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Phenomenal perseverance: Ulster: 14 – Munster: 15

It was not the most sweetly struck drop goal we’ve ever seen but by God did MRSC Dublin lift the roof of the River Bar with our cheers and roars as Nigel Owens raised his arm aloft.  It was probably the same wherever Munster supporters were gathered!   Nigel had gotten in the way and had to duck down to let the pass past to Rory Scannell who had dropped back into the pocket.  Rory could have shirked the responsibility and waited for a better opportunity as he’d had to realign himself to take the pass but he didn’t and as a result he put Munster into the lead for the first time in a game which they had dominated everywhere but on the scoreboard.  It only took till the 75th minute, despite have 69% possession and 75% of the territory in the first half!

Ulster still had a chance to snatch victory but Paddy Jackson’s drop goal attempt sailed wide, despite looking better struck!  That miss was celebrated with as much enthusiasm in Dublin as our tension levels increased now that we had a lead and four precious points to lose.  Jackson also had missed a penalty earlier in the second half and it is only reading through social media since that I read there had been a cracker set off at just as he was kicking the ball.   I assume it was set off somewhere nearby in the run up to Hallowe’en / Guy Fawkes night.

The match review will not make for pleasant viewing as the stats below show.  It was like the rocky horror picture show – as John called it – as time and again Munster got into great positions only to turn over the ball in the face of stout Ulster defence.  At half-time I thought that if I wrote a blog this week it would be a tale of “coulda, shoulda, woulda” and there would have been plenty of excuses after the emotional rollercoaster that the players have been through over the past 13 days since the tragic news broke in Paris.  Indeed when you consider that there was only 1 change in the pack, and that the same front row had played most of both very physical encounters, while the backs who had played an hour last week down a man were up against another, very lively backline in Belfast, it is some testament to their commitment, pride, passion and sheer stubbornness to fight until they hear the bell, not to mention their fitness as they persevered and kept taking the game to Ulster.

stats

Initial stats from ESPN

It felt wrong to be 14-0 down after 35 minutes given their dominance.  Piatau had sailed through unchecked after a miscommunication between Sweetnam and Conway going for the same cross field kick early while Lyttle on for the injured Darren Cave squirmed through as two tacklers seemed to get in each others way to double their lead after 35 minutes.

The maul was very effective and the scrum was strong but groans and the odd expetive were heard every time Munster got into a good position and a score would seem imminent only to be turned over, penalised, or for someone to knock-on!  It just didn’t seem to be our night as execution and handling errors let Ulster off the hook time and again.  As the clock ticked down towards half-time, we were hoping they could get some points on the scoreboard before the break.

On 38′ Ulster had a scrum and moved the ball away quickly to their backline.  However Lyttle’s kick through only got as far as Andrew Conway who gratefully gathered it and counter-attacked.  Munster went through the phases again but this time they managed to retain possession. Kilcoyne probed the defence, Keatley took it on, then Scannell in midfield; Taute was next to make a surge forward; a lovely pass from Billy put Ronan O’Mahony through a gap and he took it close to the try line.  Crucially Munster held onto possession again.  Kilcoyne carried again, before the two locks, Holland and Ryan took on the defence.  Advantage was indicated, and after sucking in the defence Munster spread it wide.  Good hands took it through Taute onto Sweetnam who timed his pass well to commit the defence before releasing the ball to Rory Scannell out on the wing who scored in the corner!  14-5 at half time was better than 14-0 but it should have been more.

I watched the game back and Munster held onto the ball for 2 minutes and 20 seconds through phase after phase leading up to that score.  I name-checked the main ball carriers in the passage above but everyone was working hard to get into position, to protect the ball carrier, to clear out.  A great team try.

Munster had to work hard in defence in the second half.  Ulster couldn’t get through so they resorted to kicking away possession at times and the defence scrambled well and put in the tackles.  Andrew Conway was unfortunate to get injured trying to win one of those box kicks, hopefully it was not too serious as he is just back after a recent concussion.  Alex Wootton came on in his place with Darren Sweetnam moving to full back.

The second try came about the hour mark, kick-started by a great maul and a series of pick and goes to get Munster into a good position again.  The pack were all over the ball like a rash, Ulster could not get to it.  After sucking in the defence centurion Duncan Williams got the pass to Jaco Taute who crashed over to score his third try in three games for Munster!  Rory Scannell kicked the conversion to make it a 2 point game, 14-12.

Dan Goggin came on at 12 as Rory moved to out-half for the final ten minutes – the highlight of which was of course that drop-goal.  The clock continued to tick down after Ulster missed their drop goal attempt.  When Munster won a scrum in the final minute we knew they would  close out the game to claim a historic, heroic victory.  I nearly jinxed them, saying how Ulster had not scored in the second half after we had taken the lead but I quickly touched wood and got away with it!  Not a classic game as is often the case with derby matches but a sweet win all the same.  For their sheer doggedness and work ethic you have to tip your hat to the boys in red.

Fair dues also to the Ulster players who came into the Munster dressing room after the game to share a beer or protein shake in memory of Anthony Foley (as reported in The42.ie).  See also the plaque fitted in the away dressing room.

If you missed it there was a very personal player diary in the Indo this week where Jack wrote: “I’m sure the spirit of Axel will be with us for the rest of the season and years to come, but as a squad our aim is to hit the targets and standards that he wanted us to reach. If we do that we’ll do alright.”

ULSTER: Charles Piutau; Tommy Bowe, Luke Marshall, Darren Cave (Rob Lyttle ’9), Craig Gilroy; Paddy Jackson, Ruan Pienaar (Paul Marshall ’76); Callum Black (Kyle McCall ’58), Rob Herring (captain), Wiehahn Herbst (Andrew Warwick ’66); Dan Tuohy, Franco van der Merwe; Robbie Diack (Conor Joyce ’71), Sean Reidy, Roger Wilson (Clive Ross ’29).
Replacements not used: John Andrew, Brett Herron.
MUNSTER: Andrew Conway (Alex Wootton ’61); Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley (Dan Goggin ’71), Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan (Stephen Archer ’71); Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (captain), Tommy O’Donnell (Robin Copeland ’60), Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements not used: Vincent O’Brien, Brian Scott, Darren O’Shea, Abriel Griesel.

It was great to see John Ryan rewarded for his excellence at tight head this season with a call up to the Irish team while Billy Holland who has captained the Wolfhounds team previously was also called up to the senior squad.

is that Joe on his stag cheering and waving his flag in celebration close to Superman?

I had decided to start my blog of this game with the drop goal as I was walking back to my car.  Murray Kinsella’s match report took a similar approach and you can read it here to get more insight into the game.  Links added for other match reports from the Examiner, Irish Times and Independent.

Happy anniversary to the West Terrace View

It’s been four years since the first edition and there have been plenty of highs and lows along the way.  Thanks for reading, sharing, favouriting, commenting and collaborating – giving me suggestions or ideas and especially to the photographers whose photos so often bring my words to life.  If you have been following for some time – which are the stand out editions?  If you are a more recent convert I recommend checking out the “About WTView” page where I have links to my most popular posts.   

If you enjoyed reading this please let me know, tell your friends, sign up to get future editions by email, and / or follow me on Facebook /  Twitter.

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18 comments on “Phenomenal perseverance: Ulster: 14 – Munster: 15

  1. Hi Gayl,

    A great review again!!! It was a real rollercoaster watching the game, I thought it was going to be one of those games at half time. Thankfully sheer determination and doggedness won the day. Everyone connected with the team deserve immense credit on and off the field for the way they have dealt with the tragic events of the last couple of weeks.

    • Hi Steve, always great to see a new name popping up in the comments section! I agree 100% with your comments about the game, the feeling at half-time and the credit due to the team and all connected as they have coped with this uncharted territory. Jack’s diary which I included gives a bit of insight into their loss and this week would have been very tough as the reality sinks in and after the highs of last weeks occasion at Thomond..

  2. Gayl. Happy 4th birthday. Kids these days….they grow up so fast! Well done and here”s to the next 40#. So proud of Munster last night. It was a gutsy and determined performance. I suspect it was a nightmare to pick a MOTM. So many who got on with the job and clawed their way back from a certain defeat. Was thereally ever a sweeter drop goal?

    • There have been a few sweetly struck ones, Northampton at home, Sale away, Paul Warwick v NZ…but this one was special. I see on twitter that ROG was impressed by both Scannells, they are a credit to the academy, great to see homegrown talent coming through, and how players like Jaco are buying into the team and culture. I posted a link to his interview from the paper to my FB page during the week.

  3. Good review Gayl and the stats for the blog hits are now at a whopping 63,594. Great to see Nigel in the middle of an Irish derby and did n’t he do it so well. It indeed was a wonderful tribute post-match by Ulster to toast Axel’s memory, I imagine by raising their beer in salute, to the fabulous plaque in Ravenhill’s “Away Dressing Room”. Looks like Munster’s game plan going forward has Axel ‘s footprints all over it.

    • Cheers Tony, performances like that will ensure a good turn out in Cork next weekend and for the Maori game back in Limerick the following weekend. The plaque and drinks after the game are great expressions of the camaraderie between rugby teams dating back from the amateur days. Good to see it has not lost it’s soul.

      • Long live the spirit of Rugby. Great to see Munster move up to 4th spot in the Pro12. Meanwhile near on 1000 blog hits today so keep up the great work Gayl and enjoy WTView 4th Birthday. Up Munster

      • Thanks Tony and thanks to all who shared my blog on social media, esp MRSC on facebook which always triggers hundreds of extra views. Hopefully some of the new readers will enjoy the blog and become regular followers. Appreciate your word of mouth recommendations also.

  4. Congratulations Gayle, four years only? It seems like your blog has been around much longer, it’s part of the match experience now for fans. Well done.

    • Only! 156 posts, probably in the region of 400,000 words, consuming about 800 hours of my life… but the nearly 64,000 views and regular encouragement make it all worthwhile 🙂
      It is surprising though that people who do consider it part of their match experience often don’t mention it to their friends – like John last week who only told his Munster loving friend as he introduced me even though he has been enjoying it for years. Good to finally meet you last week. Thanks for the congrats. All the best

  5. Thanks again Gayle – listened to the game on Live 95 while following on Twitter in Heathrow tans now writing to you from Kuala Lumpur. Enjoyable report as always. Will miss Musser next week as still away so look forward to reading you again

    • Thanks Eoghan, the views have come in from 21 countries today alone, mainly thanks to MRSC putting the link on their FB page – a nice anniversary gift for me! Another big test next weekend as the Ospreys are in good form but Cork has been getting a good crowd and atmosphere this season and I am sure we will do our best to keep the momentum going in the league. All the best in Malaysia. Thanks for checking out and commenting on the blog.

  6. Nice to read a review which was mainly on field related after the recent difficult day’s.
    The stats suggested Munster should have been out of sight, but still. never was a drop goal and a one point point victory “So sweet”

    • Cheers Tony, recent games against Ulster have been very close. If we could have converted our possession into points we could have been looking at a 5 point win but we’ll bank the 4 points and the experience gained of performing in pressure situations – Rory Scannell is performing well ahead of his contractual status and this will surely stand him in good stead in the years ahead.

  7. Hi Gayl, well done on the anniversary and more importantly, a blog on a key away win. A strange game which could have gone either way, yet the two scores we conceded were very soft. A win is a win, and this weekend after the high of Thomond Park will be just as valuable to the players and staff.

    • Thanks Conor, an error strewn performance yet plenty of heart and graft and skill. a valuable away win. Must have been difficult for the squad after the previous 2 weeks as the reality of Foleys loss sinks in as they go through training, meetings and journeys without him.
      Thanks for your regular comments over the past few years. Always appreciated

  8. Congratulations on the four years and what a way to celebrate it. Great performance all round despite the frustrating errors, we would have lost this game last season. As you stated the pack are going great at the moment and our young backs are more than holding there own and learning with every game. As a an ex front row forward and coach I have seen John Ryan in his early days struggle at the scrum but he has worked so hard and deserves his call up. The man I feel sorry for is Ian Keatly he seems to be trying so hard yet nothing is going right for him.
    Hope the crowd cut him some slack as we need him to perform.

    • Thanks Peter, yes John Ryan has been outstanding this season and deserves his call up to the Ireland team. Ian’s kickibg gane let him,down, maybe Rory can take that on and leave Ian focus on the rest if his game till he gets back his kicking boots.

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