Darkness falls across the land
Kick-off time is close at hand.
Children roam in fancy dress
To terrorise the terraces,
And whosover shall be found
Without a ticket to enter the ground
Must stay outside and wonder what’s going on
As they hear the cheers and groans and the crowd burst into song!
I was at a wedding on Friday so I watched the game back and decided to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of my first edition of this blog by trying to use different “voices” for most paragraphs so see if you spot the difference!
The north and south terraces were eerily empty due to the 6pm kick-off, as 7,200 souls gathered at Thomond Park. Swirling gusts of wind sent the flags flying in different directions, sometimes at the same time and if you were close enough you could hear the fabric of the flags flapping in the wind and the jangling of their ropes against the metal posts. Little monsters and some bigger ones could be seen in the neighbourhood, wearing to varying degrees colourful costumes and painted faces.
Some players also got into the Hallowe’en spirit – Paddy Jackson had a bloody jersey within minutes while Nick Williams had blood streaming down his face at one time and the sleeve of his jersey almost ripped off by the end of the game!
“Tús maith leath na hoibre” would be good advice for Munster, guilty of conceding an early score to Craig Gilroy who threatened all night and ended up with 2 tries to his name. A series of penalties and errors when in good positions kept them on the back foot, indeed when I looked up the stats I wondered how Munster won the game despite having less possession, territory, offloads and metres run – see here – yet watching the match I did not feel Ulster were so dominant. Of course watching a game when you know the result does make a difference to how stressed you get!
Scoring five tries has to be a good night’s work. Andrew Conway continued to impress at full back, albeit the forwards were heavily involved in the build-up from a lineout secured by Foley to the deft offload by James Cronin to Conway who ran a great line and shrugged off the tacklers to score Munster’s first try. Ian Keatley nailed the conversion to move Munster into the lead 7-5 after 18 minutes. Gerhard van den Heever had a hand in the second try after securing the restart to give Munster possession in a good position, ultimately ending with Robin Copeland scoring after nice work by Simon Zebo and Keatley on the half hour mark. Just minutes later Gerhard scored a try himself after coming at pace to take the pass from O’Leary and break through some tackles. Nick Williams replied for Ulster just before half time with their third try off the back of a maul to leave the score 19-18 at the break.
On the hour mark, playing with advantage due to a side entry, Keatley lofted the ball high into the air, towards the try line. Red and white jerseys raced to gather it. Andrew Conway and Peter Nelson tussled in the air before the ball came back and Denis Hurley reacted quickest to dive on it. Ulster protested that it had been knocked on but the TMO did not concur. The final Munster try only required Zebo to carry the ball for 2m or so but he had to cover a lot of ground to put himself into position to take the pass from van den Heever on his opposite wing, after a great carry by Duncan Casey brought Munster up towards the Ulster line.
When Dan Tuohy scored a 4th try for Ulster on 67 minutes it set up a tense close to the game. Just two minutes remained when Ulster won a penalty and kicked to touch. The roar from the supporters when Chisholm stole that crucial lineout belied the relatively small attendance. Munster played the clock down before kicking the ball out, only for the referee made to declare that time had not been up, and he awarded a scrum to Ulster. CJ wrapped up Gilroy, Gerhard and Andrew forced McCloskey into touch and finally it was over.
When it comes to writing a manual for Munster some of my friends would be like the Rabodirect ad from a few seasons ago – advising the players to “Give it to CJ” and indeed he gave another great performance on Friday, leading from the front, winning three turnovers in quick succession in the second half when Munster were under pressure, carrying strongly and making his tackles. However a team needs to vary their tactics and there were some lovely offloads on Friday leading to some good line breaks.
Therefore I will focus instead on the instructions for what not to do!
- Thou shalt not wander offside
- Thou shalt not hold on / not release aka thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s ball when forbidden!
- Thou shalt roll away even when trapped by the other players
- Thou shalt not go off your feet
- Thou shalt not concede a penalty right after scoring (doesn’t that happen so often!)
- Thou shalt confirm the stadium clock is correct!!!
The bonus point win was very welcome although the team will be disappointed to have conceded four tries. It was encouraging to see the new combinations playing together with the return of Simon Zebo, the pairing of Hurley with Saili in midfield and Tomas calling the shots at scrum-half as we head into a crucial part of the season. Saili looked dangerous and made several exciting breaks during the game, it is great to see him settling into the team.
Munster: Andrew Conway; Gerhard van den Heever, Francis Saili, Denis Hurley (Rory Scannell 70), Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Tomás O’Leary; James Cronin (John Ryan 38 HIA; 66), Mike Sherry (Duncan Casey 55), BJ Botha; Dave Foley (Donnacha Ryan 50), Mark Chisholm; CJ Stander Capt., Jack O’Donoghue (Jordan Coghlan 70), Robin Copeland.
Replacements: Duncan Casey, John Ryan, Mario Sagario, Donnacha Ryan, Jordan Coghlan, Duncan Williams, Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony.
Ulster: P Nelson; C Gilroy, D Cave, S McCloskey, A Trimble (S Arnold h/t); P Jackson, P Marshall; A Warwick (C Black 50), R Herring (capt), W Herbst (R Lutton 67); L Stevenson, F van der Merwe (D Tuohy 62); R Wilson, S Reidy (C Henry 53), N Williams.
OMG! I was like literally refreshing my blog stats every five minutes on Friday as the views for that mornings blog post went off the chart! I was totally giddy, like a kid at Christmas seeing the daily views record not just broken but kicked out of the park! I tried to guess how high it would go but every target I wished for was exceeded, past my wildest expectations! Totes amazeballs! At the wedding I was telling peeps about the blog and how my stats were awesome! They pretended to be impressed but were probably thinking, what-ever, and how can I get away from this crazy person! But, like, YOLO! Seriously goys (and gals!), thanks for the views, shares and comments over the past 3 years and 119 editions. Normal service shall be resumed next week 🙂