15 Comments

Eagles soaring at top of the table: Munster 12: Connacht 18

Maybe their recent sojourn in Siberia with it’s natural cryotherapy properties helped Connacht adapt better to the wind-chill factor in Thomond Park but the eagles swooped in, lined up their prey and left with the spoils to extend their lead at the top of the Pro12 table.  My half-time tweet summed it up really:

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My tweet (referring to their new superhero style jerseys)

The first half stats back it up also, as Munster hardly got their hands on the ball in the first half, while Connacht were retaining possession, offloading before the tackle, changing the angle of attack at will, with support runners providing options to the ball carrier while their ball-handling skills belied the conditions.

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Match stats from ESPN

Ultan Dillane almost opened the scoring but while he crossed the line three defenders scrambled back to prevent him  grounding the ball.  An unintentional high tackle – mainly due to the player slipping as Donnacha Ryan tackled him – gave Connacht a penalty when Ronaldson converted to take a 0-3 lead.

With 17 minutes on the clock Tiernan O’Halloran slipped but managed to regain his balance and scythed his way to the line to score the opening try which was converted by Ronaldson to make it 0-10 after 17 minutes.  The referee was so surprised that he had not been tackled en route that he checked for any blocking but there was no reason not to award the try.

Munster responded within minutes, winning a penalty and from the resultant lineout claimed by Jack O’Donoghue they mauled their way forward before Niall Scannell peeled away with Mark Chisholm in support driving him over the line to score.  The conversion was unsuccessful and so it remained 5-10 until half time.

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Connacht win their lineout in the 1st half

Munster played with more intent which created opportunities in the second half but made slow progress, taking the ball into contact after contact, before a missed pass, a slip or lack of support allowed Connacht back into the game.  It was a penalty for not releasing in the tackle which allowed Connacht score first in the second half in the 57th minute when Ronaldson moved Connacht out to 5-13.

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Some good breaks by Copeland, Cronin and Saili in the 2nd half

A good break by Earls kick-started a move which got Munster into the Connacht half.  Playing with advantage after Connacht went offside, Keatley broke through a few tackles before offloading to Conway but as John Muldoon had tackled Conway before the pass the TMO and referee agreed that Muldoon should be sent to the bin and to our delight a penalty try was awarded which Keatley converted.

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The new sin-bin chair, apparently sponsored by the Binman!  There was a very different expression on John Muldoon’s face at the final whistle

Munster could not make their numeric advantage count during the sinbinning and when Connacht’s captain was restored they seemed to go up a gear again.  Earls was burned by Healy showing a great burst of speed but Earls recovered enough to make a tap tackle to slow down the green tide.  It delayed the inevitable, the move ending with Henshaw making a break and getting the pass to Bundee Aki as he was tackled.  I thought (wishfully) that the pass might have been forward but the TMO checked and was happy with both the pass and with the grounding so the score stood.  The difficult conversion angle enabled Munster to salvage a losing bonus point when Ronaldson’s kick was wide but in truth it was more than Munster deserved but we’ll take it.

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Munster spent too much time in their own half

From the restart Conway jumped high to claim the ball and give us hope for a final chance to salvage our home record but it was not to be and Connacht earned their first win at Thomond since 1986!   You could see from their celebrations at the full-time whistle how much this meant to them and their supporters who had travelled in numbers.  Congratulations to the #1 province in Ireland, Superheroes indeed!  The other three Irish provinces can learn a lot from Connacht and the exciting brand of rugby they are playing.

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Connacht top of the table and top Irish province after 8 rounds.

A big improvement will be required by the home team for the visit of Leicester in 2 weeks time which will kick off a crucial period for Munster as it will be followed by the trip to Welford Road, then home for the visit of Leinster, away to Belfast and then to Paris before the visit of Stade Francais and the game in Treviso by which time our European fate will be determined.

MUNSTER – A Conway; G van der Heever (D Hurley 51), K Earls, F Saili, L Gonzalez Amorosino; I Keatley, T O’Leary (D Williams 66); J Cronin (D Kilcoyne 62), N Scannell, BJ Botha (J Ryan h-t); D Ryan (D Foley 57), M Chisholm; CJ Stander (capt), J O’Donoghue, R Copeland.

CONNACHT – R Henshaw; T O’Halloran (D Leader 69), B Aki, C Ronaldson, M Healy; AJ MacGinty (J Carty 47), K Marmion; D Buckley (R Loughney 55), S Delahunt (D Heffernan 62), N White (F Bealham 59); U Dillane (G Naoupu 64), A Muldowney; J Muldoon (capt), J Connolly, E Masterson (S O’Brien 57).

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View from the East terrace of the sinbin thanks to Ian Falconer for sharing!

Tommy O’Donnell was interviewed pitchside pre-match and it is great to see him back in training.  Hopefully he will have a key role to play in January when Munster will have three European games back to back as the Stade Francais game has been rescheduled to the weekend of January 8-10.

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Pre-match interview with Tommy O’Donnell

Thanks to the MRSC members Babs, Joe and Donna who offered me the use of their tickets when I tweeted during the week that there were not any available to buy for the west terrace as I wanted to get one for my niece Clodagh since she was visiting Thurles for the weekend to help make the plum puddings.  Before the game Pascal warned that as it was her first visit, if we lost she would be held accountable!  Maybe her father’s Roscommon blood was channelled through her to have an influence on the result.  She enjoyed meeting some of my friends on the west terrace, hearing the banter and the helpful advice for the referee and even before the game for the flag bearers who Tony insisted were offside since they had lined up on the “wrong” side of the 10m line!  She even got to see her Aunt being recognised by a stranger who made my evening by coming over to pay me the compliment of saying that I have a “lovely way with words!”

For those who don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook the competition last week was won by Linda Coleman Poyntz who guess of 1213 views was closest to the actual number of views for the blog of the 2008 game so she received the signed copy of Charlie Mulqueen’s “The Story of Thomond Park” in which that blog has been quoted (pages 190-192). Congratulations Linda and thanks to all who took the time to enter the competition.

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My blog is quoted in the new book by Charlie Mulqueen – The Story of Thomond Park

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15 comments on “Eagles soaring at top of the table: Munster 12: Connacht 18

  1. Great read again I was very impressed with the style of Connacht rugby and thought the referee was very good throughout the game. Big improvement from us in the second half. Will be a tough few weeks starting at the Dragons next week and those back to backs v Leicester. Looking forward to meeting up with some of my Limerick friends at Welford road but a visit to the Dragons for me first and hoping for a win to get the confidence back for Europe.

  2. Great post! I enjoyed going to Thomond with you for the first time. Looking forward to going again already:)

    • I will have to apply for special dispensation from Pascal and the other regulars to let you back in 😊 Maybe it was the lunar cycle and storm Clodagh raging that combined to result in the win for Connacht this time. Glad you enjoyed the blog.

  3. From twitter – the sinbin got a few comments this week:
    Ian reports from the east terrace: poor guy was getting some stick from terrace when it was produced. Laughed it all off well!

    Sean: all the sinbin seat is missing is a naughty step to get there!

  4. Hi Gayl, I was that “stranger” and am honoured to have been mentioned in your blog. I’m delighted to have “made your evening” as you have certainly made mine. 🙂
    Cheers, B

    • You won’t be a stranger the next time Brian and it did make my night as it was a lovely compliment! Not many people take the time to comment so I wonder sometimes if the “view” #s I see are just people clicking in and out as quickly! The retweets, shares and when people sign up to get the email notification of new posts are the best indicators I have that some people like what I write. This weeks edition won’t get too many views due to the result but hopefully we’ll see a big improvement in intensity for the Leicester & Leinster visits and re-establish our fortress.

  5. Great Blog Gayl. Definitely Munster had the wrong game plan. The West Awake -Connacht definitely wanted the win more. Great to see supporters mingling after match in the MRSC Bar. Hopefully we’ll beat the Dragons, Tigers and Lions before New Year of the Monkey.

    • Thanks Tony. You could see how much it meant to Connacht and I smiled to see a newspaper report saying how the Siberia experience had helped them overcome tough challenges! So my opening sentence is relevant! See you for the Tigers visit.

    • Best of luck to Munster A in their next home game in the B&I Cup against Ospreys on Dec 11th in Limerick. Leicester Tigers visit on Sat 12th Dec and let’s hope the Thomond Park roar is there to greet them.

  6. Whatever about the result, as a Munster fan I too am disappointed, you can say that it was without a shadow of a doubt the best game of rugby over the weekend in the Pro12. I am part of a FB group with fans from most of the Welsh, Scottish and the other two Irish teams, and most of them were disappointed with the quality of rugby in their games, whatever their results. So at least we can say that.

    It was a cracker of a game. In the first half, Munster were chasing shadows and the proof of this was when the ref Ben Whitehouse went to the TMO for the first Connacht try. O’Halloran should never have got through. It was an astonishing run. BTW did you know that young Ben is the son of Nigel Whitehouse who used to ref back in the day.

    I am not surprised that you didn’t mention the controversy over the penalty try. A lot of Munster fans would have been embarrassed if that had made a difference to the final result, but in the after match analysis, Scott Quinnell went through it and he changed his mind after that. Quinny was also agreeing that it could have been a pen try.

    Final thing I want to say: lots of people have made much of Muinster’s 22 missed tackles in the first half. But, over the whole match, according to ESPN they missed only 23 against 27 by Connacht; Sky’s version was 26 missed by Munster and 27 by Connacht. Not much difference.

    Onward and upwards. Shall you be at Welford Road, Gayl? Pre-Christmas present to myself and my other half.

    • Hi Olive, the stats were interesting, as you wrote a lot made of Munster’s missed 22 in the first half including for O’Halloran’s try but I was surprised how much possession Munster had in the 2nd half and how many chances went a-begging. Not clinical enough but something they can work on, at least they made the chances.
      The penalty try – yes I heard Quinny on the last word yesterday saying that from the high camera angle it looked justified but I had not realised it was so controversial till I read the newspaper reports afterwards. On the terrace some were calling for it and we were delighted to get it, I did not feel embarrassed at all! I did think Connacht deserved their win and we were lucky to get the LBP. I wonder if the earlier exchange when the ref had told Muldoon to show him more respect may have had a minor influence on the ref later.. Ben Whitehouse is young but I think he is developing well and those derby games are always heated so he handled it relatively well.
      Yes I have tickets for Welford Road, never been there before but it is one of those places on my rugby bucket list! Hopefully we will win the home leg first! Plenty to work on in the meantime.

  7. Hi Gayl, only getting round to reading this now. Great post and agree with the comments here. Was a good crowd in The River bar in Dublin watching it and we also has some Connacht supporters. No doubt they wanted it more and got some texts from fellow work colleagues in the immediate aftermath. Have to agree, we played without passion, intensity or urgency but what impressed me most on the night was the variety of skills that Connacht displayed – they totally outplayed us and wanted it more. In relation to the penalty try incident, John called it in real time and endless to say I thought he was having a laugh, however he was correct. Need to up it big time for the upcoming back to back matches.

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