What a few weeks it has been for Dave “Killer” Kilcoyne – scoring a brace against Glasgow and again against the Dragons but conceding a late penalty and sin-binning in the game against Treviso to put the team under pressure to hold on for the win. That Glasgow game was remarkable – the first 4 tries were scored by props just like 3 of the 4 Munster tries against Dragons! What are the odds on that?
We are lucky to have two players of the calibre of Dave and James Cronin on the loosehead side. John Ryan did well there last season when they were injured but this season he has switched back to the tighthead side where he has held his own. It was also a special night for our other tighthead on the night, Stephen Archer, who returned from injury to make his 100th appearance for Munster.
It was a cold breezy night in Thomond – a northerly wind of about 15 knots advised my nautical friend Mark who also kindly provided a throat lozenge when my cough kicked in to prove my claims of illness last week.
The first lineout to Dragons did not appear to be straight but our protests went unanswered. However it felt like karma when their next attempt was stolen by Munster.
A few minutes later Munster kicked a penalty to touch around the half-way line. Jack O’Donoghue carried it up the centre before the ball was moved wide to Saili who dummied and raced into their 22. An exciting start and great to see him in such good form recently. A knock-on resulted in the first scrum of the night and as I watched the game back on TG4 I noticed that Dave had “Dominate” written on the strapping around his wrist.
While some kicks and passes went astray there was good intensity on the night. Tommy made 11 carries while his backrow colleague Jack made 16.
The first try came from another lineout around the Munster 10m line. Captain Billy Holland secured possession before the ball was quickly moved out to the backs. Saili ran a decoy line while Rory Scannell passed to Andrew Conway. He dummied and darted through a gap between two defenders. Simon Zebo was held back as he ran a support line but broke free to take the pass. However he was hauled down short of the line but support arrived quickly and Munster held onto possession deep inside the Dragons 22. They probed one way then came back the other. Darren Sweetnam nearly got to the line, then Billy Holland but crucially they retained possession. The referee Marius Mitrea called on the TMO to judge if there was any reason not to award the try and as we watched the replay we became convinced that the try was good and so it was adjudged to be as Munster took a 5-0 lead after 18 minutes through Dave Kilcoyne.
Momentum was lost through some handling errors but the Dragons could not capitalise on their possession. A lineout deep in Dragons territory went astray but when they got it back the pack took it on and went through the phases before trying to maul over and thereby sucked in more defenders. Duncan zipped the ball out to Rory who took a great line to score his first senior try. Hard to believe he is still just an Academy player as he has taken full advantage of Denis Hurley’s injury-enforced absence to form a great partnership in midfield with Saili where he has accumulated 10 appearances in a row.
Ian Keatley converted to increase Munster’s lead to 12-0 on 33 minutes. Dragons finished strongly but Munster’s defence held firm. However Mark Chisholm was injured in the final phases of the half. Thankfully he was able to walk off after treatment but he did not return for the second half, being replaced by Dave Foley.
An early penalty for a high tackle gave Munster the ideal start to the second half. The pack secured the lineout on the 5m line and went through the phases with strong carries by Dave O’Callaghan, Niall Scannell and Dave Foley before Kilcoyne picked and dove to touch down. That try brought Kilcoyne’s tally for the season to 5 and he is now joint top try-scorer for 2015/2016 to date! CJ better watch out 🙂
The conversion was good and at 19-0 with just 44 minutes on the clock the bonus point win looked to be on! However Dragons were not going to lie down and went through a longer purple patch than we had expected. Within minutes they had sucked in the defence before going wide where their winger Hallam Amos scored off a simple 1:1 against Sweetnam. Jason Tovey missed the conversion to leave the score 19-5.
Munster put good pressure on the Dragons line but were eventually penalised for holding on and Dragons were able to clear their lines. Jack O’Donoghue and Dave Foley were down for treatment but both were able to continue. Tommy was replaced by Robn while shortly afterwards Andrew Conway was injured and he was replaced by David Johnston.
Reinforced by their multiple substitutions Dragons maintained possession as the clock continued to tick towards the hour mark. Munster went offside and Dragons took a quick tap and go and crossed the line but James Cronin just got his foot underneath to prevent the try. Dragons still had possession via a 5m scrum so the defence was tested again. Tony reckoned Munster should let them score and get back up the field to search for the bonus point rather than continuing to defend their own line.
Munster won a turnover through Sherry when Dragons were penalised for holding on to finally get back into the other half. It was a nervous time, so near and yet so far from what could be a crucial bonus point. Stephen Archer came into the action for his 100th senior appearance with 13 minutes left.
For the last quarter of the game Simon Zebo was the senior citizen of the backline as development contract Johnny Holland came on at 10 and Academy player David Johnston replaced Conway at full back. With Sweetnam also on a development contract for this season and Rory Scannell only moving to a development contract next season I don’t think Munster have ever fielded such a rookie backline in a Pro12 game but I have not researched that! The youngsters acquitted themselves well.
The clock continued to count down the seconds but at least they were back in the right part of the pitch. Saili and Zebo made good ground but could not make the breakthrough. Cathal Sheridan after his injury disrupted season was sprung from the bench with 9 minutes left.
A few scrums ate up more time but eventually the pressure paid off. A lineout on 76 minutes was followed by strong carries by Cronin, Johnston, Sherry, Cronin again, Johnston again, Sherry, Cronin, before a few phases later Cronin was driven over the line. Holland converted with just over a minute left by the time of the restart.
There was still time for some drama before the final whistle. Instead of kicking the ball out when the time was up Munster went looking for more and Sweetnam came close on his wing but Dragons turned over possession and launched an attack from their own 5m line. Johnston made the tackle but Dragons kept possession. Hewitt made a great break but Zebo and Sweetnam got back in time to snuff out that attack but not enough to get the ball back and put us out of our misery as the cold had set into our bones. Nearly 4 minutes after the 80 the final whistle went when Munster got enough bodies under the ball to hold up the final attack. Dave Foley was down for treatment for some time after the final whistle. Hopefully the walking wounded will be ok for the next game on March 18th, the game “in hand” against Cardiff rescheduled from January.
Stats are available here
Munster: Andrew Conway (David Johnston ’58); Darren Sweetnam, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley (Johnny Holland ’62), Duncan Williams (Cathal Sheridan ’71); Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin ’49), Niall Scannell (Mike Sherry ’49), John Ryan (Stephen Archer ’68); Mark Chisholm (Dave Foley ’41), Billy Holland; Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell (Robin Copeland ’52), Jack O’Donoghue.
Newport Gwent Dragons: Carl Meyer; Ashton Hewitt, Adam Hughes (Ross Wardle ’52), Adam Warren, Hallam Amos; Jason Tovey (Angus O’Brien ’49), Charlie Davies (Sarel Pretorius ’49); Phil Price, Thomas Rhys Thomas, Brok Harris (Lloyd Fairbrother ’68); Cory Hill, Matthew Screech (Rynard Landman ’49); Nick Crosswell, Nic Cudd, Lewis Evans (Ed Jackson ’49). Replacements not used: Elliot Dee, Shaun Knight.
I turned to the 2 young lads behind us after the game and told them they should have been awarded the man of the match as they kept their shouts of encouragement going all night. It did not always make sense (was their shout of Ribena, Coffee and Chocolate their half-time refreshment order?) but they were very entertaining. They even did the “Do not make unnecessary journeys” speech which went viral during the December storms. Given that Barbara could not attend due to her route to the airport being blocked by snow on Friday it was apt. When a man in the next section did one of those long Mun…st….er shouts they piped up with “what he said” and he repaid the compliment when they were yelling to Munster that they “can do it”. Well done lads!.
CJ Stander may be missing from the Munster team while on Ireland duty but I saw a lot of happy tweets as supporters had an opportunity to meet him in the MRSC bar before the game. When I read these comments in the Examiner today I wonder if this is part of the strategy to address that lack of a link. If so it is definitely a step in the right direction – after the game would be good also for those of us who like to get to the terrace early.
“There is a big social side to it missing that was there in the past and the supporters got used to it.You have to come to the venue to meet the players, come and see young Irish players. People need to get in behind them”.
Finally,looking at the Sunday crossword in the Independent I spotted this question – guess he’s become a household name now:
Next weekend I hope to get along to Donnybrook for the Women’s 6N game on Sunday and maybe the U20s also on Friday.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter, Facebook where I have posted a few more photos of the game – https://www.facebook.com/wtview/ – or sign up to receive my blogs as an email.