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.
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.