There was an air of pessimism amongst the support group gathered together to watch Munster take on Glasgow in Kilmarnock. The doom only deepened when they went 14-0 down after just 7 minutes! However heads did not drop on the pitch as Munster fought their way back into the game so that by the end we were disappointed to be leaving with only a losing bonus point. Given Munster played 20 minutes of the second half down to 14 men, and throughout the game conceded 15 penalties to Glasgow’s 6 (including at least one controversial decision in the 2nd half) with a youthful side, especially in the backline, while the pack was also weakened by the loss of Robin Copeland (injured after 20′) plus Tommy O’Donnell who was subbed at 46′ – an Irish request perhaps – I find my glass is a lot fuller than it was after the prior Sunday’s loss to Ospreys. (updated – Tommy had a bug according to RTE)
The artificial pitch had a very positive impact on the pace of the game especially in the first half. Munster used the kick-chase game very effectively playing into the wind – Darren Sweetnam won back one ball which had looked like it would go the other way while Andrew Conway won another, up against the gigantic Naiyaravoro to secure possession which led to Dave Kilcoyne’s second try. “Kicking to compete” as I heard the commentator say over the noise in the pub.
The weather which deteriorated significantly in the second half when driving sleet was blowing directly into the faces of the Glasgow players also had a role to play – at one stage a Glasgow box kick blew backwards and Munster won a lineout in a good position as a result.
The headlines in the Irish Times and The42.ie all mention the bad start as I did above but in fact Munster had a super start when Robin Copeland secured the ball and charged upfield with a great sidestep and fend to put Munster on the front foot! However in the subsequent phases Munster knocked on. Glasgow went on the attack and won 2 consecutive penalties in short order, for not releasing / not rolling away. They opted to take a quick tap and go both times to inject a lot of pace in the game as they worked their way closer to the Munster line. Taking a scrum from their next penalty they went on the attack again and by the 4th minute Puafisi had scored! Just a few minutes later they were back attacking the Munster line. Man of the match Josh Strauss was very prominent, making plenty of yards and nearly scored himself but it was the prop who again grounded the ball. Duncan Weir converted both tries. At 14-0 down I was considering not writing a blog this week…
However Munster kept their heads and managed to keep possession too starting with Ronan O’Mahony chasing the restart to knock it back! Munster went through the phases and worked their way up the pitch. Scannell nearly scored in the corner but Glasgow had wandered offside in the build-up so it came back for a penalty which was kicked to touch. They retained possession pounding the line before it was the turn of the Munster prop Dave Kilcoyne who scored with 12 minutes on the clock. Keatley converted to make it 14-7. Copeland who seemed to be revelling on the artificial surface had another strong carry to set up another Munster attack. Glasgow conceded a penalty in front of the posts and Keatley made it 14-10 just five minutes later. Unfortunately Copeland had to go off for a head impact assessment. Jack O’Donoghue replaced him at 8 while Holland moved to 6 as Dave Foley came into the second row.
The afore-mentioned kick to compete secured by Conway was key to setting up the 17 phases of attack which yielded a second try on the night for Killer Kilcoyne himself, making it 4/4 tries scored by props in the first half, surely a record? Definitely not what I had anticipated from a game on the fast 3G surface. After another successful conversion by Keatley Munster were ahead 14-17, a lead they held onto for the remaining 16 or so minutes of the half.
Duncan Weir missed a kick to level the score on 33′. Sky kindly provided the stat that he had 63% kicking accuracy in the season to date while Ian was on 70%. After tonight he will have slipped further while Keatley’s percentage improved.
Glasgow continued to play a high tempo, off-loading game, making for a very exciting spectacle as they tried to stretch the Munster defence. You can see from the stats below that they made 13 offloads but conceded 15 turnovers so a risky approach. The Munster scrum solidified after the poor start. On 27′ Glasgow had the put in to a scrum about the Munster 5m line and I watched anxiously but it was rock solid. However at the close of the half the Munster scrum was in trouble again and Jack did very well to secure the ball at the base as it was retreating.
We needed to catch our own breath after that – the pace, the offloads, the turnovers, the high ball aerial combats, the tries! It was an incredible forty minutes and we could hardly believe that we were ahead after the disastrous start.
Munster had a lovely passage of play to open the second half – the offload from Keatley to O’Donoghue and on to Ronan O’Mahony was superb only for the ball to be turned over when support was slow to arrive to protect the ball and a player was penalised for coming in at the side in the opening minute.
Glasgow then had a period of possession, getting into the Munster 22 before the ball went loose and Munster reacted to dive on itand secure possession before clearing their lines. Quick ball off the lineout was quickly passed out to Duncan Weir who dummied a pass before slipping between the Academy midfield pairing of Rory Scannell and David Johnston to score in the corner. Weir was not impressed to get a boot in the face for his trouble from Sweetnam but there was no malice in it. The difficult conversion was missed but it had been enough for Glasgow to regain the lead 19-17 within the opening five minutes of the half. Kilcoyne and O’Donnell were taken off for James Cronin and Conor Oliver – another Academy player making his league debut.
Keatley dropped back into the pocket looking for a dropgoal opportunity but the pass when it arrived was too low. The first sinbinning came on 61 minutes when Tomas O’Leary was penalised for a deliberate knock on. The weather was so bad that Weir could not kick for goal so they took the scrum to win another penalty. Keatley had to stand in at scrum half. Munster launched Mario Sagario from the bench which helped the next scrum but shortly after Glasgow won a penalty in front of the posts which Weir kicked to extend their lead. The response was immediate and had us cheering and applauding as a penalty was kicked to a great touch, the lineout was secured by captain Billy Holland, the maul was set and Sherry touched down to tie the game at 22-22. When the TMO was asked to check for blocking we were adamant that there was none and the TMO agreed. Ian Keatley kicked an excellent conversion from a difficult angle, judging the wind perfectly to carry the ball in (and maintain his 100% record for the evening) and we were back in front! Amazing given we were still down to 14. Duncan Williams came on to replace O’Leary when the sinbin time had elapsed.
Andrew Conway put in a brave tackle on Naiyaravoro which managed to dislodge the ball from his grasp giving Munster another scrum. Another penalty was kicked to touch, but Glasgow got in to disrupt and won a penalty which should have gone the other way for coming in at the side of the maul. Glasgow fed the scrum and the ref lost patience when it went down, he had given a warning previously so he did not hesitate to show Cronin a yellow card.
Glasgow kicked for touch towards the Munster 5m line. However they lost control and Munster got possession but instead of kicking the leather off the ball they took it into contact practically on the try line, Glasgow are quick up to put the pressure on and win the turn over and the lead changed hands again as Glasgow got the ball wide to score their bonus point try through Glenn Bryce!
Ten minutes left but still down to 14 men Munster had a couple of final chances but could not finish them off. A miskicked drop-goal attempt and more penalties conceded at scrum time despite Sweetnam adding his bulk to the effort when Oliver had to go off to let Kilcoyne back on… all played into Glasgow’s hands. Weir missed another penalty attempt but he won’t care about the impact on his stats since it used up a valuable minute on the clock.
Congrats to Glasgow and “Ceud mìle fàilte” to those visiting this blog from the link shared on the Warriors fans forum with the ringing endorsement of it being “not bad!”
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Peter Murchie, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Glenn Bryce, Peter Horne, Sean Lamont, Duncan Weir, Ali Price (Grayson Hart ’60); Gordon Reid (Jerry Yanuyanutawa ’54), James Malcolm (Cammy Fenton ’77), Sila Puafisi (Zander Fagerson 54), Tim Swinson (Greg Peterson ’65), Leone Nakarawa, Robert Harley, Chris Fusaro (Simone Favara ’38), Josh Strauss.
MUNSTER: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, David Johnston (Cian Bohane ’73), Rpry Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Tomas O’Leary (Duncan Williams ’66); Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin ’46), Niall Scannell (Mike Sherry ’56), John Ryan (Mario Sagario ’58); Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland; Jack O’Donoghue, Tommy O’Donnell (Conor Oliver ’46, Kilcoyne ‘78), Robin Copeland (Dave Foley ’20).
Referee: B Whitehouse (Wales).
The EPSN stats are here and as you can see from the summary below Munster had the possession and the territory to win the game but the penalty count and especially the yellow cards let them down.
Why the ball was not blasted downfield when Glasgow lost their lineout before they scored the bonus point, I don’t know. I’ll have to watch it again to see the sequence of events but that was the crucial turnover. A little more patience also to get into better position for the drop goal attempt might have made a difference but we have to move on. Another young player was introduced to the Pro12 tonight, Conor Oliver and I am sure he will learn from the experience. It was interesting to read Jack O’Donoghue’s player diary in the Indo this week to see what he learnt from last week’s game.
Treviso have won two games in a row, let’s hope Munster don’t let them make it a hat-trick next weekend as the fight for Champions Cup qualification is heating up! It’s not nice to see Munster as the 4th best Irish province but it is an accurate reflection of the season to date. Some big performances will be needed and we may need other teams to do us a few favours, including Connacht to win the Challenge Cup!
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