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Experience gained: Dragons: 16 – Munster: 20

The withdrawal of Keith Earls with a hamstring niggle left the midfield light on experience, with Colm O’Shea making his Pro12 debut alongside Academy player Dan Goggin on only his third league appearance (none of which show on his official record on the Munster rugby website yet!)  It is also hard to believe that Rory Scannell amassed 26 appearances last season alone.  No wonder his absence was felt this weekend.  When you add in the limited league experience of Tyler Bleyendaal playing for the first time I believe alongside Conor Murray – who himself would not be fully match fit on his first game of the season, – my optimism pre-game was misfounded.  It will be interesting to see how Jaco Taute settles into Munster and the experience he will bring to the team.

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Dan Goggin on the charge with Cian Bohane in support. Photo by Daryl Feehely

A win is a win is a win, they say.  We’ll take the points and get back to home comforts next weekend.  The team certainly made us sweat for the four points and the cheer at the final whistle was mainly relief.  It had all started more positively with a great cheer when the first Munster scrum of the game completely dominated the Dragons to win a penalty after about 5 minutes.  That was followed in quick succession by a maul and another strong scrum in the 9th minute which drove Dragons back to win Munster a penalty in front of the posts.  Tyler Bleyendaal put it over the posts to take a 0-3 lead.  However a penalty against Munster for not releasing gave Dragons the opportunity to level the score and Angus O’Brien did exactly that to make it 3-3 after 13 minutes.

Jean Kleyn made his debut and scored his first try in the red jersey.  That move started from a lineout he secured in the 18th minute.  A maul helped move play closer to the Munster 10m line before it was passed out wide where Conway and O’Mahony combined well before going to ground.  John Ryan made some hard yards before Dan Goggin brought play into the Dragons 22.  Munster probed one side then the other before quick hands from CJ Stander gave Jean Kleyn a gap to charge through and he just had the scrumhalf Pretorius to batter aside before touching down beside the posts.

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Jean Kleyn about to score his first try for Munster. Photo by Daryl

Tyler Bleyndaal added the conversion to make it 3-10 and all seemed well with the world but the floodgates never opened.  Indeed it was Dragons who scored next off an intercept.  Hallam Amos picked off the pass from Colm O’Shea and sprinted in to score the try, converted by O’Brien to tie the scores again after half an hour.  Cian Bohane came on for O’Shea as a HIA replacement.

Niall Scannell was unlucky not to score a few minutes later when a kick ahead by Murray was almost gathered by Ronan O’Mahony but the referee checked with the TMO and ruled Ronan had knocked it on so Niall’s touchdown did not count.

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Niall Scannell’s effort was disallowed after review by the TMO. Photo by Daryl

There was a great outburst of applause on 37″ as a tribute to someone (Player or supporter?) but I could not catch the details on Sky.  Maybe one of you can fill me in?  There seemed to be a good crowd there but according to Twitter the attendance was less than four thousand.

James Cronin stripped a ball to claim a turnover when Dragons were pressing for a score at the start of the second half.  The sun could have been to blame for Goggin dropping the restart which had given Dragons the field position to put on that pressure.

Penalties were exchanged to make it 13-10, 13 all, 16-13, 16 all and there was a real stop-start feel to the game that given the excellent weather conditions was a disappointment as I had hoped for more running rugby.

A shrill blast of the whistle indicated that Andrew Conway was in trouble after a heavy collision with the Dragons lock Nick Crosswell.  Both players were taken off for head injury assessments; it was good to see Conway indicating he was OK via  a thumbs up as he was replaced by Ian Keatley.

A Munster scrum led to the best backline move of the game.  Murray looped well with Bleyendaal before putting O’Mahony into the gap with a reverse pass.  O’Mahony got the pass to Darren Sweetnam on the wing and we were almost celebrating his try before we realised he had not grounded the ball!   When Felix Jones said, ‘if Sweetnam gets the ball all the other players have to expect an off-load‘ – according to Andrew Conway in the Indo, – I don’t think he meant it quite the way it transpired for Cian Bohane.  Sweetnam’s inexperience also showed perhaps as his eagerness to make the conversion easier could have backfired totally when Amos managed to get to him after he had crossed the line but before he had grounded the ball.  Fortunately the referee adjudged that the ball had been knocked backwards and hence Bohane’s supporting run and grounding of the ball gave him his first league points also.

The conversion made it a 4 point game so a penalty or drop-goal would not suffice for Dragons but both team had time to close out the game.  Kilcoyne made some great charges with the ball; Conor Oliver got a few minutes experience at 7; Dan Goggin made 11 runs as did CJ Stander according to ESPN stats, available here which also show that Billy, Jack and Donncha led the tackle count with Tyler making 12.  Jack made one memorable tackle to single-handedly drive a Dragons player into touch.  The final minutes were tense as Dragons had a lineout deep in Munster territory and attempted to maul over the line. Thankfully the defence held firm until the Dragons knocked on to loud cheers of relief in the River Bar.

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John Ryn barges through with Jean Kleyn in support. Photo by Daryl

John Ryan won Man of the Match – not just for his excellent scrummaging but he made some great ball-carrying breaks and tackles also.  The post match interview with Rassie Erasmus left us bemused and looking for subtitles!  It was hard to hear over the noise in the pub, especially as he was speaking so quickly.

So three games into the new league season and there is plenty to work on, not least the penalties given away too cheaply.  Munster conceded 10 penalties in Newport and will be keen to reduce that number, especially around the breakdown area, where they were frequently pinged for not rolling away or for going off their feet.  With two home games at Thomond to come starting with the visit of Edinburgh next weekend followed by Zebre hopefully we will build some confidence and momentum before the annual trip to the Aviva followed by the start of the European campaign.

Daryl’s photos can be seen here.  Please check out to my facebook page / follow me on Twitter @WTView or sign up to receive my game day blogs by email :-).

Munster: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Colm O’Shea, Ronan O’Mahony; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; James Cronin, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Donnacha Ryan; Billy Holland Capt., Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.

Replacements: Duncan Casey, Dave Kilcoyne, Brian Scott, Dave O’Callaghan, Conor Oliver, Duncan Williams, Ian Keatley,  Cian Bohane.

DRAGONS: Carl Meyer, Pat Howard, Tyler Morgan, Jack Dixon (Adam Warren 77′), Hallam Amos, Angus O’Brien, Sarel Pretorius (Charlie Davies 68′), Sam Hobbs (Thomas Davies 52′), Rhys Buckley, Brok Harris (Craig Mitchell 52′), Nick Crosswell (Cory Hill 55′), Rynard Landman, Lewis Evans (captain), Ollie Griffiths (Nic Cudd 58′), Ed Jackson (James Thomas 71′).  Replacements not used: Darran Harris.

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Love this photo of CJ by Daryl.

Interesting read if you did not see it on Friday – Tommy O’Donnell’s diary in the Indo about dealing with the return to play protocols and the need to avoid tv, reading, phones etc.

As mentioned I was bridesmaid at a wedding last weekend and while most of the attendees were Leinster residents I got in a few plugs for the blog as you never know who they might meet who would be interested.  A man was chatting to the other bridesmaid Caroline and myself after the meal.  As he had already mentioned Lansdowne a few times in the conversation when he asked me what I did I replied that I was a rugby blogger!  We had a great chat then as it turned out he was Mick Quinn who played outhalf for Ireland in the 70s.  He was full of anecdotes about beating England in Twickenham and his great friend and team-mate at Lansdowne Moss Keane.  Mick also spoke passionately about his work with the IRFU Charitable Trust for injured players and their fundraising trip to Chicago to co-incide with the Ireland v New Zealand game there in November.  I hope it goes well for them and for the injured players they are supporting.

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The Munster emblem in City Hall – spotted during my Culture Night visit – photo by Gayl

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11 comments on “Experience gained: Dragons: 16 – Munster: 20

  1. Morning Gayl. Good read and fair comments. Thought our set pieces were excellent and overall the forwards played very well. We struggled when the ball went wide which was largely down to a lack of experience and some, let’s face it, pretty poor ball handling at times. Got out of jail for what should have been sweetenham’s try but it was the correct call (I’m still wearing my red glasses). There are definite improvements but we can’t afford any more injuries.

    • Cheers Kevin, yes there were some poor passes but the late change to midfield did take out one of our great play-makers and defenders. I think the experience will stand to Goggin and we should have Rory Scannell back next week also. Jaco may get a run out in Thomond also. Two home games to set us up for a tough run of games in October/Nov – Leinster, Racing Metro, Glasgow and then Ulster and the Ospreys! The Maoris to provide some light relief! Those games will make or break our season! Fingers crossed it will come together in attack and defence by then, aided by a few more to return from injury.

  2. From Twitter:
    Donal: Thanks Gayl,no sky sports in my house so your blog provides the detail! Job done but issue of high penalty count is worrying…

  3. Very nice piece. Fair. and as usual a measured account of not just the match but the social aspect, Keep putting down your comments. Ps. Great picture of Jean Kleyn A big boy.

    • Thanks for taking the time to comment Tony, and for signing up to get future editions of the blog by email. Daryl was well positioned behind the posts to capture Jean’s first try – I am so fortunate he allows me to use his great pictures in my blog, esp now for the away games in Wales since he moved there.

  4. Good report Gayl – up to your usual standard!! It’s good to see our scrum being so solid. I would wait until we face better opposition before regarding it as a real strength. Also the lack of a replacement for John Ryan is a worry. I don’t think Scott is ready to play at this level yet (and may not be good enough). If he is rated above Andress then why was Andress signed? I think Dan Goggin has a chance of making it. these games will bring him on.

    • Thanks Jim, glad to see you are still checkout out my blogs as we start another season! The scrum has done well in all their games so far this season against international props but as you say there are sterner tests ahead. Brian Scott is only Year 3 in the Academy, a big lad who showed a nice turn of pace and offloading ability in the friendly v Zebre so hopefully he will continue to develop. Andress was to line out in the AIL this weekend, I assume he had an injury niggle as he only played a short time in that friendly v Zebre in Waterford. Back up is definitely crucial. Yes Goggin is taking his opportunity given the injury crisis, his Ireland 7s experience probably aided his development also. Good to see players progressing from the Academy.

  5. A good win although we made hard work of it at times. The set piece was good again my only criticism was that we tried to force the ball wide instead of going a few more phases. The referee was not the best and his decisions mystified supporters of both teams and made the game very stop start on times.
    Happy to get the win as I think we would have lost that game last season John Ryan was immense and the whole team showed up reasonably well. Thanks for the blog and highlights.

    • Good to hear from you Peter with your eye witness view! I think they would not have gone wide as often if Earls had been playing but we did enjoy the one exciting backline move leading to the try! I expect the locals were not too happy with that decision and I agree with you that it was quite a stop-start game with plenty of penalties etc. We’ll bank the 4 points and move on, some very tough tests ahead but hopefully a few returnees to strenghten the team in time for those. We’ll keep the faith.

  6. Great report. It was heartening to be able to blood some new and ‘inexperienced’ players and still get the win. Bodes well for the season and hopefully keep the penalty count down. Cheers to the Dublin Branch. Went to watch the match as an away trip by going to Dublin to the River Bar. Great welcome and great banter. Almost as good as the West Terrace.

    • Thanks Imelda. I enjoy the group dynamic and banter which is why I try to get into watch the game with MRSC Dublin when I can’t get to the game. It is much better than shouting at the TV at home and I am sure the neighbours would appreciate that also. Looking forward to being back on the west terrace on Sat and catching up with folks after the summer.

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