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Tigers triumph at Thomond: Munster: 19 – Leicester Tigers 31

On first viewing on the big screen it looked like the Leicester player would be in serious trouble for impeding Andrew Conway chasing his garryowen but as various replays were shown by the TMO I noticed the role of James Cronin leading up to that incident.  Cronin had been pushed by Dan Cole which resulted in him pushing into Fitzgerald.  It still looked like Fitzgerald saw exactly what he was doing and intentionally blocked Conway but the referee awarded the penalty against Cronin, saying Fitzgerald was off balance  and Leicester were back in the Munster half.   You can see the analysis of the incident from The42.ie here

Was it a turning point in the game?  Absolutely but not the only reason for the defeat.  Instead of being awarded the penalty Munster conceded it and the result was the first Tigers try, despite not having really threatened the Munster line in the previous half hour.  As the stats below show Munster had 66% possession in the half but went in 6-18 down at half-time.

Stats

Match stats from ESPN show why players and supporters alike are frustrated by the loss

The match Stats also show that opportunities were created but the execution was not precise enough to capitalise on them.

In the opening minutes Leicester scored a penalty through Owen Williams when Murray’s box kick had hung up in the wind to put Munster under pressure trying to exit their half.  However, they responded well.  A great break by Robin Copeland nearly led to CJ Stander getting the opening try.  When they  won a penalty instead they kicked for touch.  The maul was repelled but when James Cronin charged into contact with it the ball was lost and Munster had to build the phases again.  They continued to apply good pressure but maybe the baltic conditions from the NE wind led to a few balls being  dropped in promising positions before James Cronin made a great break to win a penalty which Keatley converted to make it 3-3 after 13′

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Dave O’Callaghan secures the lineout against the backdrop of the East Terrace – not bad quality for a photo taken by me from West terrace 🙂

Botha won another great turnover when Munster were under pressure in their own 22.  Dave O’Callaghan did the same a few minutes later keeping on his feet while contesting for the ball to force the penalty for not releasing.  From the lineout Zebo chased a great kick by Keatley and arrived in time to tackle the receiver and who arrived second to the ruck but BJ Botha to challenge for the ball and as more arrived in support it led directly to another penalty which Keatley converted to take the lead, 6-3.  Approaching the half hour mark Leicester won a penalty directly in front of the posts when Hurley was penalised for not releasing and with the wind behind him Williams again converted with a superb kick  from the half-way line to tie up the scores again.

Conway chased the restart and was taken out by Slater to give Keatley another opportunity to kick at goal but it went to the left and wide.  From the restart came the incident mentioned above with Cronin.  Conway received the deep restart and ran back before lofting a garryowen which Copeland received.  The crowd reacted to the Conway incident and Poite signalled advantage.  He called on the TMO to check the late charge and awarded the penalty from where the push happened.  From the lineout the Tigers mounted a fantastic maul.

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Tigers maul towards the Munster line

When Munster collapsed it they spun the ball wide to #11 Goneva who shrugged off the low tackle of Keatley to score in the corner.  The conversion came off the post and Munster were 5 points behind.

As Munster pushed for a score before half-time Tigers pounced.  Conway had attempted the thread the ball behind the defensive line but it bounced off a defenders leg and up into the grateful arms of Matt Smith who took off downfield with Conway in pursuit.  We roared Conway on as he gained on Smith before making a try saving tackle but Tigers still had possession.  Their cross field kick went out and it felt like we had survived the danger only for the short lineout to go long beyond the reach of the despairing Ryan and into the arms of Fitzgerald who only had to charge 5m to score the try, undoing so much good work and effort put in during the first half. BJ Botha was injured in that phase and went off for a HIA so John Ryan came into the action.

The half time score of 6-18 looked ominous but I was hopeful of a second half revival given the fact that Munster had dominated (other than the scoreboard) despite Leicester having had the wind advantage in the first half.

While the minis were playing at half time the one millionth European Rugby attendee at Thomond Park was brought onto the pitch with her daughter to be presented with a five year season ticket before Donncha O’Callaghan was interviewed which was a lovely opportunity to say farewell on both sides.

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Donncha on the big screen with Audrey’s festive hat in the foreground!

He reiterated that he is a supporter of Munster first and last regardless of where he plays and stressed to the crowd the impact they can have as they get behind the team for the crucial start of the second half.

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The team emerged early for the second half and sprinted over and back the width of the pitch before the Tigers arrived, including Rory Scannell, a late call-up for Tyler Bleyendaal

 

Munster started well, Keatley put in an excellent kick to the corner and Munster attacked the Leicester throw, driving them back.  As they were behind the line James Cronin was entitled to stretch over and touch the ball down to bring Munster to 11-18.

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James Cronin reaches over to ground the ball!

The tempo was definitely up – Earls chased a box kick to put the Tigers under pressure.  Zebo kicked deep and we cheered when Veainu fumbled the ball into touch to give Munster the throw-in.  The noise levels rose as we sensed the urgency and drive of the team.  When a late tackle on Murray resulted in a sinbin for #1 Ayerza momentum seemed to have turned in our favour.  Keatley added 3 pts and we were back in the game at 14-18!

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Men on a mission, the pack head over to the take the lineout

Copeland won the next penalty when Goneva did not release.  Intensity levels were definitely higher but little errors crept in, Keatley missed touch, Earls’ chip ahead went out on the full.  When still down to 14 men, Earls had gathered a chip by Bai, but Bai followed up to tackle him and Leicester support arrived before the red jerseys realised the danger.  Ben Youngs sniped from the base of the ruck, through the grasp of Copeland to score beside the posts making it an easy 7 pointer on 53′.

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2nd half reinforcements included Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry and Mark Chisholm

It took till the 66th minute for Munster to score again, when after stringing 13 phases together, Mike Sherry crossed the line after Keith Earls had made a great break down the wing.  That brought the score to 19-25 before Leicester (Bell) converted  a penalty to make it 19-28.  Under pressure now, chasing the game mistakes were made and another penalty conceded was again kicked by Bell, as Leicester opted to extend their lead by kicking the points rather than seeking a 4th try for a bonus point.  At 19-31 it was Munster who were chasing a losing bonus point.

Andrew Conway who had been busy all night had one more go at it, running an excellent line to get behind the defence with Zebo in support but when he popped up the pass expecting Zebo on the wrap around loop he was not where expected and the chance was gone.  CJ Stander had a final break down the west with Amorosino in support but Leicester scrambled back and prevented any further scores to take the spoils.

MUNSTER: A Conway; K Earls, F Saili, D Hurley, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; J Cronin, N Scannell, BJ Botha, D Foley, D Ryan, R Copeland, D O’Callaghan, CJ Stander (capt). Replacements: M Sherry, D Kilcoyne, J Ryan, M Chisholm, J O’Donoghue, T O’Leary, R Scannell, L Amorosino.

LEICESTER: T Veainu; A Thompstone, M Smith, S Bai, V Goneva; O Williams, B Youngs; M Ayerza, T Youngs, D Cole, G Kitchener, M Fitzgerald, E Slater (capt), B O’Connor, L McCaffrey. Replacements: H Thacker, M Aguero, F Balmain, D Barrow, T Croft, S Harrison, T Bell, G Camacho.

When you arrive on the terrace 2 hours before kick-off it is easy to be entertained by any distraction!  A few groundsmen were busy driving forks into the pitch to ensure it was in good condition despite all the rain.  We serenaded Ger and Fiona who will be married when we see them next with “I’m getting married in the morning

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The early arrivals on the WT south – some had travelled from Waterford, Cork, Tipperary and even Limerick. Photo courtesy of Joe Buckley.

 Then there was the warm-up routines of the match officials!  Some folks were singing “Hokey pokey” as one of the Assistant referees was warming up with hip movements more reminiscent of “Patricia the stripper” while the other two were encouraged with cries of “giddy up” as they took it in turns to hold the reins (see picture below).  Former Irish international Geordan Murphy, now on the coaching staff at Leicester was warning us to watch out as he worked with his players kicking for touch near us.  I also chatted to the Buckleys whose son Luke was playing with Richmond in the mini’s at half-time so they were on the west terrace to get a good look at his Thomond debut!  Who knows, maybe some of the minis we see run out each week will be back in the future as professional players!  Remember we saw Keith Woods’ son score there last December!

Also wanted to say that I appreciated CJ Stander bringing the team down to the half-way line on the West side to lead them off the pitch at the end of their warm-up to give us the chance to roar them off and not just to see them in the distance being roared off by the East side folks!

PreMatch

Prematch we watched the groundsmen work, the refs warm up and Geordan Murphy plus the choir with Oscar exhorting us to Stand up and Fight.

 I thought that the 16th man were in great voice, the “Fields of Athenry” and “Stand up and fight” rang out regularly as we tried to lift the team throughout the game.  There was frustration also and one “expert” behind me reckoned he would do a better job taking the penalty kicks.  There was a lot of talk in the press about a cheer when Keatley was subbed, personally I was clapping to encourage young Academy player Rory Scannell on his European debut but there is a “soccer-like” element creeping into the game on and off the pitch, despite the best efforts of Nigel “This is not soccer” Owens!  For sure this is a game we should have won but the players do not go out to lose a game.  Hopefully things will click soon and they will convert the opportunities they are creating into some exciting scores.

The atmosphere after the game in the MRSC bar was understandably a little subdued but it was nice to meet some folks there including a few of my forum friends.  It felt like being part of a secret society as I (Dearg Doom) introduced “Blackwarrior” to “Mr Chips”  🙂

On Thursday I am going to see “The Force Awakens” and will be hoping the team can “awaken” a force within themselves to go to Welford Road and follow in the footsteps of the team which engineered an away win in October 2006.  It won’t be easy but it is not impossible.  I will be there and I know many others who are making the trip, travelling not just from Ireland but from the continent and across the UK, (including regular commenters Peter and Rob from Wales and Manchester) while MRSC London have booked a train carriage.

Santa knows all I want for Christmas is…

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Richmond who played Skibbereen in the half-time minis posed for photos before the game.

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25 comments on “Tigers triumph at Thomond: Munster: 19 – Leicester Tigers 31

  1. Great commentary Gayl, really excellent analysis of the match, comme toujours! I arrived a bit late so wasn’t able to work my way over to the usual spot, but I’ll be there on the 27th! All the best, Mark

  2. Hi Gayle , Great article again despite the result. Just wanted to let you know its confirmed now that 12 of us will be at the Leinster match on the 27th enjoying the full corporate experience , a first for many of us. It would be great to meet up with you for a chat and you can meet the dirty dozen , we shall have a mix of Munster , Leinster , Ulster and Scarlets fans with 5 of us meeting up from Doha, I can also say your Global viewing stats will include Oman from Jan / Feb as me and the family are moving there in the New Year. I will be in touch sooner to the match to arrange meeting up but until then Merry Christmas from Doha!!!

    • Thanks for your comment & seasonal wishes, reassuring to wake up to 2 positive comments after posting the update at midnight wondering if I am delusional in my semi-optimism. It will be great to actually meet one of my first wordpress subscribers after the Leinster game. You can let me know what the view from the Corporate section is like 🙂

      PS 62 views from your part of the world so far in 2015! You must be spreading the word for me!

  3. well done Gayl, I commented to Pixie during our Sunday drive back to Dublin that you would surely dig deep and find some positives – and you did!

  4. Well done as usual Gayl rallying the followers who sure played their part on a dismal night for Munster Ar agaidh agus súas linn Munster need your encouragement

    • Go raibh maith agat! Seas suas agus troid is required next week for sure. Really appreciate the positive comments so far, I was afraid you would all think me delusional! I am sure some do but I am not changing my philosophy yet – the glass is half-full and I look forward to an upbeat positive blog recording the event when they do click!

  5. Excellent stuff as always Gayl. I’m in the glass is half full group and I think you’ll see a fine Munster performance this weekend. The score flattered Leicester and we will be better this week.

    Stand up and fight! See you there!

  6. Go raibh maith agat Gayl. It’s only half time in this back to back with the Tigers (they have 4 points) We just need to win over there by two scores and it will then be all square. Idir an dá linn it was great to see such huge support following Munster 22,261 there on Sat night according to stat from ERCC Round 3, beating Leicester Tigers top attendance in Round 1 of 20,286 http://www.epcrugby.com/matchcentre/fixtures_champions_cup.php Seas suas agus troid agus bua.

  7. Hear hear. We need an early Christmas present. Looking forward to the blog next week as I am not travelling to Welford Road. Let the Red Army roll on. We need to pull out all the stops.

  8. Refusing as I do to pay a subscription for BT Sport I was left listening to BBC Radio Leicester commentary on this game. A very interesting experience!!!

    However, in view of the result, I am holding onto the fact that in four European meetings between Munster and Leicester the home side has never won – 006 – we won in Welford Road; 2007, return match in TP – they won and of course they won at the MS. So history is on our side for Sunday.

    We’ll be there, wearing red and waving a flag.

  9. Some observations from my facebook page:
    Daryl: There wasn’t a big cheer over on the east stands when keatley went off, we clapped him off and scannell on, as we always do.
    Michael: Where i was he was getting a good bit of stick. Was 1st game I’ve noticed in a long time the amount of well steamed lads mouthing shite at some players + the referee . Probably to do with the late kick off plus closeness to christmas.

  10. Great blog again disappointing result but like you and some of your other followers I still think we can pull it off at Welford Road. There were a lot of positives from the game. Looking forward to catching up with you next weekend safe journey.

  11. Thanks Gayl. I’m in the red tinted half full glasses group too! We won’t be there on Sunday but I think the game will be a belter and Munster can definitely cut out the errors and score a few tries.
    Beidh la eile ag an slua dearg and na fir Mumhan- hopefully in Welford Rd.

    • Thanks for your contribution to the positivity, like I joked on the forum earlier it felt like a virtual group hug reading all the nice comments here today. Fingers crossed next weeks edition will indeed be an eye witness account of a belter by the boys in red!

  12. Well done Gayl – you had to dig deep I’m sure to produce that excellent performance! Enjoy the away match and, who knows, by Friday my depression may even be starting to lift!

  13. Keep up the good work Gayl – I thought the controversy about Jeering was over hyped – BUT there was an element of vocal begrudgers ( which I chastised ), in the stand – No place for that in Munster Rugby.
    Patrick

    • Thanks for your encouragement, it’s been a tough couple of weeks for Munster and hence the blog but the theme of my next edition due out tonight is the efforts supporters go to… I’m sure you’ll have a few tales to tell yourself about that subject. All the best

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