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Red Card: Stade Francais: 27 – Munster: 7

Doesn’t your heart go out to CJ Stander having to face into another post match interview on the losing side after playing his heart out, making his tackles, carrying the ball, losing his shirt and being subjected to foul play?  He had said (in his interview in the Irish Examiner) after the Ulster game that the recent run of losses had felt not like a “monkey on his back” but more like a skyscraper but the respite from that victory is gone again after the latest result.

Next up was Anthony Foley, the interviewer seemed to be hoping for a breaking news story as to the changes that would be made but Foley was not going to oblige him with a resignation.  You can see the strain he is under and how much Munster means to him – as Gerry Thornley had written about in the Irish Times.  If the sheer will power of CJ and Axel were enough to ensure success then Munster would have won the group but there are serious issues which need to be addressed.

Former player, Munster legend and now pundit Alan Quinlan was upset and frustrated.  As he said on Sky Munster have “no divine right to win.”  However, the legacy of the teams who established the tradition of Munster in the ERC deserves better.  Munster of old did not steam roll through the pool stages, often needing a last minute piece of drama, a drop goal, a try by Wally at the death if not a full-blown miracle to qualify for the knock-out stages but they always went down fighting and very often snatched at least a losing bonus point to keep in contention.  Often times in those good old days  the French team in the pool had raised the white flag long before arriving in Thomond Park

John Broderick was equally passionate on the TG4 highlights program and like plenty of Munster supporters across social media after the game he was waving a literal red card at several within the Munster set-up – players and management – out of frustration and disappointment.

Stats_Jan9

The stats from ESPN – may be updated tomorrow but initial report shows how their line breaks and defenders beaten sealed the win

It’s hard to get your head around what happened in the second half in Paris.  How did a team with 14 men outplay 15 and outscore them by 17:7?

Well they started with a statement of intent – a scrum from a knock-on and they kept the ball at the feet of Parisse as they marched Munster back to win a penalty and clear the danger.  Down a back, Stade kept the ball in the pack as much as possible, happy to scrum and maul and suck the life out of Munster as the clock ticked down.  Robin Copeland gave away a penalty when he did not come through the gate to pick up a loose ball and Steyn made it 13-0 after 52 minutes.

Finally on the hour mark Munster got an opportunity to exploit the space on the far side with O’Donoghue feeding Saili who passed to Rory Scannell and we were delighted for the young player on his first European start but unfortunately it was called back for a forward pass from Saili.

A few minutes later came the try of the game as almost from halfway another young player, 20 year old Sekou Macalou handed off and stepped around three or four tacklers to score in the 66th minute.  A bonus point still did not look likely until full back Hugo Bonneval scored their third try after getting through some weak tackles in the 70th minute.

Munster’s only score came a few minutes later, Zebo kicked ahead down the sideline, Niall Scannell was there to keep the ball alive and Conor Murray touched down.  While Scannell may have had a toe in touch surely Zebo had been held back so I think it was deserved, albeit too little too late.  Rory Scannell stepped up for the difficult conversion and his low kick went between the posts.  Stade were still hunting for a winning bonus point and almost got it too before time ran out.

The early injuries to Andrew Conway, BJ Botha and Tommy O’Donnell obviously disrupted the team but they rallied well in the first half and were unlucky not to have scored the first try through Ian Keatley after some lovely offloads from Scannell to Earls and onto Keatley who was just beaten to the chase after his kick ahead was grounded by #11 Raisuqe. A subsequent penalty kick went to the left and wide.  A second good opportunity came when Earls chased Murray’s box kick to win back possession.  Stander charged into their half and the ball was quickly recycled to the backs where Zebo, Saili and O’Mahony combined well to get into the opposition 22 before being penalised for holding on.  Instead it was Stade Francais who scored twice in the last ten minutes- a try by Paul Williams converted by Steyn who added a penalty in the closing minutes of the half to go in 10-0 up.

Earlier in the first half Nigel Owens had told Dupuy to stop play-acting when he looked for a penalty after a trip but since he had been playing offside Nigel was having none of it.  However just before half time Zebo sent a pass which Stander failed to collect on his knees.  As both he and Raisuqe went for the ball the latter pushed CJ back with his hand – making eye contact – so he was shown a red card to the noisy disgust of the Parisians – disgust at the card not the offence it seemed.

Ian Keatley had a penalty kick from the other side of the pitch for the earlier advantage but it also was off target, no thanks to the ongoing objections of the local supporters.

CJ wasn’t the only one who played his heart out – did you see Dave Kilcoyne playing with an egg sized bump over his eye? By the end of the game you would think he could hardly see out of it. Did you see the turnovers won several of which when under pressure in the first half which only served to make those missed tackles all the worse in the second half as the team seemed to disintegrate before our eyes as Stade used their powerful scrum to force penalty after penalty and suck the spirit out of the team.

Killer_sportsfile

Sportsfile tweeted this photo of Dave Kilcoyne

STADE FRANÇAIS PARIS: Hugo Bonneval; Julien Arias, Waisea Vuidarvuwalu, Paul Williams, Josaia Raisuqe; Morné Steyn, Julien Dupuy; Zak Taulafo, Laurent Sempéré, Paul Alo-Emile; Hugh Pyle, Paul Gabrillagues; Sekou Macalou, Sylvain Nicolas, Sergio Parisse (capt).  Replacements: Rabah Slimani for Alo-Emile (47 mins), Laurent Panis for Sempéré (48 mins), Jonathan Danty for Arias (51 mins), Heinke Van der Merwe for Taulafo (53 mins), Jonathan Ross for Nicolas, Julien Tomas for Dupuy (both 71 mins), Gerhard Mostert for Gabrillagues, Jules Plisson for Bonneval (both 73 mins). Sent off: Raisuqe (40 + 1 mins).

MUNSTER: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, BJ Botha; Dave Foley, Mark Chisholm; Robin Copeland, Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander (capt).  Replacements: Ronan O’Mahony for Conway (9 mins), John Ryan for Botha (11 mins), Jack O’Donoghue for O’Donnell (23-30 and 36 mins), Mario Sagario for Ryan (58 mins), Niall Scannell for Sherry, Denis Hurley for Keatley (both 69 mins), Billy Holland for Chisholm (79 mins). Not used: Tomas O’Leary.

Highlights on Sky:

http://www.skysports.com/rugby-union/news/12332/10124766/european-champions-cup-stade-francais-beat-munster-27-7

It is a shame that the next 2 games are dead rubbers.  Should Munster stand up and fight next week for their pride and to start rebuilding fortress Thomond or do they blood some of the younger players?  After losing to Connacht, Leicester and Leinster they need to draw a line in the ground as if to say “thou shalt not cross”, this is our field but as Quinny was saying there is no quick fix.  Tearing up season tickets isn’t going to help but people are free to react how they see fit.  I’ll be there bright and early on the west terrace to do my bit to help with the rebuilding process, not because I accept mediocrity but because I am a Munster supporter who despite recent disappointments is hoping that my team will challenge for the Pro12 play-offs while putting the changes required in place for next season.  Peter O’Mahony is due back in April.  Let’s hope we’ll still be in contention for the play-offs and qualification for Europe then.  We have been talking about transition long enough, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and put the right plan in place, on the field and in the organisation overall.  Francis Saili in The42.ie interview spoke about improving the basic skills starting with the Academy – “I guess that’s what I found different in coming to this side of the world, the skill level. Because back home, oh man, we work on that every time we train

Standing Room Only

We had our biggest crowd of the season in the River Bar with MRSC Dublin, including Paddy with whom I shared a taxi after the Leicester away game.  Many people turned up just as or after the game had started, so when we ran out of seating we had to ask the staff to turn on the big screen in the other area and set up chairs and tables there for folks.  The Munster turnovers and penalties won were all cheered and we were holding the man beside me responsible for our woes when both times he left to go to the rest room Stade scored!  Not once but twice!  Coincidence or not we strongly recommended he not go again!

RiverBar_MainArea

The early arrivals in the River Bar

It was not all doom and gloom – congratulations to James and Annika- in the front row to the right – on their recent engagement.

There was a major post-mortem after the final whistle and the first time I ever heard people shushing to hear what Anthony Foley had to say.  There was a lot of agreement with the sentiments expressed by Quinny and plenty of theories about what needs to be done.  Jim suggested the title “at 6s and 8s”, bemoaning our lack of depth at 7, Jack continues to impress but when Tommy went off we had three natural #8s on the pitch.

RiverBar_big screen

The latecomers who overflowed into the other half of the downstairs area. Well done to the lads from the Committee – James and Kevin + helpers – for sorting out tables and chairs for them when they arrived.

 

A selection of match reviews / post mortems from the press:
http://www.irishtimes.com/sport/rugby/european-cup/gerry-thornley-munster-down-and-out-after-paris-humiliation-1.2491235

http://www.irishtimes.com/sport/rugby/european-cup/anthony-foley-same-old-failings-let-munster-down-again-1.2491250

http://www.the42.ie/munster-cj-stander-stade-francais-2540157-Jan2016/

http://www.the42.ie/alan-quinlan-munster-stade-failure-2539988-Jan2016/

http://www.the42.ie/munster-stade-francais-talking-points-2540104-Jan2016/

http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/champions-cup/munster-exit-with-a-whimper-as-stade-expose-gulf-in-class-34349736.html

http://www.independent.ie/sport/rugby/munster-rugby/munsters-troubles-run-a-lot-deeper-than-foleys-struggles-in-the-hotseat-34349741.html

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13 comments on “Red Card: Stade Francais: 27 – Munster: 7

  1. It really does feel like the end of something, but I said that last year and the year before too! Hope will kill us all.
    Keep us hoping Gayl!

    • Thanks Derek. This definitely felt like the lowest point in recent years. The hope of seeing Munster rise like a phoenix keeps us going. Let us take a page from Connacht’s template, they have achieved a lot in recent years. let’s put the structures in place, starting with training in one base as a team and improving skillsets etc. Hard to find the glass half full attitude this week 😡

      • Keep her goin’ Gayl – The glass is always half full. Its easy for the so called supporters to hold up the “Munster by the grace of God” flag when were winning – Nothing has changed – Let em hold it up NOW. We have no choice – we ARE Munster.
        Start Again. Keep the faith, win lose or draw.

      • Thanks Patrick, this blog could become the social record of Munster’s rise from the ashes! As you wrote we are Munster, this is OUR team and with CJ leading us and Peter to return we have hope 🙂

  2. I applaud your column this week. It’s is very easy to write when we are winning but it takes true style to write about a losing streak. Sure, it may be the beginning of the end of an era but there is always hope….We will come back. Let’s show the true fighting spirit and bring back pride in the jersey. I hope people come out in force next week to show we care about Munster and are behind them – win, lose or draw.

  3. CJ came over to us in the airport this morning, shook or hands, thanked us for travelling and apologised for the performance. You could see he was bitterly disappointed.

  4. We got to keep the faith felt sorry for Axel we have a saying in Wales you can only knit with the wool you have and at the moment Munsters wool is very limited. CJ and a few others battled well but the gulf in class and resources was shown by the strength of the francais bench. I agree with some of Quinnys comments about change but I think the people above Axel need to get a major investors on board and bring in some big name players who can also pass on some southern hemisphere skill levels to match the fans passion and hope.

  5. Thanks for the link Gayle a great read and some very good points hope they are taken on board by the hierarchy.

  6. Hi Gayl. Munster having failed to qualify for Heineken playoff in this 2016 season can consider itself in good company with the likes of Leinster, Toulouse and also Toulon a possibility. Looking back on stats, at least one of these four clubs between them were Heineken Cup finalists in the following years,1996, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
    This past week however Munster alone certainly has got the media attention. Now I think it’s up to us supporters, those that can travel, not forgetting those watching on Sky Sports around the world, to stand up and be counted. Let our songs and voices be heard next Saturday and cheer our team out onto the field and give Stade Francais a real Munster welcome. To the brave and faithful nothing is impossible.

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