for Munster, a knock-on leading to another Scarlets scrum near the Munster 22. Good pressure by the pack earned a Munster put-in and from that scrum Kilcoyne again put Samson Lee under pressure, earning a full penalty. David Johnston used his left boot to kick for touch. From the resultant phases Gerhard van den Heever made a great line break, ghosting between two defenders only to run out of space and support as he was penalised for holding on after Scarlets’ #7 James Davies put in a great tackle.
Scarlets won another penalty and kicked for touch, putting Munster under pressure but the defence held firm and eventually Scarlets were penalised for going off their feet. However a garryowen was too far ahead for the chasing Stephen Fitzgerald and was taken by DTH van der Merwe who set off on a diagonal run deep into the Munster half. CJ Stander just managed to grab his jersey to hold him back which slowed him down to allow the Munster defence to scramble back. DTH got the pass away only for the scrum half to knock-on with the line at his mercy after van den Heever did enough to stop James Davies giving him a perfect pass. Munster had the put-in to the resultant 5m scrum and CJ Stander carried strongly only for Sheridan’s box kick to be blocked down. Keatley managed to dive on it and fortunately #5 Price was adjudged to have come in from the side so Keatley cleared the danger up to the 10m line. The crowd were not impressed and you could hear their slow hand clap and some boos.
A key moment in the game arose when a Munster player was penalised for playing the ball offside. Scarlets kicked for touch and had a lineout Inside the Munster 22. A few phases later they were working the ball out to the opposite side of the pitch when a great tackle by David Johnston knocked the ball out of Regan King’s hands. Andrew Conway reacted quickest and hacked the ball downfield.
He showed great control as he kicked the ball on twice more before diving for it over the line alongside Hadleigh Parkes. Conway did not seem too sure himself if the try would be awarded. As we watched the replays Peadar was sure it would be but the majority were not so sure. I thought our best outcome would be if the TMO judged that the Scarlets player pushed him but despite our doubts the TMO (Jon Mason, WRU) was happy that his forearm had landed on the ball and hence could award the try!
Boos rang out again as Keatley kicked the conversion (the scoreboard originally showed as 2-8 and then was corrected to 0 -10). Right from the restart Munster were penalised for offside and Scarlets were quick to get 3 points on the scoreboard with 27 minutes played.
Scarlets did the same from the next restart, the referee penalising # 12 Owens for not releasing when tackled by BJ Botha and Ian Keatley stepped up again (to the accompaniment of boos and chants of “cheat, cheat” I assume directed at the referee Gary Conway) to restore the ten point lead approaching the half hour mark.
Andrew Conway impressed again shortly afterwards when he realised he was going to cross the side line as he jumped to gather a cross field kick, so he raised his hand in the air to call the mark and retain possession. He was my Munster MOTM while the Scarlets #7 James Davies who put in a great performance was the official MOTM.
As half time approached Munster’s lineout throw was not straight and from the resultant scrum to Scarlets Munster were penalised for not driving straight. Shingler stepped up to reduce the margin to 7 points (6-13)
Just minutes into the second half Scarlets burst through a gap as substitute Williams offloaded to fullback Thomas who passed to DTH van der Merwe who scored in the corner. The referee asked the TMO to check the last pass was not forward and while we willed it to be the TMO was satisfied that his hands went backward and awarded the try. The conversion was missed leaving Munster with a 2 point lead. An offside by Scarlets gave Keatley an easy penalty to convert from inside their 22 to make it 11-16.
Scarlets came back on the attack into the Munster 22. Duncan Casey seemed to turn over possession, Dave O’Callaghan charged forward with the ball and gave a deft offload to Andrew Conway who took play almost up to the half-way line. With half an hour remaining Foley, O’Leary and Cronin were sprung from the bench.
James Davies won another turnover at the breakdown – a penalty against Munster for not releasing. There was a big cheer for local hero Gareth Davies on his first appearance since the world cup.
A grubber by King was not kicked out by Fitzgerald who was covering across. Conway kicked it back but Tom Williams was quickest to react and touch it down. The TMO confirmed there was no knock-on. The conversion came back off the post leaving the scores tied at 16 apiece.
From the restart Foley tried to block down the box kick, Conway gathered it and ran it back into the Scarlets half. A reckless high tackle on him by the try scorer Tom Williams resulted in advantage to Munster but from the next ruck there was the shrill blast of a whistle as Scarlets player Lewis Rawlins was cleared out by Mark Chisholm and injured in the process as he was driven backwards. The referee checked both incidents and yellow carded Williams. Rawlins was stretchered off to a round of applause and more boos. Keatley was booed as he took the penalty and cheered when his attempt fell short. A few minutes later he nailed a drop goal to restore Munster’s lead.
However Scarlets won a penalty shortly afterwards to tie the scores again and Shingler made no mistake. Ronan O’Mahony replaced Fitzgerald just after the hour mark, great to see him back after injury. CJ Stander led the charge on many occasions, carrying tirelessly into the red wall and winning a valuable turnover but the resultant penalty fell just short.
In the 72nd minute we sent out positive thoughts to Keatley as he had another penalty opportunity and he successfully restored Munster’s lead. However Conway kicked the restart back to DTH van der Merwe who ran into contact with CJ Stander. The crowd chanted “off, off” as Stander was penalised for a high tackle but it was not the same type of high tackle that had led to the earlier sinbinning.
Some kicking tennis ran down the clock but King nearly intercepted a pass to van den Heever and from the resultant ruck James Davies won a crucial penalty for Scarlets which Shingler converted to tie the game again with less than two minutes left. At that stage we would have taken the draw but it was not to be. A penalty against Cronin for a high tackle on Gareth Davies was kicked to touch. When they won another penalty Shingler stepped up to take the kick almost from the half-way line and he nailed it to win the game.
Munster: Andrew Conway; Stephen Fitzgerald (Ronan O’Mahony 59), David Johnston, Denis Hurley (Rory Scannell 78), Gerhard van den Heever; Ian Keatley, Cathal Sheridan (Tomas O’Leary 51); Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin 51), Duncan Casey (Niall Scannell 78), BJ Botha (John Ryan 78); Robin Copeland (Shane Buckley 73), Mark Chisholm; Dave O’Callaghan, Jordan Coghlan (Dave Foley 51), CJ Stander Capt.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, James Cronin, John Ryan, Dave Foley, Shane Buckley, Tomás O’Leary, Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony.
Scarlets – A Thomas; H Parkes, R King, G Owen (T Williams 41), DTH van der Merwe; S Shingler, R Williams (G Davies 52); P John (D Evans 67), K Owens (captain), S Lee (P Edwards 49), J Ball, T Price (G Earle 65), L Rawlins (J Condy 55), J Davies, J Barclay
I read an interview with Francis Saili during the week: “Once we click our game together, it is going to be good.” Zebo and Donnacha Ryan should be back in action soon with Earls and Murray to follow. Their experience will make a difference to the team while the experience gained by the younger players in their absence should stand to them in the B&I Cup.
Daryl’s full set of photos can be seen at https://www.flickr.com/photos/dfeehely/sets/72157657952016883/
Mission Impossible? Calling on the WTView community to help me out next week!
I shall be at Eleanor and Donal’s wedding next Friday so won’t see the game from my usual position on the Thomond terrace. I may catch the end of it in the hotel and will record the game on TG4 but it would be fun to get contributions from this community to give colour to the blog of that game. You can tag me @WTView on any tweets or email me at WTView@live.ie, whether you are at the game or watching it on TV or online, In Ireland, Bahrain, Brazil or wherever… Only glass half-full observations please 🙂