Treviso were aiming to win their third game in a row and weren’t too far away from achieving that. However, perhaps the most significant result of the weekend in our micro-battle for European Cup qualification came from Galway where, thanks to Connacht not conceding even a losing bonus point to Ospreys, they helped Munster move back up to 6th place in the table and open a gap on our Welsh rivals.
The wet and windy conditions played a big part in the stop-start nature of the contest. The pitch was very muddy, a stark contrast to last week’s artificial surface in Scotland, and may have led to a high dependence on a kicking game with 31 lineouts according to the stats Those are not as complete as usual but I am including the below snippet here so you can see their territory stat and wonder at it’s accuracy for yourself!I picked up a bug during the week so I did not get into town to watch the game in the pub with my friends but thanks to Patrick’s tweet I was able to watch a live stream. However I was not able to give it my usual attention until today so I was glad to check out the highlights on TG4 (available on their player here )
A great pass from Saili in midfield to van den Heever set up the first try of the game after 11 minutes. As the rain poured down a pick and go by Robert Barbieri resulted in Treviso scoring a try which was converted by Jayden Hayward after 25 minutes. Later, Copeland and van den Heever combined well but ran out of space when the defence scrambled back to force Gerhard into touch just metres from the try line to leave it 7-5 at the break.
There was drama just after the restart, caused in part by the referee deciding on the score based on how Ian Keatley had walked away as Jayden Hayward was congratulated by his team mates! The referee initially indicated the try had been scored but then called on the TMO to review when Munster protested. It was very close but in the slow motion you could see Ian’s black sleeve touch down first as Hayward’s hand arrived to also touch down.
Duncan Williams made a block down shortly afterwards but Darren Sweetnam could not capitalise in the greasy conditions. However a few minutes later Darren chased Keatley’s kick deep into the Treviso 22 from about his own 22. The ball bounced slowly on the heavy ground and so he was able to put the Treviso player under pressure in a 1:1 and indeed won back possession, again showing his excellent workrate.
However Treviso were next to score through a penalty when Munster went offside to take a 10-5 lead on 52 minutes.
The Treviso scrum had the edge on the Munster men especially in the first half but with the arrival of reinforcements in the shapes of Scannell, Foley and O’Donnell, with O’Donoghue at 8 they marched the Italians backwards, gaining a penalty advantage. However they did not need to go back for that advantage as impressive interplay between Saili, Sweetnam and Conway ended with a lovely kick-ahead by Conway which Saili got to first to tie the scores at 10 apiece. The conversion effort looked good but the wind just carried it off course.
Jayden Hayward was successful with his penalty kick on 64 minutes to regain the lead but Keatley delivered two successful kicks in succession on 68 and 74 minutes to seal victory and secure the precious four points. Dave Kilcoyne almost undid the good work giving away a penalty and a man advantage to the Italians when he was sinbinned with less than three minutes left after he shoulder-charged the ruck. His team mates continued to put in the tackles to hold out Treviso until eventually the home team knocked on and the final whistle was blown. There were some additional highlights of note including a great break by Rory Scannell, while Andrew Conway’s handling was impressive in difficult conditions but this was not a classic encounter, more of a potential banana skin which was thankfully avoided.
Munster: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Gerhard van den Heever; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, John Ryan; Mark Chisholm, Billy Holland – capt., Jack O’Donoghue, Dave O’Callaghan, Robin Copeland. Replacements: Niall Scannell, Peter McCabe, Mario Sagario, Dave Foley, Tommy O’Donnell, Cathal Sheridan, Cian Bohane, David Johnston.
Treviso: Jayden Hayward; Ludovico Nitoglia, Luca Morisi, Alberto Sgarbi (capt.), Angelo Esposito; Sam Christie, Alberto Lucchese; Alberto De Marchi, Luca Bigi, Simone Ferrari; Filo Paulo, Tom Palmer; Marco Barbini, Marco Lazzaroni, Robert Barbieri. Replacements: Federico Zani, Cherif Traorè, Filippo Filippetto, Jeff Montauriol, Dean Budd, Andrea De Marchi, Chris Smylie, Tommaso Iannone.
Memories of WB Yeats inspired the title of this blog – you can check out the full poem here