The miracle of miracles was not to be as ultimately the powerhouses of English and French rugby sewed up quarter final qualification but looking at their attendances I am sure some of them would love to have the support base of the red army which travelled in numbers to the north of Italy this weekend. Racing Metro can afford Dan Carter but their attendances at their last 2 home games in the Champions Cup were less than 9K each!
The damage was done in December with the home defeat inflicted by Leicester or self -inflicted as 19 points would have been enough to qualify and we’ll never know how the game in Paris would have gone had it taken place as scheduled in November when Stade Francais were struggling, plenty of what-ifs and might have beens. Interestingly Wasps lost a home game to Bath but still managed to go through on 20 points with 4 wins while Pool 2 saw all 4 teams with 3 wins each – a shock to see Clermont lose at home! – allowing Exeter through to the quarter finals for the first time.
Hopefully lessons have been learnt and we will see the intensity and performance levels required to ensure the restoration of the Thomond fortress. I agree with Billy Holland’s view in the Examiner last week that the team need to put in a consistently high level of performance as they cannot rely purely on an emotional response. There were some execution issues at the game in Treviso, forward passes, penalties conceded etc. but the game itself had plenty of excitement, at times being played at a barbarians pace.
Dave Foley disrupted the first Treviso lineout while his second row partner charged through to secure possession and put Munster on the front foot. However Treviso put in a choke tackle to win the first scrum put-in.
John Ryan won a penalty from that scrum and Keatley kicked it to find touch inside their 22m. Donnacha secured possession, the maul was formed but not gaining traction when Murray broke from the back before passing to Ronan O’Mahony who had been lurking directly behind the maul. He took an excellent line to score and we thought the flood gates would open early. However handling let them down at times in the high tempo game. A forward pass to Zebo came at the end of a breakneck passage, started when Earls had scooped up a loose pass inside the Munster 22, he took off downfield before passing to Saili, who passed to Scannell approaching half way. He in turn passed to O’Donnell who stretched his legs as he raced into their 22 and Munster could smell the whitewash when it all came to nought due to the forward pass.
Earls and Saili were involved in another great break but Treviso turned the ball over in the tackle. Treviso won a penalty which Ambrosini tried to kick but it fell short. The restart by Saili had us roaring again as he raced over the half-way line before passing to Earls in support. Did he mean to or was he intending to dummy the restart? Whichever, it made for exciting play. Another forward pass eventually handed possession back to Treviso but deep in their own 22. Munster won back possession and Zebo almost got to take over the record of most tries scored but was held up, however Munster had advantage and took the penalty quickly. Dave Kilcoyne drove on to score the second try which Ian Keatley converted to make it 0-14 in the 16th minute.
Four minutes later Munster were back on the Treviso 5m line when there was mass confusion. The Assistant Referee spotted something and the TMO was asked to review. Munster thought they were being awarded the penalty but the decision went against them! From the lineout arising from that penalty, Earls rose high to gather the box kick. He appeared to be taken out but no card was issued as #14 Pratichetti was also in the air so it was treated as a penalty but we were not impressed, seeing it as another inconsistency in how referee’s interpret and apply the rules. The sinbinning of Ronan O’Mahony the previous week for a similar offence was fresh in our memories, but watching the game again the key difference seems to be that O’Mahony was on the ground that time.
A penalty against Foley for tackling a player without the ball gave Treviso a good attacking position, but Billy Holland stole Treviso’s lineout and Munster cleared the danger. That penalty also earned Munster a team warning for conceding too many penalties.
A choke tackle which we expected to win possession for Munster instead resulted in another penalty against Foley as the Treviso player had gotten to ground. From that Treviso lineout and maul Billy Holland found himself sent to the sinbin for entering from the side according to the referee.
Treviso scored from the next penalty when they got their maul motoring for Lazzaroni to ground the ball. The conversion attempt, this time by Hayward came back off the post.
The Munster scrum – down a man – went in reverse giving Treviso another penalty opportunity but they were penalised at the lineout and the first half ended with a loose pass by Munster going out of play.
Munster came out fighting in the second half. From a lineout the pack set up the maul and drove Treviso over the line despite still being down to 14. Ian Keatley had lined up the conversion when the TMO intervened, play was stopped and the try disallowed as the verdict was that CJ had knocked on. It seemed mad as the referee had been in the perfect position to see the score and had awarded it!
However there was no mistake on 49′ Ryan secured the lineout, Murray spotted a gap and burst through to score a try, after an outrageous dummy to wrong foot the fullback and score under the posts. CJ Stander was taken off to a standing ovation – in recognition of his superb performances for Munster and to wish him well as he heads to Carton House to meet up with the Irish team. He was replaced by Jack O’Donoghue.
The younger members of the team combined well to set up the 4th try. Niall Scannell, on for Mike Sherry – put in a tackle which seemed to knock the ball out of the Treviso player’s hands, a few phases later he was on hand to take the pass from Murray after Cronin had made a break. He in turn gave a great pass to Jack O’Donoghue about the Munster 10m line. Jack burst through into open space and looked for support, putting in an excellent pass to Ronan O’Mahony steaming through on his outside to score.
A few minutes later when Treviso kicked the ball long, Saili made a dramatic attempt to touch the ball down when lying on the ground with his feet out of play to get the restart from where it had been kicked but the referee insisted on a 22 dropout instead. You had to admire his audacity!
There was another incident requiring TMO input in the closing minutes which led to Conor Murray being penalised for a late tackle and that was cause for the locals to call on the referee to issue a yellow card but he was happy that a penalty would suffice.
J Hayward; A Pratichetti, E Bacchin (S Christie, 63), A Sgarbi, S Ragusi (T Iannone, 45); J Ambrosini (L McLean, 67), A Lucchese; M Zanusso (A De Marchi, 63), O Gega (D Giazzon, 45), S Ferrari (S Manu, 45); M Fuser, J-F Montauriol (T Palmer, 45); M Lazzaroni (M Barbini, 63), A Zanni – captain, A Steyn.
S Zebo; K Earls, F Saili, R Scannell (G van den Heever, 68), R O’Mahony; I Keatley, C Murray (T O’Leary, 73); D Kilcoyne (J Cronin, 45), M Sherry (N Scannell, 63), J Ryan (M Sagario, 67); D Foley (M Chisholm, 68), D Ryan; B Holland (R Copeland, 63), T O’Donnell, CJ Stander – captain (J O’Donoghue, 54).
Looking at the stats I was surprised to see that Treviso had the majority of possession according to these stats while the penalty count was 10 – 13.
Highlights are available: http://www.epcrugby.com/matchdaytv?play=media&id=22647
There was great singing of the Munster anthems during the game while the home team supporters chanted – Lay – oh – knee or leone (lions). The French referee Alexander Ruiz came in for a bit of abuse at times as his decision making and hand signals were confusing. Thanks to Tony for sharing with me the 53 different official hand signals in his comment to last weeks blog.
Post match some of the supporters thawed out in the club bar while others headed for the bus to get back into town before dark. I met Hilary and Co. in one of the many pizzeria’s later that evening and she was still buzzing about meeting some of her heroes:
Treviso is a small stadium and their supporters were nearly outnumbered on the day – the official attendance was just 3,200. There are two stands – one covered with plastic seats (€20) and one uncovered with concrete seating (€10). I was impressed by their PA announcer who made a great hand of our players names – Donnacha was obviously a challenge (Dun-ich) as were O’Donoghue and Niall.
The minis were very involved – forming the guard of honour, during the game they all sat together, with one of the teams was assigned to support Munster and they had a lively game at half time. I was surprised by the high numbers on their jerseys. Also at half-time two kids had an opportunity to push an adult player back using tackle pads which they enjoyed and when successfully pushing him over the line they won a mini ball.
Congratulations to Alberto Sgarbi on his 150th cap in the game which marked Munster’s 150th appearance in Europe.
This week’s social section is called “The Gathering” as it was like a big reunion meeting various characters from matches and especially away trips over the past three seasons!
The trip had been planned once the sequence of games had been announced but prior to kick-off times being finalised so we went for the long weekend – Friday through Monday. Planes brought the foot soldiers from Cork, Limerick and Dublin while others from within the UK also gathered at Stansted. It was great to leave the rain behind at Stansted and be greeted by blue skies as we arrived at Treviso-Venice on the Friday afternoon.
At Stansted, Kathleen who I only met last month, getting the MRSC London train to Leicester recognised me and introduced me and my blog to her friend Shona. On the plane Ian – met last year in Clermont – saw me board and called out hello, and later as we walked into the Treviso terminal he came over to encourage me to keep the blog going. Coincidentally he was seated beside us at the match again this time and was giving me input to this weeks match report. The people on the other side of me at the game did not seem to be in the glass half full category so did not get my blog “pitch”. Also on that flight were Audrey and Paul – met for the first time at the Pro12 semi-final in Glasgow – plus Linda (Paul’s wife who won the Charlie Mulqueen book competition) so it was great to recognise so many friendly faces.
On Saturday morning many of the red army headed into Venice as it was only a short train ride away. Outside our hotel we met Frank and John – regulars at the MRSC Dublin gatherings and originally met returning from the Sale game last season where I had asked them to check out the blog as we waited to board the Aer Arann flight home. Frank was a mine of information re train times and the right station to get out at in Venice – see my travel blog https://hattisar.wordpress.com/2016/01/28/treviso-venice-2016/. Then as we waited to board the train who came over to say hello but Gerry – whose spare ticket had a starring role in the Clermont away blog and he himself had made an appearance in the Pro 12 semi-final blog. I could not place him at first but once he mentioned Clermont it came back to me and we enjoyed a great chat all the way to Venice. We then seemed to meet Gerry and Dympna at every turn as often happens!
On Sunday morning as we headed to get the no. 9 bus to the game the Thurles gang of Hilary, Dee and Joe spotted me and gave me a great welcome, while on the bus Aideen reminded me that we had met returning from the Perpignan away game and she had been following the blog ever since so I got plenty of positive feedback to encourage me to carry on which was much appreciated.
The stadium was about a 20 minute drive from the city and the bus was quickly filled by the red army, even though there was still over 2 hours before kick-off. We could see the stadium but no one knew where the bus stop was and as no one pressed the bell the driver kept going so we had a short walk back. There were some supporters waiting already and the gates opened shortly after we arrived. There was food and drink on sale including hot wine which went down well as while it was sunny it was only about 4C and in the stand it was cold. It grew cloudy as the afternoon progressed so by the time the match was over we were chilled despite the thermal layers.
I did not think I would have an opportunity to promote my blog on the flight back as Kevin and Susan were travelling incognito- i.e. not in red – so I was delighted to discover that they also share a love for Munster and we chatted about rugby in general for most of the journey to Stansted.
If you enjoy my blog I would be delighted if you would share it with friends –via word of mouth, facebook or twitter – it all helps as the views and positive comments keep me going. Remember you can follow me on facebook/WTView where I have saved some other photos I took at the game, Twitter (@WTView) and if you don’t want to miss future editions you can sign up to get an email notification when I publish. Thank you.