“G’wan Killer” was heard frequently throughout, as time and again Dave Kilcoyne sporting his Movember ‘tache charged forward or put in a monster tackle. As his performance included 14 carries and a try in each half there was no surprise when he was awarded Man of the Match.
With the November internationals kicking off Munster were lucky to have less disruption than the Ospreys, with Peter O’Mahony and Tommy O’Donnell available to join Jack O’Donoghue in the back row. However Conor Murray, CJ Stander, Donnacha Ryan and Simon Zebo were named to face the All Blacks in Chicago (and didn’t they do well!) while John Ryan and Billy Holland had also travelled to the US with the Irish squad. Therefore, this game provided an opportunity for other players to get game time including Robin Copeland and Darren O’Shea who formed a new partnership in the second row. Ospreys were missing a lot of players to the Welsh cause. The Irish Times match report stated: “this was an Ospreys side that … started without 12 of their squad due to international duty, while such was the pressure their squad was under that they had to name five front-row forwards among the replacements.”
It was great to see a crowd of 8,008 filling the Cork venue on a cold but dry evening and the supporters were in good voice. Was it just a coincidence that the attendance number began and ended with an eight?
I remember writing last season that singing was rare at the Cork venue compared to Limerick but there were several outbursts of singing throughout this game and plenty of cheering especially to drown out the calls for the Ospreys lineouts which obviously worked as the visitors lost 8 of their 16 lineouts throughout the game and several led directly to Munster scores!
While Ospreys won the first scrum the Munster pack dominated all evening. The Ospreys kicking game was ineffective against the dynamic Munster back three, often supplemented by Tyler Bleyendaal. Their aerial skills gave Munster a potent kick-chase game. However, an early exchange of kicks was more like a tennis game until Ronan O’Mahony chased his garryowen from his own 22m and claimed it in their half to our loud cheers. While Munster were pinged for not releasing the crowd appreciated the skillset and ambition shown.
Robin Copeland managed to get a hand to the Ospreys lineout. Tommy O’Donnell claimed the ball and charged upfield. Duncan Williams put through a lovely grubber which he chased and secured as Munster pressed deeper into Ospreys territory. Another garryowen evaded Ronan giving Ospreys a lineout. However it went long and Niall Scannell was there to hoover it up and charge forward. Munster retained possession, Peter, Jaco Taute and Ronan O’Mahony getting them close before the pack took control. A series of drives set them up with Dave Kilcoyne being the final one to pick up the ball from the back of the ruck and drive for the line in the 8th minute to score the opening points. Tyler Bleyendaal added the conversion and Munster never looked back. Just minutes later Killer launched himself at their flanker, forcing him to knock on, winning Munster the put-in to the scrum.
Rory Scannell received the ball and put in a sublime kick for Ronan to chase and secure bringing play into the opposition 22, and while possession was lost on a later phase the team worked hard to win the ball back. Rory then put in a great touch finder to again pin Ospreys deep in their own half. His kicking game is a great asset to the team as he proved last week and last season’s young player of the season is certainly in great form.
From that Ospreys lineout inside their 22 Munster again came away with possession. Wave after wave edged them closer to the line. Ronan nearly got over but the ball was quickly recycled and it was the opposite winger Sweetnam who got in at the corner. Tyler converted to make it 14-0 after 15 minutes – off 77% possession and from just 3 visits to the opposition 22!
After 32 minutes the Ospreys full back Dan Evans was caught between Jack and Jaco. A clash of heads resulted in both Dan and Jaco requiring treatment. Jaco had a cut above his eye. Ian Keatley came on in midfield, giving Munster three kicking options at 10, 12 and 13.
It took till the 35th minute for a penalty kick to give Ospreys their best attacking platform – a lineout in the Munster 22. They secured possession but the defence held firm against the barrage of black shirts until eventually the ball came loose and Munster claimed it. I believe Jack O’Donoghue was influential in the turnover. Duncan Williams kicked it clear and a good chase by Ronan and Duncan forced the Ospreys player into touch to secure possession for Munster and that was the most action we saw in the first half in my area of the pitch, down near the 22m line at the Dolphin end.
From that lineout Ronan O’Mahony again broke through to put Munster into the right place on the pitch, showing great footwork and his ability to break the tackle. The Ospreys lineout woes continued as they again over threw it and Niall Scannell was there to claim it in the closing minute of the half.
Ian Keatley combined with Peter O’Mahony to win back possession for Munster via a well-executed choke tackle in the opening minute of the second half. The Ospreys lineout continued to struggle with Peter O’Mahony tormenting them, to win the ball from their first lineout of the second half.
Excellent counter rucking by Ian and Tyler won back possession in the 51st minute, when Ospreys were making one of their rare forays into Munster territory. From that penalty for Munster, Tyler’s kick found an excellent touch back in the Ospreys half. Peter secured the lineout ball and the pack formed a maul.
When the ball went into touch Ospreys won their lineout deep in their own half. As they moved the ball wide Ronan O’Mahony managed to get a foot to it and he won the chase to the line to score the 3rd try of the game. The conversion was missed but Munster had a commanding lead of 19-0. Ronan had been unlucky not to have scored either of the two first half tries as he had featured in the build up to both and was very lively all night so it was great to see him get his reward in his 51st senior appearance for Munster.
At 55’ POM hit the ground head first as his lifters lost control after he stole the Ospreys lineout ball again. As the TMO reviewed and we watched it replayed from every angle, grimacing at the impact as it looked terrible but Peter was up and about and ready to play on. The referee adjudged that there was no foul play and the game resumed.
Ospreys did cross the line through Brendon Leonard in the 61st minute but again the TMO was called to review whether there had been a knock on or offside and the decision was that he was in front of the play so he was penalised. The boomer of a penalty kick to touch brought Munster back deep into the Ospreys half.
Ospreys won back possession but Ronan O’Mahony made a super tackle to win a turnover. Fresh legs were being launched – Conor Oliver came on for Tommy O’Donnell and a few minutes later Niall Scannell was replaced by Rhys Marshall who had only arrived in Ireland and started training with the squad that week.
His first action was to throw in to the lineout which was secured and a maul formed. Ian Keatley put in a super kick cross field and while an Ospreys player gathered it he was unceremoniously bundled into touch by Andrew Conway and Ronan O’Mahony to win Munster another lineout. The team went through 18 phases, retaining possession and probing for weaknesses. Dave Kilcoyne was prominent as both ball carrier and he even took a turn as scrum half to keep the pace up as the players went from ruck to ruck. Peter O’Mahony showing no ill-effects from his tumble made a big surge to the line, then Andrew Conway tried next before eventually it was Killer himself who managed to barrel over and ground the ball, converting relentless pressure by the entire team into the valuable bonus point score. Tyler converted to make it 26-0 with ten minutes remaining.
More replacements took to the pitch and just like in Waterford for the pre-season friendly in August the replacements showed their determination to keep the clean sheet intact. Peter McCabe made his Pro12 debut in the front row as Kilcoyne left to loud applause while John Madigan came on for his second Pro12 game as Peter O’Mahony also departed the action. Robin Copeland moved to the backrow.
Keatley was nearly on the scoresheet in the 74th minute after another great break by Darren Sweetnam who chased and collected his chip ahead before passing to Ian who was just held up but won a 5m scrum. Young Munster’s Abrie Griesel made his Munster debut to take over from Duncan Williams at scrum half for the final minutes of the game.
Munster won advantage from a scrum infringement so when Andrew Conway was bundled into touch they came back for another scrum. Given that 5/8 of the pack at that stage had been sprung from the bench I was delighted to see them putting on the pressure. Ian, Rory and Tyler were lined up behind the scrum giving plenty of kicking options but Jack charged forward. Abrie went in to clean out and protect possession as Robin Copeland arriving in support had the simple task of picking up the ball and diving over the line to score the fifth try of the game.
Tyler converted and there were two minutes of play remaining to see if the team could maintain the clean sheet as defence coach Jacques Nienabar continued to prowl the side line. He must be pleased with how well his philosophy has been adapted by his new charges as I read Jack enthuse about it in the Examiner during the week.
Towards the end when Ospreys looked like they might get a break-away score I watched Darren chasing down their winger, confident he would get his man. He did, and while the ball was kept in play the supporting Munster players contained that attack. The crowd remained till the end, showing their appreciation for the efforts of the team and while I singled out some players above this was a fantastic team effort as all 23 players worked hard to sustain such a dominant performance over the eighty minutes.
Dave Kilcoyne was interviewed before receiving his award and thanked the 16th man for their support. Reading through twitter after the game there were plenty of tweets from the players showing how much they enjoyed the game and valued the support.
Munster went top of the Pro12 table for the night until Leinster overtook them after their win in Zebre but they still have to come to Thomond in December! The +33 points difference could be very important also later in the season – although looking at the table below Ospreys still have the best points difference thanks to scoring a whopping 262 points to date!
Stats are available on the ESPN site here – a subset is included below:
Munster: Andrew Conway; Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute (Keatley 32), Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony (Wootton 69); Tyler Bleyendaal, Duncan Williams (Griesel 74); Dave Kilcoyne (McCabe 72), Niall Scannell (Marshall 65), Stephen Archer (Scott 69); Darren O’Shea, Robin Copeland; Peter O’Mahony – capt. (Madigan 72), Tommy O’Donnell (Oliver 62), Jack O’Donoghue. Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Peter McCabe, Brian Scott, John Madigan, Conor Oliver, Abrie Griesel, Ian Keatley, Alex Wootton.
Ospreys: Dan Evans, Keelan Giles, Ben John, Ashley Beck, Eli Walker, Josh Matavesi, Tom Habberfield (Capt), Paul James, Sam Parry, Dmitri Arhip, Lloyd Ashley, Adam Beard, Rob McCusker, Olly Cracknell, Joe Bearman. Replacements: Hugh Gustafson, Gareth Thomas, Ma’afu Fia, Rhodri Jones, Scott Otten, Brendon Leonard, Jonathan Spratt, Dafydd Howells
As I had walked towards the stadium I was greeted by regular reader Declan who recognised me and offered to send me his copy of the programme from the Glasgow game which had sold out. However, Munster rugby had organised a reprint so copies were available within the stadium. Since a portion of the funds raised will go to a charity to be nominated by the Foley family I wanted to purchase a copy, but I did appreciate his offer.
Thanks to MRSC for organising free parking at the Black Ashe Park and Ride. Not having to queue to pay or to wait for the barrier to raise and lower to let vehicles out really sped up exiting so it was much appreciated, although I did miss my chat with the man who works there.
Since it was announced in May I have been looking forward to the Maori game. I was lucky enough to be there in 2008 and who can forget the spine-tingling hakas that night? It was also in November and Jeremy Manning was sporting a very impress movember handlebar moustache for that game, immortalised in the photo on my living room wall, the limited edition autographed Maka. I reposted my blog of that game during the week in which I had included some photos kindly provided by Sean Ryan. He told me that Zurich – sponsors of that match – had purchased his photo of Barry Murphy’s try that night and he had donated their payment towards the cost of a hydrotherapy pool at St Gabriels. It is always inspiring to see such philanthropic gestures and the support for Movember, Blue September, Shave and Dye, Special Olympics and so many other great causes. Good luck to all those participating in Movember.
The influence of Anthony Foley was acknowledged this week in Chicago by the New Zealand coach in his press conference and by the team, lining up in a figure of 8 to face the haka while three of his young guns, CJ Stander, Conor Murray and Simon Zebo scored tries which combined with those of Jordi Murphy and Robbie Henshaw to create history, the first win over New Zealand in 111 years. You can read the reaction of CJ here
#RIPAxel. Your spirit shines brightly over Irish rugby as the players for Munster in Cork and for Ireland in Chicago are inspired by your legacy.