Bah Humbug! Munster: 7 – Leinster: 24


CJ leads the team off after their warm-up

CJ again led by example, tirelessly carrying the ball into the Leinster blue wall, 18 times for a total of 50 metres according to the stats while on defensive duty he made 9 tackles (of the 87 in total made by Munster) as he put his body on the line for the team. Hopefully his contribution will be rewarded by the Irish selectors.   I wonder if he feels like he is caught in groundhog day as he faces up to another post-match interview as the losing captain?  What can he say that he has not already said?  Maybe I have a little something in common with him as those recurring themes arise in this blog also.  The challenge of writing a glass-half full blog on the back of a 5th successive defeat is daunting but all I am doing is writing up a thousand or two words which may be viewed a few hundred times.  The players must be feeling a lot worse, thinking about the “what if’s” and “if only’s” as they again created plenty of opportunities but their decision making, execution or handling let them, their coaches and supporters down at crucial times. Possession and territory were all dominated by the team in red but don’t result in any league points.
Stats can be seen here


ESPN Stats

The biggest cheers of the night were reserved for Tommy O’Donnell on his return from injury – when his name was called out during the team announcements, when he was warming up on the sideline during the first half and again when he entered the fray approaching the hour mark. That was not to show any disrespect to Jack O’Donoghue who has worked really hard to convert himself from an 8 into a 7 but we have missed Tommy’s physicality especially when up against man of the match and Irish international #7 Sean O’Brien. Playing three number 8s in the backrow was always going to be a compromise but the experience will hopefully benefit Jack who is one of our brightest hopes for the future. It seems odd that the specialist 7 Sean Doyle (interviewed pitchside before the game) was only involved in the A team’s efforts in the B&I Cup for the past few weeks.

Many of the best backline moves involved Andrew Conway who put Munster on the front foot, sometimes at great personal danger as he launched himself into the air to contest a high ball or tried to find a chink to jink through, another player who has put his body on the line for Munster and I hope he will sign a contract extension.

Young Academy player Rory Scannell took on a lot of responsibility, I assume due to the ongoing quad concerns over Tyler Bleyendaal who did not take any of the restarts or kicks for touch or goal.  I had noticed in the warm up that both Simon Zebo and Lucas Gonzalas Amorosino were practicing penalty kicks and apparently if Conor Murray had started he was going to take on kicking duties but when he failed a late fitness test the responsibility passed to Rory.  It was unfortunate that his opening kick at goal was carried wide by the wind but I thought he acquitted himself well otherwise, taking on the ball often (15 times)  and looking to make ground (making 74m according to the stats).  A superb kick to the corner in the second half to pin back Leinster stood out in my memory (48th minute I noted when watching the match back).

Scannell Restarts.JPG

If I was a Leinster blogger* I would of course be delighted with the Scrooge-like defensive performance of the men in blue, their tackling, their line speed, cutting off the space to put Munster under pressure.  Garry Ringrose who had been very impressive in the Junior Rugby World Cups, playing with Jack in 2014 and also starring for Ireland U20s in 2015, proves that if you are good enough you are old enough.  It was a piece of magic from him that got Leinster onto the scoreboard. Munster had started well, pressing Leinster back into their 22 but when Tomas O’Leary was engulfed by Jamie Heaslip, Dominic Ryan secured the ball and Leinster counter-attacked getting the ball out to the far side where Ringrose (carrying the ball in both hands) had McFadden outside him putting Jack O’Donoghue in two minds facing a 2:1 on the wing.  He stayed out and Ringrose stepped inside, showing great composure to pass before being tackled by Conway for Isa Nacewa to touch down beside the posts.  Ian Madigan converted to make it 7-0.

From the restart Munster won back possession and a penalty when Sean O’Brien went offside.  Rory Scannell stepped up but the breeze took the ball to the left and wide for the left-footed kicker.  It was probably just as well that it was Saili and not Scannell wearing the player microphone for the game if my lip reading was accurate :-).  If you watched the Sky broadcast with the player mic was it interesting / worthwhile?
Updated Dec 29 as I found this (not sure I would like to listen to a whole game like this!):

The Leinster maul was strong, winning them a penalty when Munster went in from the side which Madigan converted to make it 0-10 after 14 minutes.

A high tackle on Scannell went unpunished, another Leinster player got away with not rolling away but the referee was happy to just give a warning for the high tackle.  Then Tomas O’Leary pushed Eoin Reddan after he had fed the ball into the scrum right in front of the referee giving Leinster another opportunity to clear their lines.

James Cronin required attention for his ankle and was an early substitution on 19 minutes but we are lucky to have a player of the calibre of Dave Kilcoyne to bring on in his place.

On 24’ Conway made a break and got back into the Leinster half before being pushed into touch near us.  Sean Cronin’s throw was snatched by Donncha Ryan to put Munster on the front foot.


Donnacha Ryan steals the Leinster lineout

Munster went through the phases, Kilcoyne was prominent, with Earls coming in off his wing several times to keep the attack moving before Dave Foley was penalised after hitting a ruck with his shoulder and again Leinster were able to clear the danger.


Dave Foley wins the lineout

Munster were then penalised when Leinster drove the Munster pack backwards in a scrum at 30’ but the momentum shifted again shortly afterwards when Luke Fitzgerald was penalised for a side entry to a ruck to give advantage back to Munster.  From that lineout, O’Leary was nearly caught in possession but the team scrambled well.  O’Leary’s garryowen was chased hard by Conway who challenged for the ball in the air and it came back to Saili in support.  He set Bleyendaal free and Munster kept up the pressure, Scannell made a break, Earls got a beautiful offload away to Saili, Stander drove into the 10m, Jack and later CJ again took it on and we thought Mike Sherry had scored but the TMO was happy that the Leinster player got under him so it was held up.  In the meantime, the medics had been treating Earls who had stayed down injured after getting that offload away.  There was a worried silence as we saw the stretcher being called for.  It was good to see him give the thumbs up as he was taken off the field, to be replaced by Amorosino.

From the 5m scrum, CJ picked and drove for the line, Sherry carried next, then John Ryan and Jack O’Donoghue before Saili was held up over the line and there was another scrum on the far side.  From there they worked the ball back infield where Robin Copeland finished off the move.  Rory Scannell converted to make it 7-10.  When a Leinster player knocked on to finish the half there was a cheer.  Given the strong breeze I was optimistic that Munster would take advantage of it in the second half and finish off more scoring opportunities.


The forwards exchanges were ferocious throughout

Buoyed by their try Munster came out fighting in the second half and turned down penalty goal kick opportunities to go to the corner but Leinster got their defence aligned and repelled them, pulling down a maul to concede another penalty and driving back the subsequent maul.  John Ryan and Jack O’Donoghue carried the fight to Leinster again before Tyler was penalised for not releasing when Sean O’Brien went looking for the ball, initially on his feet.

A kick ahead by Leinster was expertly fielded by Conway who counter-attacked up the far wing, offloading to Scannell in support.  Stander was next to go on a trademark barn-storming run before getting the ball away with some quick passing to Zebo on the far wing who wrestled his way out of the tackle of McFadden (UFC style perhaps? Worth watching at the 50 minute mark) to move play into their 22 as excitement grew only for a cross field kick to go backwards and momentum was lost again as Leinster swarmed forward, eventually Conway being pinged for holding on.

Then it was Munster’s turn to defend as Leinster pushed forward, Madigan’s cross field kick to Nacewa being better executed and while Scannell dragged him down short of the line, their forwards drove on and Jack McGrath scored the try which Madigan converted to make it 7-17.

Conway gingerly got to his feet after another mid-air collision – this time with Kirchner.  O’Donnell, Williams and Hurley were brought on, lifting the crowd’s spirits as Leinster were again camped in the Munster 22.


Tommy O’Donnell back in action ahead of schedule.

Munster won a penalty from the scrum and Scannell kicked them to just shy of the half-way line.  I thought Williams increased the tempo of the game.  He gave one of his trademark reverse flips to Conway.  The TMO looked at the tackle which resulted in Conway and Reddan flying through the air, landing awkwardly.  Of course we thought it was a dangerous tackle but the referee on review awarded just a penalty and not a card despite some chants of “off, off”.  Munster secured possession from their lineout at the second attempt but the defence held firm and about 6 Leinster players engulfed Saili to hold him up and win the scrum put-in. Niall Scannell was introduced at hooker, relieving Mike Sherry who had put in a great shift in defence and ball carrying when required.

Amorosino chased back to cover a kick after a turnover, sliding down to secure the ball and in the same move regain his footing, managing to evade the chasing blue shirts and getting the pass away to Zebo in a lovely piece of skill.


Munster steal a Leinster lineout on 69 minutes

Time was running out but Munster continued to attack.  Rory made a good break but a few phases later Denis knocked on.  John Ryan was replaced by Mario Sagario after putting in a good shift.  Last year he was at loosehead and this year back to tighthead, but in the Munster calendar I got for Christmas he is shown as a centre (1 / 3 perhaps not 13!)

Cian Healy limped off so Jack McGrath had to return to action as Munster waited to put into the lineout back on the Leinster 22.  O’Donnell claimed, Killer drove on then Stander, then Scannell, before Munster won another penalty and kicked for touch to the 5m line.  We raised our voices to urge them on but the lineout went astray and with it another opportunity lost.  Players threw themselves at the blue line looking for a chink, desperate for a score to salvage at least a losing bonus point.  A final lineout as the clock headed for 80, the ball was passed out wide but Zane Kirchner picked off the intercept and scored a try under the posts to bring the final score to 7-24.

Munster: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo; Tyler Bleyendaal, Tomás O’Leary ; James Cronin, Mike Sherry, John Ryan, Dave Foley, Donnacha Ryan; Robin Copeland, Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander Capt.

Replacements: Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne, Mario Sagario, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Duncan Williams, Denis Hurley, Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino.

Leinster:  Zane Kirchner, Fergus McFadden, Garry Ringrose, Luke Fitzgerald, Isa Nacewa, Ian Madigan, Eoin Reddan; Jack McGrath, Sean Cronin, Tadhg Furlong, Devin Toner, Tom Denton, Dominic Ryan, Sean O’Brien, Jamie Heaslip.

Replacements: James Tracy, Cian Healy, Marty Moore, Ross Molony, Josh van der Flier, Nick McCarthy, Cathal Marsh, Dave Kearney

It was a proud night for one Munsterman, Sean Cronin, playing his 100th game for Leinster!


* The view from my favourite Leinster blogger who shares my posts on his site

So Munster slump to 6th in the table, the 4th placed Irish province, putting their European qualification for next season on the line with the daunting challenge of a trip to Ravenhill next weekend before the back to back encounters with Stade Francais.  It could not be a tougher start to 2016.

There was a great atmosphere on the terrace, we sang, we cheered, we shouted encouragement, yes there was some “ironic cheering” directed at the officials when it was felt that they had missed some infringement. I was surprised to see that the penalty count was higher against Leinster (8:10) as it had not felt that way especially in the first half!

During half-time we celebrated the nuptials of Ger and Fiona who had been married earlier that day so were not in their usual place.


As 2015 draws to a close I want to thank those who have supported the blog this year, those who shared it, commented on it, provided anecdotes and photographs to make it the best year yet in terms of views and engagement.  Best wishes for 2016 to you and yours and to our team who need our support more than ever. Let’s keep the faith and help rebuild our fortress.




Before the match the early arrivals on the west terrace south – photo by Linda Molloy



14 comments on “Bah Humbug! Munster: 7 – Leinster: 24

  1. Hi Gayl, once again, a bit late so a few metres away from ye … another excellent report. Really frustrating our inability to follow through on excellent phases. Can’t recall how many knockons or penalties we suffered within the Leinster 22, but plenty to have changed the result had we not committed them. See you in Paris …

    • very frustrating for sure. I smiled at ref to groundhog day in Examiner article today. Not just me feeling like that.
      Enjoy Paris, I am not travelling as went there in Nov. would have gone for day trip if kickoff had been earlier. see you for return leg.

  2. Ho, Ho, Ho. Yes, easy to see all the negatives. Was surprised to see the possession stats as it didn’t feel that way. Still, looks like we are still a team ‘in transition’. We may have a long way to go yet. But, it’s looks like we are now a bit further on the right road from that home Leicester defeat. I say ….bring it on 2016….We can clean up our season. Congrats to Fiona and Ger.

  3. Hi Gayl,

    Obviously I wasn’t there, but watched on Sky (so pleased they are showing Pro12 rather than Premiership …). Disappointed yet again, so much so that I stopped when Kirchner picked up the intercept and didn’t even watch him touchdown or the conversion. Nor did I watch the post-match analysis or interviews. A bandwaggoner fan? Perhaps some may think so, but it was sheer frustration on my part. I think the most frustrating moment was when Denis Hurley knocked on in midfield when he was under no immediate pressure. I know Denis has had his critics but I have always seen him as an utterly dependable player and when he knocked on … that was an ** **** moment

    Then I had time to think, to find some positives amidst the disappointments. When I first saw Duncan Williams I thought he was awful, much poorer quality player than Cathal Sheridan. The trouble is, some fans / critics see a player’s early games and never re-assess the player after that, whether that initial assessment was that the player was good or bad. Williams is one of the most improved players in the Munster squad. He made a significant contribution in speeding up the game when he came on, which leads me to comment that Tomás O’Leary was rather disappointing.

    James Cronin, I think, has overtaken Killer at LH. So it is good to have two decent LHs in the squad. Sherry played well and N Scannell too, so I think we have a decent set of hookers when one includes Duncan Casey. John Ryan is developing well – he is still v young and learning his trade and the craft of TH – promising for the future, but putting in a good shift in the meantime.

    I felt the second row, Foley and Ryan, were strangely anonymous – really surprised me.

    Jack O’Donoghue is going along really nicely – I hope this continues. It was great to see Tommy back on a rugby pitch and playing to his usual levels of aggression.

    Of the back line, I thought R Scannell played really well and did a lot of promising stuff. Shame to see Earls going off, I hope we have good ne3s on that front once he has been assessed. Zebo seems to have somewhat lost the joy he used to have in playing rugby. I don’t know why – is it RWC hangover? Or contract negotiations? Or just being on a losing team? I don’t know but he seems to have los the smile which was so integral to his play. And I wish he could find it again because he is only half the player without it.

    Overall, I am sure the Leinster supporters will be really pleased with their win – as we were last year. But neither team were good. On the evidence of both teams’ performances I doubt any opposition will be quaking in their boots at the prospect of meeting either team. Although the scoreboard ahowed a 17-point differential at the end, I don’t believe that Leinster are that much better than Munster – at the moment. This might be interpreted as sour grapes from a poor loser, but I honestly don’t meant it to be. Leinster were worthy winners, but the overall standard of play from all of the thirty+ players who took part was not very high. There were some good individual moments, but the quality was not there. Most of the excitement was generated from the game being a post-Christmas derby which has so much history.

    So onwards and upwards – to Ulster next. I may not see the game … but I will be cheering the men in red on. Some day,hopefully sooner rather than later, all those passes will stick, the maul will move forward, the lineouts will be won cleanly, the scrum will be a thing of beauty and Munster will return to winning ways. In the meantime we will continue to support them, even if from a distance, and we will all SUAF.

    Happy New Year and may all your blogs in 2016 report on Munster wins (well most of them anyway).

    • Thanks Olive and many happy returns to you also. I included the link to the Leinster blogger Harpin’ on rugby above and he was delighted with their defence which was impressive, but like our losses to Leicester it felt like we shot ourselves in the foot more than they won it as well as the scoreline indicated. Connacht to me were the most impressive team we lost to. Selection for the Ulster game will depend on Camp Ireland, injuries, rotation etc so it may be a good opportunity for some players to step forward and show what they have to offer. All the best

      • Connacht have been the most impressive Irish team I have seen this year – and that allows for the Ulster wins over Toulouse. Their handling and overall skill levels which they showed in the game against us were simply tremendous. It left me wondering why anyone would suggest that Henshaw should move away from Connacht – to ANY of the other three teams. Pat Lam has got a really good system in place there and the players are thriving on it.

      • isn’t all the transfer speculation tiresome, a distraction to be honest. often completely unsubstantiated! Will be interesting to see how many Connacht players will be included in the Ireland camp although all their injury issues may curtail that. connacht could well qualify for Champions Cup next season, deservedly so. Maybe we will end up on a trip to Siberia…perish the thought.

  4. Had to share this comment from MunsterFans.com as it made me smile: From ACSkerries: well done Gayl, you’re a bit like a pigeon after a cattle mart, working hard to pick out the few pieces of good nutritious grain from the heaps of steaming sh1t that abound. But sure, pigeons thrive don’t they?

    Also from Call999: Another fine blog. Depressing to read because it brings back the pain again.

  5. Hi Gayl, gutted by another defeat but some positive signs from some of the younger players again we have to keep the faith with these lads and they will keep improving. We are not getting any luck at the moment and hopefully that will change in 2016 glad that Keith Earle injury is not as bad as it looked.

    • thanks Peter, yes it is good that Keith is ok, always looks serious when stretcher is called but better safe than sorry. I expect more of the young guns to be unleashed in Ravenhill. maybe they will stake a claim for senior team as Barry & Ian did when they broke through in 2006 🙂

  6. Well done Gayl. I don’t know where you get the motivation or energy. Your consistency and commitment needed to be replicated by the team. Thanks for your blogs in 2015 and (I think) I’m looking forward to next year ….. gulp….

    • Thanks Conor, it was lovely to meet your family at the game. I think I am hooked on blogging and lovely comments like yours feed my addiction! Hopefully the new year will bring us those improvements in execution that will turn the season around

  7. Gayl

    There is no reply button above, but yes, I do hope that Connacht have some decent representations in Ireland’s 6Ns squad.

    Re trip to Krasnoyarsk – I shouldn’t bother if I were you. I’ve been there and it is seriously unexciting. However, my travelling companion was distinctly nervous when we were in the airport waiting for our flight out, waiting and waiting and waiting with not an English speaker in sight and my Russian limited to Please and Thank you. When a woman (Think Rosa Kreb from James Bond) told us to “Follow me”, my friend got even more nervous. I don’t think my comment “Don’t worry, they won’t be sending us to Siberia as we are already there!” was reassuring to her.

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