Seven-nil down, a penalty in front of their posts, what do you do? Take the points? Heck no, take the scrum! And what a scrum! The Munster pack marched Edinburgh backwards as Conor Murray shepherded them towards the line before darting in to touch the ball down. Isn’t it wonderful to have such a weapon at our disposal again? The front row have been superb since the pre-season friendlies, with John Ryan scooping man of the match last weekend but the full pack have to act in unison to get the push on and dominate their opposite numbers so kudos to all involved. By the end of the game there were 4 front row forwards on the pitch when Stephen Archer had to come on in place of Dave O’Callaghan. That resulted in some strange line-ups with Archer in the second row and Billy Holland moving to 8 for one scrum and 6 for another but the pack held up well.
Taking well over two hours to get to the final whistle, this was probably the longest rugby game I have attended due to the delay while Jack O’Donoghue was treated and eventually removed from the pitch after a head injury (good to read on Twitter that he was walking around at the end of the game), other injury stoppages and confusion over substitutions and sinbinnings.
Kickoff was counted down from 12-1 on the big screen as the captains of the teams in the league flashed up, finishing off with our own Peter O’Mahony. Hopefully we will see him take to the pitch in the coming weeks.
The scrum was dominant from the start, winning an early penalty. A few minutes later Munster won a scrum against the head and CJ broke from the back to put Munster on the front foot. Edinburgh did not bring their international front row so tougher tests lie ahead for our pack but in the 6 games played this season they have been dominant and it bodes well for the future.
After thirteen minutes there was a long delay after a bad injury to Jack O’Donoghue. The TMO was called on to review the dangerous shoulder charge and it resulted in a sinbinning for Fraser McKenzie. It was worrying to see Jack require so much attention from the medics but with head injuries every precaution must be taken. He did raise a hand as he was taken off the pitch and young Conor Oliver who is still in the academy took his place.
After an early penalty kick miss by Munster it was Edinburgh who were first onto the scoreboard after twenty-two minutes. A loose ball popped out and took an unkind deflection off a boot when the home team were on the attack. Chris Dean took advantage and ran in to score from his own 10m line. Duncan Weir converted to make it 0-7.
Munster responded well, winning a penalty on the 10m line which they kicked to touch. Conor Oliver broke from the maul to carry the ball over the gain line. Edinburgh went offside to concede another penalty, for which they received a warning from referee Whitehouse. The scrum was called and the sixteenth man raised it’s voice to urge the players to heave. The pack drove forward and I wonder if the player microphone caught what CJ had to say to Conor Murray after the latter picked the ball up to score from CJ’s feet after he had nursed it to the line. CJ looked happy with the end result anyway J
A second try just before the break was very welcome. This time Edinburgh had the put-in to the scrum after a Munster knock-on. However we could sense their vulnerability on their 5m line and Munster turned the screw. Edinburgh were driven back over their line and Sam Hidalgo-Clyne could not get the ball away. Instead under pressure he knocked on. Niall Scannell pounced on the loose ball and popped it up to Murray who burrowed under the defence to score his second try.
The opening minute of the second half lead to more delight when Conor Oliver scored his first senior try for Munster, benefitting from a great offload by Tyler and indecision in defence by Duncan Weir. Tyler added the conversion to make it 21-7 and the bonus point attempt was on.
The pack continued to exert pressure particularly in the scrum which resulted in a sinbinning for their replacement prop Dell. However that led to uncontested scrums which in the context of this game gave the advantage to the penalised side! Munster kicked to touch instead and mauled towards the line but CJ was held up.
From the subsequent uncontested scrum CJ picked and drove for the line only to knock on when a score seemed a certainty – so he is human! However, it only delayed the inevitable. This time it was Dave O’Callaghan who was in the right place to take the offload from Bleyendaal on the 10m line to score the key bonus point try.
Changes made, both tactical and enforced, led to a loss in continuity and when Edinburgh scored their second try after 66 minutes through Hardie, converted by Blair Kinghorn tension levels rose but that was the final score of the game.
Munster: Ian Keatley; Darren Sweetnam, Keith Earls, Cian Bohane, Ronan O’Mahony; Tyler Bleyendaal (Alex Wootton ’59), Conor Murray (Duncan Williams ’59); Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin ’58), Niall Scannell (Duncan Casey ’59), John Ryan; Jean Kleyn (Darren O’Shea ’44), Billy Holland; Dave O’Callaghan (Stephen Archer ’65), Jack O’Donoghue (Conor Oliver ’13), CJ Stander. Not used: Dan Goggin.
Edinburgh: Glenn Bryce; Damien Hoyland, Michael Allen (Rory Scholes ’72), Chris Dean, Tom Brown; Duncan Weir (Blair Kinghorn ’52), Sam Hidalgo-Clyne (Sean Kennedy ’64); Rory Sutherland, Stuart McInally (Neil Cochrane ’59), Kevin Bryce (Allan Dell ’5); Fraser McKenzie (Lewis Carmichael ’68), Ben Toolis; Magnus Bradbury, Hamish Watson (John Hardie ’25-’33, blood), Cornell Du Preez (Jack Cosgrove ’52) (John Hardie ’59).
CJ seemed to be everywhere so the stats showing 28 carries is not surprising. Billy Holland continues to lead the tackle count – 19 more today. We were a bit bemused when the man of the match was awarded to Edinburgh’s # 6 Magnus Bradbury! Last week I was concerned about the high penalty count so I was delighted to see in this week’s stats that there was a good improvement with only 6 conceded versus ten last week but the team will be disappointed with the high number of turnovers and unforced errors. Plenty to work on but some good foundations in place with the set pieces working well.
The injuries to Jack, Dave, Jean and other bumps and bruises will need to be evaluated in the coming days. Darren O’Shea and Alex Wootton made their league debuts while Cian Bohane and Conor Oliver gained more experience at this level. It was good to have Keith Earls back and hopefully we will see Peter, Tommy and Simon make their returns next week or at the Aviva the following week.
Reading back through the match thread on Twitter it looks like I missed some classic quotes captured on the player microphone worn by CJ Stander. This clip gives a sense of his enthusiasm, leadership and workrate throughout.
Also worth checking out the post match thoughts of try scorer Conor Oliver
“Nowhere I’d rather be” – so sang Clean Bandit on the radio as I arrived in Limerick and with my front row view from the terrace and the reunion with my friends it was true, especialy as the weather cleared up. John was surprised to receive so many birthday wishes – who was telling us all John? Kevin and George were in great voice and started us off with the usual songs a few times throughout the game. In the bar afterwards there was a reunion of the MRSC Dublin social media gurus as Catriona was home from Australia and I met her and the latest curator of the account Michelle there. I asked Catriona if she enjoys going to rugby matches there and about the different climate there to be told that she has to worry more about sunburn than wet gear there and that she has only been to one game on a rainy day in 2 years! Still there is nowhere I would rather be and at least the climate had improved dramatically in Limerick to dry up before kick-off and the sun even broke through before the end.
Hopefully it will be dry again next weekend for the visit of Zebre. Considering how the Italians were leading Connacht 22-10 before their third round game was abandoned and then put it up to Cardiff before succumbing 21-23 this week their visit which will not be televised is likely to be a bigger test than their visit to the sunny south east for the pre-season friendly in August (see blog if you missed it in August).