Solstice: Leicester: 17 – Munster: 6

As I write it is the winter solstice so every day for the next six months there will be a few more minutes of brightness. Could it be a metaphor for Munster also?  There were certainly some glimmers of hope yesterday on an unseasonably warm day in Leicester which ultimately ended in disappointment.

It’s not always easy being a Munster supporter, or indeed a supporter of any team as they go through ups and downs – Kilkenny hurling being the possible exception to that rule!  Two other clubs with great European pedigree, Leinster and Toulouse, also suffered back to back defeats in the Champions Cup, while Man United and Chelsea prove than massive budgets can’t guarantee permanent success either.  Does that mean we become fair weather fans looking for a different bandwagon to jump on or are we in it for the long haul?  I can’t answer for anyone else but I will be there cheering and singing from the terrace again next weekend, hoping that the team will finish off those chances they are making and get back on track.

Match stats are available here and the turnovers proved costly to Munster, undoing some of the good work done to get into attacking positions, especially in the second half.


An early penalty opportunity was successfully converted by Ian Keatley to put Munster into the lead after 7 minutes.  However a superb break by man of the match #15 Veainu resulted in Leicester winning a penalty after a high tackle by Keatley.  Leicester kicked for touch to the 5m line and from that lineout they drove the maul before a few phases of pick and goes resulted in a try for Slater which Freddie Burns converted.  Burns kicked a penalty to increase their advantage before a cynical infringement by #19 resulted in a sinbinning for Barrow and a penalty which Keatley converted just before half time.


Keatley lines up the opening penalty

At 10-6 down with a man advantage there was room for hope during the interval.  The Fields of Athenry could be heard at times trying to lift the team and each other.

In the opening minutes of the 2nd half Saili made a great line break but without support Leicester were able to just take the ball out of his hands.  They kicked to touch, giving Munster possession via the lineout, allowing them to keep the pressure on in the Leicester half and we thought Cronin was in for a try but the pass from Murray was unfortunately forward so it was disallowed.  Munster won a penalty from the scrum but the kick went astray as the sinbin finished and Leicester were back to 15 players.

James Cronin was a hero a few minutes later at the other end of the pitch, winning a penalty when the Tigers held on while they were threatening the Munster line.  Freddie Burns missed a penalty kick and it remained 10-6 heading into the final quarter.


Sherry tries to dive on a loose ball when it squirted out

A ball squirted loose near the Munster 5m line and Saili responded fastest, scooping it up and tearing down the field.  I was sure he was going to score as it was hard to judge how far he was from the line but as he was about to be hauled down by Veainu he got the pass away to Zebo in support but fair play to the Leicester defence they scrambled back and won the turnover for not releasing.  The adrenalin was pumping for those few minutes but shortly afterwards there were scenes of jubilation for the home supporters when winger Goneva scored after a good break by #13 Betham who had gotten the pass away despite Conway’s tackle.


Jack O’Donoghue continued to gain experience at European level, coming on for Dave O’Callaghan in the 2nd half.

Munster had some more opportunities to score at least a losing bonus point in the final quarter hour but could not convert pressure into points.   It is so frustrating for the players, management and supporters alike.

View the Match highlights.  I only had TG4’s highlights to go by and my own memories to write the blog this week so there is more about the social side than the match this week.  I did like Gerry Thornley’s review in the Irish Times which you can read here

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

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


Reception area at Welford Road

It was my first visit to Welford Road and despite the result I was glad I went.  Before the game the announcer was encouraging the crowd to engage on social media to pick the next Christmas themed song to play over the PA and sending birthday greetings.  They also reminded people about their traditions and respect, saying that only the coaches were exempt from their bad language ban!  The home supporters were very friendly and we had good banter with them.  The big screen was hard to see from where I was standing.  The walkways were kept clear behind where we had stood leaning against the barrier which meant that if people needed to go out to the bar or toilets they had a clear walkway once they got out of their section.  There were empty seats as you can see from the photo below but the scheduling so close to Christmas did not help.  They are expanding their capacity further, I expect they can fill it for the big Premiership games.


A break in play as Burns required treatment.

Planes, trains and automobiles
This was my original blog title until solstice popped into my head this morning.  A strong contingent of the Red Army turned up at Leicester. I took the train arranged via MRSC London.


The MRSC London contingent arrive by train at Leicester – photo from MRSC twitter feed. I was behind the pillar on the left!

It’s been nearly a year since I met Rob (who lives near Manchester) at the Saracens game but he had been in touch to let me know he was going to Leicester and with the help of mobile communications we found each other in the centre of town.  It was great to catch up with him and hear about how his wife had arranged a surprise meeting with Peter and Debbie Stringer to get Peter’s autobiography signed for Rob for Christmas!  They say you should never meet your icons as it can be disappointing but I was delighted (not surprised) to hear how that had not been the case with Peter.


Rob meets Peter – photo by Rebecca

Rob and Rebecca hope to get to Dublin for the Leinster game in April and the plan for next season is to attend a “home” European game so it will be great to meet them on this side of the water then.

Long time reader and commenter on the blog Peter had travelled to the game from Wales – 7.5 hours on a bus each way as he wanted to enjoy the local hostelries during his stay. It was lovely to meet him for a chat before the match. As a former front row player and referee, he remains involved in the sport he loves, coaching locally as well as supporting Munster, especially when they are playing any of the 4 Welsh teams in Wales. He highly recommends a trip to the Dragons home ground.


Lovely to finally meet Peter before the game

Last week I mentioned meeting folks who know me through the Munsterfans forum.  Before the game one of them recognised me from the blog and came over to say hello and as we were chatting he asked me to guess what his username is on the forum.  His hints were not that helpful as I went blank and eventually he had to give up and explain to me about a certain character in the Simpsons from which he took his name (now you can guess along also)   He was much less “angry” in person than he can sometimes appear on the forum and I was a bit surprised to discover that he actually reads my blogs.  He also pointed out a few other people to me by their user names, including “Glorob” who has built up a lot of experience on how to get to games by ferry and train all over France and the other exotic locations Munster have visited on their European adventures over the years as he will not travel by air.

Through the forum I had pre-arranged to share a taxi to East Midlands airport after the game for the 21.10 flight to Dublin.  Thanks to Steve for providing details of a reputable taxi company.  It turned out one of the other passengers, Paddy, lives just a few miles away from me in Dublin but the other two were on a 24 hr trip from Cork!  Kevin and Edel had taken the bus in the early hours of Sunday to Dublin airport and they were not due to arrive back in Cork until about 3am.  That’s one hell of a road-trip and demonstrates the level of commitment there is amongst supporters!  As we travelled to the airport there were plenty of stories shared about various trips taken over the years.  On the logistics side the taxi to East Midlands cost £29 and once we got out into the buslane it took less than half an hour, in hindsight we should have arranged a meeting place on the other side of the ground but we made our flight with plenty of time to spare.

On the plane another day-tripper Ciaran kept me company while his friend John took a power nap but heard enough to follow me on twitter.  I hope Ciaran survived the scrum at Dundrum shopping centre today to watch the new Star Wars film with his young son.

Munster supporters have great expertise at figuring out ways of getting to various venues and to source tickets and readily share information to help each other out.  Within two hours of the European fixtures being released this season Joe had tweeted me his travel arrangements to all 3 away European games to help me plan my trips.   However you don’t have to travel the most extreme routes through volcanic ash clouds or high seas to prove your credentials as a supporter.  Let our actions speak to that, after all the media coverage of actions by a minority at the last home game.   I hope to see some of you at Thomond on the 27th – including Luke after 3 years of views and comments from the Middle East!

In the meantime keep the faith.  Thank you for your encouragement over 2015, I hope you and yours have a happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas, and on the 27th we cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war to get our Pro12 campaign back on track.

Beannachtaí na Nollag agus Síocháin san Athbhlian


15 comments on “Solstice: Leicester: 17 – Munster: 6

  1. Like you, Gayl, we came away disappointed, but … rumours abound about changes in Munster so we will watch for real newsfrom more reliable sources .

    Some comments, Gayl, not about the game which you have covered fairly above. This was my first visit to Welford Road too.

    We had bought our tickets when they went on public sale in September and found ourselves in the midst of Leicester season ticket holders. I was amused when one of them commented “How come Munster supporters ALWAYS get tickets?” “Well,” I said, “If you put them on public sale, we will know that and will buy them”. I think I get regular emails from nearly every premiership rugby club throuigh having bought tickets over the years from them. But I was surprised how many empty seats there were, especially as Leicester are reputedly one of the best supported premiership clubs. I remember a few years ago when Bath were playing Leinster and I got tickets via a friend in Leinster. I could have named my price before that game to sell to Bath or Leinster fans. This year, I had an email a few days before that game offering me tickets and I believe the game was not sold out. So given all the whingeing I see on some Irish sites about Munster support “collapsing”, what is happening about support for rugby generally? I used to meet up regularly with fans over here for the big European games, but there seems to be far less enthusiasm for them at the moment. Is it just RWC hangover amoongst the fans? Or are they all (English as well as Irish) just a bit fed up especially since the TV rights were split over two pay-for companies?

    Another thing I noticed was how small the Welford Road pitch actually was. There are, I believe, maximum measurements for pitch but is there a minimum? Does this affect some aspects of play e.g. judging a kick to touch? Just wondering.

    The Leicester fans were unfailingly polite, but … why the constant to-ing and fro-ing to the bar? We missed one of the tries because someone was trying to get past to get yet another drink and then he came back to tell his friends that the bar had been closed. So annoying. There was some banter, but perhaps becasue we were seated in the stand rather than standing, I did not enjoy the trip as much as I have some others e.g. to Gloucester – always good craic and good conversations with Glawster fans after the game.

    Anyway, yes there was some promise yesterday especially James Cronin; SAili’s run was great, shame about the end to that. I keep getting the feeling that some of the lads are not enjoying their rugby at the moment. I know it must be hard to do so when you are losing but, some of the spark seems to have gone from some players and that bothers me nore than the results to be honest. Also I wish the media would keep out of the contract talks which are going on – none of their business and it just ramps up the pressure on players.

    Nollaig shona duitse comh maith and tá súil agam go mbeidh ath-bhliain iontach le daoine rugbaí na Mumhain.

    • Thanks Olive, you always have so much to write in your comments, do you ever think of blogging yourself? You are right there was not much of a dead ball area behind the posts and there were plenty of empty seats as you can see in the photos but a Sunday kick-off that close to Christmas was not great scheduling. We tried 2 pizza places in town about 3pm and both were fully booked so we ended up in McDs!
      We had no bother with people going in and out during the game where we were on the terrace but it is definitely one of my pet hates – esp in the Aviva, I also complained about it in my Wembley blog, maybe because I was seated for both. In our section of the west terrace people go in early and don’t drink much as they don’t want to lose their place. Plenty of time for that after the game.
      The media is driving a lot of churn for sure, contract talks including Madigan and truth or rumour about the Australian hooker being blocked.
      I remember a great Spring in 2006 when Barry and Ian emerged as first team players and helped revitalise that campaign. Hope springs eternal.

  2. Great blog. When you’re down, you’re down. Sailli’s interception proved that even when our luck was in it wasn’t enough. But there’s a season for all things. If winter comes, can spring be far behind?

  3. As usual Gayl – great piece. A couple of points:-
    The Leicester supporters are ALWAYS welcoming – a great Rugby tradition like ours.
    Your attitude sums up what a Munster supporter should be – always supportive – that does not mean we have to be blinkered – we can discuss/argue our merits/demerits whilst embracing OUR team. If we do that, the team will play for us as they have always done.
    Anyone who thinks we can compete financially with some of the bigger English and French Clubs needs their head examined. So therefore the only way we can compete is with our hearts – that was big enough in the past and will be so again.
    Beir Bua,

    • For sure Patrick, it’s not about “accepting” mediocrity but I don’t believe in kicking a guy when he is down either. The team need the 16th man more than ever at times like this. Hope to see you on the terrace soon.

  4. from Facebook: Bernie: No fair weather fan here either Gayl I’m in for the long haul.
    from Twitter: Rob: fantastic as always Gayl. Great to see you yesterday
    Kate: As usual great report Have a read @WTView always on point.

  5. Good stuff Gayl. I wasn’t there, so your away reports are help make it feel your readers are at the ground with you. Always interesting to hear the chat about who was there and who you met.

    I was more disappointed in the home defeat. I thought Munster played some good stuff on Sunday, but, we’re lacking on one or two key areas.

    Keep it up and see you on the WT on Sunday – I’m dragging my entire family!

    • Thanks Conor, looking forward to seeing you there. I am bringing my sister and brother-in-law and there will be folks home for the holidays from all over, so hope we all help to create a good atmosphere and get the 16th man to lift the spirits of the team to finish off 2015 in style.

  6. Great blog again and a pleasure to meet you on Sunday. We created chances but for a little bit of luck had we scored a try when 10-6 down it may have changed the course of the game and who knows we may have gone on to win it.
    When a team is down it needs a bit of luck and we are not getting it so as fans we have to keep supporting not knocking our lads and coaches.
    Hope that luck changes against Leinster and we kick on after it.Happy Christmas to you and all your followers and hope we all have a winning new year. Glad to see that you got my good side in the photo!!!

  7. Great as always Gayl, like Conor I was also more disappointed with home defeat, there were a lot more positives in this match. I too thought the pitch was small, I also found the stadium lighting to be on the dim side. The position of the TV cameras also blocked the view of the big screen from the terrace. Other than that I enjoyed the experience, found the Leicester fans to be very welcoming and knowledgeable in their rugby and eager to the talk with us about Munster rugby. Met Babs at stadium and Steve Garvey in pub the night before the game, it’s nice to meet up with fellow supporters and forum members. Looking forward now to the Leinster Derby and the away trips to Paris and Treviso. Keep up the good work with the blog and I will continue to read it in the new year. SUAF

    • Thanks Paul, I saw Babs on the big screen 😊. I am surprised I did not see you but maybe you were not flying via East Midlands that night. Great to see Tommy almost finished his rehab. It will be great to see him back in action. Happy Christmas to you and Linda. May see you at the derby game or in the new year. Looking forward to Treviso trip.

  8. Brilliant as always .

    • Thanks for your kind comment and for subscribing to get updates by email in future Kevin.

      If you are the man I met on the plane who I referred to as Ciaran let me know so I can correct it and also let me know how you enjoyed Star Wars! Happy Christmas

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