The shocking events on Friday night in the French capital overshadowed the weekend. But for the grace of God and the EPCR scheduling, there could have been a large number of Munster supporters in Paris for the first round of the Champions Cup, anxiously trying to reassure family and check on friends to make sure everyone was OK. There is no justification for such callous, random acts of violence against people attending a sporting event or concert or just out for a meal, going about their ordinary lives, be it in Europe or in the Middle East, leading to the current refugee crisis. Hence the title of this week’s blog is to show solidarity with the people of France and around the world who are victims of terrorism. The teams and officials lined up in front of the East stand and we stood for in silence for a minute as a mark of respect and show of solidarity prior to the game. The players also wore black armbands.
It was not an evening for the faint-hearted. Storm Abigail was making itself felt and while the West Stand behind us gave a lot more protection that the players had on the pitch, the swirling wind meant that the rain which had started again about 45 minutes before kick-off came in to drench those on both east and west terraces, while those on the south had no protection from it at all. The north terrace was closed. As you can see from the flags in the photo the predominant wind was from west to east but at one stage an empty plastic beer container danced it’s way across the pitch from east to west.
Tissot, one of the new competition sponsors was very evident with large screens counting down the match time in both corners opposite – I assume they were in all four corners – after our recent last-minute issues in the Ulster and Edinburgh games it was good to know that all would be very clear about the time left in the game!
I arrived in Limerick about half past three and was delighted that it was dry and that I was in time to join the guard of honour organised by MRSC to welcome the team coach. After buying a program I headed into the terrace. The Waterford contingent were there ahead of me so I went over to say thanks to John for his recent kind comments on the blog before slipping into a space between Joan and Imelda. I was delighted to receive a few tweets before the game from friends who had seen my tribute to Felix Jones in the match day program.
Slippery underfoot, the ball was a liability at times while the winds made it tough for both box-kicker and receiver. The crowd did their bit in encouraging the visiting back three to feel under pressure as a high ball headed their way – not sure if it worked but when the ball was fumbled or missed we felt like the 16th man had done it’s bit to help the team! It was a day for keeping the ball in the pack, “up the jumper” and the forwards were terrific. Yes, they tried a few fancy offloads which did not always work but in the first half against the wind they controlled territory and possession and in the second half with the wind at their back they kept up the pressure and eventually it paid dividends.
Other key stats highlight the effectiveness of the Munster lineout, called by Mark Chisholm – they won 18 out of 19 while Treviso could only secure 8/13.
The lineout was a rich source of possession and scoring opportunities. Simon Zebo was called upon to use his left boot to try to edge Munster further down the field at times. An early penalty was kicked to touch. The lineout was taken cleanly and the pack gathered round to drive the maul as we urged them on with cries of “heave”, before Conor Murray broke for the line. When he was tackled the forwards took it on again before BJ Botha celebrated his new contract extension with his 2nd try in 45 appearances in European action for Munster after four minutes. I felt sorry for Murray as he lay on the cold wet ground to hold the ball steady for three of four conversions and two penalties. Zebo held it for the other conversion!
It looked like BJ had scored on the double when he went close again in the 8th minute but the TMO spotted a knock-on as he crossed the line. Still we were happy enough with Munster’s dominance and ability to create scoring opportunities.
However, in the conditions mistakes could be costly as a blocked down clearance proved to be, as their #8 Braam Steyn won the footrace to score a try for Treviso, converted by Jayden Hayward. The TMO confirmed that he had grounded the ball. Watch how he practically waterplanes into the deadball area after touching down in the highlights!
The only other score of the half was a penalty although Munster came close to a try when a garryowen was not controlled and Earls was through, scooping it up. He managed to offload but Munster could not convert the pressure into points and eventually made a mistake to allow Treviso clear their lines.
It was sad to see Mike Sherry being replaced in the first half with what looked like a knee injury, hopefully it is not too serious.
The mini’s seemed to cope very well with the conditions at half-time and waved to us excitedly as they left the pitch.
A fabulous sliding take by Conway (on his back) and an excellent kick to touch by Keatley got the second half going in a promising manner. A penalty converted made it 13-7, not the type of lead we had been hoping for, however, we were optimistic that Munster were wearing Treviso down and would reap the rewards in the final quarter and so it proved to be.
Playing the conditions, keeping it tight, plenty of mauls, scrums, pick and goes, paid dividends as captain CJ Stander got the second try after good work by the forwards in the 55th minute. Halfway to that all-important bonus point with 25 minutes left, it was far from mission impossible. Fresh legs in the shape of Dave Foley, James Cronin, and Robin Copeland added to the forward domination in the second half.
Treviso gave away penalty after penalty, (13 in all compared to just 4 conceded by Munster) but were not carded until the 74th minute by which time Munster were 3 tries to the good after another maul from a lineout secured by Donnacha Ryan and quickly transferred to Duncan Casey at the back of the pack. As one they drove forward in complete unison, Casey touching down to make it 25-7 after 69 minutes. Replacement prop Matteo Muccignat was sinbinned with 6 minutes remaining and Munster needed just 2 of those minutes before Simon Zebo crashed over from short-range to grab the bonus point and his 40th try for Munster (just 2 behind the record holder Anthony Horgan). Keatley converted to bring the final score to 32-7 before he was replaced along with Murray and Conway to give a first European appearance to Rory Scannell and a return to European action in a red jersey for Tomas O’Leary while our new signing Lucas Amorosino who got his hands on the ball once I believe before the end of the game. It was worrying to see Duncan Casey go off in the final minutes after apparently sustaining a pec injury. CJ Stander deservedly won man of the match but special mention also for Jack O’Donoghue on his European debut who put in a great shift at number 7.
Highlights can be seen here
Munster: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Francis Saili, Denis Hurley, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha; Donnacha Ryan, Mark Chisholm; Dave O’Callaghan, Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander – capt.
Replacements: Duncan Casey, James Cronin, John Ryan, Dave Foley, Robin Copeland, Tomás O’Leary, Rory Scannell, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.
Treviso: 15. Luke McLean; 14. Ludovico Nitoglia, 13. Jayden Hayward, 12. Enrico Bacchin, 11. Tommaso Iannone; 10. James Ambrosini, 9. Edoardo Gori; 1. Matteo Zanusso, 2. Ornel Gega, 3. Rupert Harden, 4. Rudolph Duncan Naude, 5. Jean-François Montauriol, 6. Francesco Minto, 7. Alessandro Zanni, 8. Abraham Jurgens Steyn
Replacements: 16. Davide Giazzon, 17. Matteo Muccignat, 18. Filippo Filippetto, 19. Dean Budd, 20. Marco Barbini, 21. Andrea De Marchi, 22. Christopher Smylie, 23. Samuel Christie
Afterwards I headed up to the bar to warm-up and dry out. It was great to catch up with Audrey and compare travel plans for next weekend and to see Steve who is on standby to help pre-book a taxi to East Midlands airport after the Leicester away game. There was a mini-reunion with some of the MRSC Dublin regulars, special thanks to Kevin who swapped my sodden program for his dry one so I had a good copy to bring home to show my parents! Bruce and Dee, Paul, James and Annika were all very complimentary about how well my article looked in the program while another James slagged me about it!.
To conclude on the theme of solidarity, it was nice to hear La Marseillaise in the MRSC bar.
Win a signed copy of ‘Where Miracles Happen – The Story of Thomond Park’, by Charlie Mulqueen and Brendan O’Dowd.
To celebrate being quoted and seeing my rugby words in print for the first time I am delighted to run a competition to win a signed copy of this new book (signed by Charlie Mulqueen, not me!).
The publisher will send it directly to the winner and have asked me to restrict postage costs to cover RoI addresses only (or I could have it posted to me and hand deliver it in Treviso or Leicester!)
To enter simply take a guess of how many views my blog of that 2008 game had received as of November 13th (hint: it is between 1000 and 1500) and send it to me via twitter (@WTView), Facebook or email: WTView@live.ie.
One entry per person, go on have a guess! It could make a handy Christmas present for someone. Closing Date: Friday November 20th. Nearest guess will win, and in the case of a draw the first (correct / nearest) guess received wins.
If you would like to read the full blog of the New Zealand game it can be found here