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Clichés and Penalties: Leicester: 18 – Munster: 16 (or 4-6 in head to head)

Leicester wanted it more.  Their backs were to the wall, their management were under pressure, they needed to show their pride in the jersey and put their bodies on the line when Munster arrived for the second leg of the December head to head games.  Yet the game was finely balanced, both teams were up for it and threw the kitchen sink at each other – both during phases of play and now and again as handbags or a “bit of afters” broke out.  It could have gone either way but it was Leicester who snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.  Their performance was not a surprise after reading Mick Cleary who had warned: “the return leg has become an exercise in redemption and credibility. Leicester’s sporting manhood has been called into question and an urgent response is needed.”

It was not a game of flowing rugby, the referee was busy with his whistle and the battle of the breakdown yielded penalties for both teams – in from the side, not releasing, not rolling away – to add to the others such as obstruction, dangerous tackle, pulling down the maul, lineout etc.  Twenty six penalties in all, equally distributed between the teams, making it a very stop-start game, frustrating the players and supporters of both sides.

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Tom Youngs remonstrates with the ref as he awards yet another penalty in the 2nd half

The penalties enabled the teams to take the points and keep the scoreboard ticking over.  Sometimes they kicked to touch – a statement of intent as the maul was such an effective weapon and itself a rich source of penalties.

From my position – on the South Stand Terrace near the try line – it was a game of two halves at least from a territory point of view as we had very little action in our corner of the pitch throughout!  Match stats from ESPN also show a high number of turnovers:

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The ESPN attacking stats

The intensity was not paired with the same accuracy that we had enjoyed the previous week, particularly the kick-chase tactic and the tackle stats (80% for Munster compared to 98% the previous week).  Both sides performances were error strewn, not surprising given the stakes – with a restart kicked out on the full, ball passed out of play, players getting isolated and kicks sliced or kicked out on the full from outside the 22 to concede territory.

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An early scrum – neither side completely dominated that facet of the game.

When Simon Zebo was obstructed after he had kicked ahead Munster were awarded a penalty from where the ball had landed and first blood on the scoreboard as Tyler sent it through the posts.

A second penalty from a good rolling maul was also converted from just outside the 22 to make it 6-0 after 18 minutes despite Leicester having had most of the possession (79% at that stage according to BT Sport).

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Tyler Bleyendaal lines up the penalty kick

Leicester won a penalty just about half-way and kicked for touch to set up the maul.  Munster won a turnover and the danger was averted.

A third kickable penalty opportunity was awarded approaching 26 minutes against Tom Youngs, a decision which was booed and incensed a supporter nearby.  “Cheat, Cheat” he yelled before declaring that he would not respect the kicker with silence and he started chanting something along the lines of 9 points for the team in red.. There were calls to hush and it did quieten down – listening to the game back on YouTube Jerry Flannery even lowered his voice as BT Sport insisted on asking him a question at that time!  The  Tigers supporters were delighted when the kick was unsuccessful.

However Munster gathered the restart through Sweetnam and went back on the attack.  Rory Scannell was injured approaching the half hour mark as Manu Tuilagi shoulder charged him (late) and for this offence a yellow card was brandished, his second in two games.  Munster kicked for touch and did get into the 22 before they were penalised when they failed to protect the ball and were dinged for holding on.

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A first half penalty awarded

Genge made a super charge into the Munster 22, batting defenders out of his way.  It resulted in a penalty for Leicester when Munster infringed which Owen Williams put over the bar to get Leicester on the scoreboard after 34 minutes despite being down to 14 men.  A second penalty opportunity 4 minutes later enabled them to tie the scores at 6-all and the number of penalties conceded at 5-all just before Tuilagi returned.

From the restart there were 16 seconds left on the clock so when Leicester kicked the ball out thinking time was up Munster had a final lineout opportunity before half-time.

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Out of focus but the shot shows the athleticism of the jumper

Roberts won’t make that mistake again!  Munster mauled their way into the Tigers 22m and forced the hosts to concede another penalty.  The ball failed to turn in between the posts and it remained all square.

Bleyendaal had an early chance to make up for it within 4 minutes of the restart as the breakdown work by Hamilton was penalised and this time Tyler put Munster back into the lead.

On 49′ Munster conceded a penalty which Williams struck well to make it 9-9 and when another was conceded on 53 minutes for not rolling away the captain Peter O’Mahony was warned that they needed to improve their discipline as Leicester took the lead for the first time at 12-9.  Roberts had made a great break for the Tigers leading up to that stage.

As the temperature dropped and a slight mist rolled in, Munster upped the intensity  and got into the Leicester 22 and for multiple phases within 5m of the try line as they probed left and right for a weakness.  A loose pass gave Leicester a counter-attack opportunity and Simon Zebo showed his great pace as he chased back.  He got to Thompstone just as he had kicked the ball ahead.  To me Simon was committed to the tackle but the TMO and referee conferred and decided that it warranted a yellow card as much for the repeated infringements as per his earlier warning.  So fifteen minutes to go and with a man advantage for ten of those as Owen Williams put them into a 6 point lead with his successful penalty kick: 15 – 9.

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The maul was terrific all day

Munster were determined to fight to the final whistle and through the pack and their maul put the pressure on Leicester who in their turn earned a team warning for infringing.  It looked like Munster had crossed the try line but probably did not ground the ball as the referee awarded a penalty instead which was kicked to touch.  Another lineout secured and mauled as the clock ticked down on the sinbinning.  The referee’s arm indicated advantage again as the Tigers tried to collapse the maul but Niall Scannell broke from the back to score the try.  Tom Youngs was sinbinned for being the one to concede the penalty as Tyler stepped up to take the crucial conversion.  We watched the flight of the ball as it headed towards the post, thinking it was not going to make it as Tyler had slipped as he was kicking but it managed to creep in over the bar and Munster were back in the lead and back to 15 players.  Could they hold on for 4 minutes and claim victory?

The referee got in the way of the pass from the ruck by Duncan Williams so Munster had to put in to the scrum.  The travelling supporters were feeling jubiliant as the Fields rang out.  CJ Stander charged forward and yet again we heard the shrill blast of the whistle as Munster were penalised.  Owen Williams stepped forward to take the kick at goal from a few metres inside his own half.  A hush descended as he eyed up his target.  The 52m kick cleared the bar with a few extra metres to spare and Leicester were back in front.  The home crowd was ecstatic.  From the restart there were just 30s left and Leicester kept possession and the historic double over Leicester was denied by a fantastic ballsy kick from his own half by MOTM Owen Williams.

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Owen Williams lines up his final penalty kick from his own half

Leicester: George Worth; Peter Betham (Tom Brady 71), Jack Roberts, Manu Tuilagi, Adam Thompstone; Owen Williams, Ben Youngs; Ellis Genge (Logovi’i Mulipola, 60), Tom Youngs (capt), Pat Cilliers (Greg Bateman 50), Ed Slater, Graham Kitchener (Mike Fitzgerald 50), Luke Hamilton, Brendon O’Connor, Lachlan McCaffrey (Mike Williams 60).  Subs not usedHarry Thacker, Will Evans, Sam Harrison

Munster: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls (Andrew Conway 69); Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray ( Duncan Williams 72); Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin 50), Niall Scannell, John Ryan (Stephen Archer, 74), Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland (Jean Kleyn 50), Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell (Jack O’Donoghue, 62), CJ Stander.  Subs not used: Rhys Marshall, Ian Keatley

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)
The  24k+ attendance ensured a noisy atmosphere.  The large travelling contingent made themselves heard with great renditions of “The Fields of Athenry”, chants of Munster and Tigers…  The terrace is so close to pitch, within spitting distance and they have great involvement with their juniors before and during half time.  I had hoped to meet regular Monday evening commenter Peter who had travelled up from Wales for the game but he forgot to bring his phone so we couldn’t find each other.  I did meet one of my former managers Paul who saw last weeks blog thanks to MRSC sharing it on their social media pages.  It was nice to hear he thought it was great.  I appreciate the share by MRSC as with their huge following it always drives up my views by  a thousand or more and some of those then following the blog by email or facebook.  If you are a first time reader this is written a bit tongue in cheek – trying to cram in as many clichés as possible!  A far cry from my blog about the Maori AB game which earned a comment from Margaret: “A wonderful article-beautifully crafted!”

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This shows how close you are to the pitch from the south terrace

The Tigers fan beside me was enjoying his beer from a large (2 pint) glass and we enjoyed the company of him and his partner.  As Owen Williams lined up one of his later penalties and the stadium hushed, someone nearby nearly had us laugh out loud as he loudly whispered a few lines from the Bjork song “It’s oh so quiet!”  At half time prizes were “shot” into the crowd – I think it was a tee shirt folded small enough to fit into the gun while the minis had a competition to catch balls and there was a Santa and Elf on the pitch also.

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Half time activities including shooting prizes to attendees

If we had been offered 6-4 from the head to head with Leicester at the start of the season we would have been happy with it as a marked improvement from last season.  While 9-1 would have been super and I was quietly confident that the team could deliver it was not to be.  With Racing out of contention after three consecutive losses, the games in Paris and Limerick in January have an unexpected dynamic.  Will they want to prove a point in front of their home support or will they throw in the towel and focus on the Top 14?  After getting to the final last season and winning their domestic title it was not expected that they would lose both of their back to back fixtures.  Interesting weeks ahead to determine the quarter finalists!

table

With a game in hand Munster have a great chance to qualify from the pool.

Highlights from BTSport are here

Match reports:

Irish Times here, The42.ie here and Irish Examiner here

Post match thoughts of Rassie Erasmus are here from The42.ie

In case you missed it Anthony Foley was inducted into the RTE Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday and they put together a lovely montage with contributions from Peter, Gaillimh and more, which you can see here

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Happy Christmas from Welford the Leicester mascot and from me. Thanks for your support throughout 2016

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16 comments on “Clichés and Penalties: Leicester: 18 – Munster: 16 (or 4-6 in head to head)

  1. Everyone was pretty grumpy after that loss but I was grateful for the chance to see Connacht snatch it from Wasps later in the afternoon. Cheered my up. 6-4. We’ll take it. Great write up again, thanks, and Merry Christmas.

    • Yes, delighted for Connacht, the baloney about the rule change does not take from their performance, especially given their injury troubles. Last season no one knew how many points would be needed to qualify for the quarter finals. Some twists and turns to come yet with both last seasons finalists losing this weekend! Thanks for your encouragement and seasons greetings

  2. A frustrating afternoon Gayl. Watching a recording of the game I was surprised by the amount of possession we actually had. At the game it didn’t seem anything like that. Certainly couldn’t fault the effort and commitment though, we just couldn’t get that maul going close to the try line enough. A busy few weeks coming up, hopefully plenty of positives along the way. Agree about Connacht too, why release a nonsensical statement like that?

    • Thanks Steve, yeah I was surprised by the 2nd half possession stat even though I knew there was not much action down towards the end I was at! The # penalties was also very telling. Watching the game afterwards the commentators thought some of the penalties for both sides were wrong / harsh but the sheer number of them really broke up any continuity. With the big games still to come – interpros and European – it will be interesting to see how Rassie manages / rotates the squad. A good win by the A team over the weekend also will give him options. Thanks for taking the time to comment this week.

  3. A big step down from the intensity the team have consistently shown since Glasgow at Thomond. I suppose it had to happen at some point … let’s hope they get it back together for Stephen’s Day, when it will be necessary. On the other hand, with the exception of a few errors, our defence was outstanding, and Leicester held to nil trys in two matches is not a bad result. See ye next week!

    • hi Mark, I did not think it was the intensity that was lacking so much as the accuracy – in kicking, tackling etc. and then the breakdown penalties stopped either side getting momentum – did either team get beyond 10 phases during the match? I hope he picks a strong team for the home game as it is important to perform well in front of a full house! The weather forecast looks ok too which is a bonus. Hope to see you there

  4. I actually liked your cliché-ridden opening paragraph Gayl – shows how used I must me to standard match reports! I like your blogs from the away matches as I don’t travel to many. A good report on a fair result. See you on the WTS!

    • I’m glad you didn’t say that you did not notice anything different about my blog this week Conor after all my efforts to front load the clichés! Listening to the commentators on BT Sport gave me plenty more to use than I came up with on my own 🙂 Hope to see you on a packed WTS soon if you get in early enough to get over to your usual spot. Great to see the sold out signs up so early

  5. Hi Gayl. Munster hard earned away bonus point is very significant in the qualification place(s) from this ERCC pool 1. With Racing now down and out, Glasgow having a very difficult final two fixtures against Munster then Leicester, it’s within Munster’s control to top this pool. Meanwhile congrats on your blog surpassing 70,000 hits so now let’s prepare for battle on Stephens Day against Leinster. Hope to see you there Nollaig Shona Duit

    • Thanks Tony, it will be interesting to see which fixtures get prime viewing slots when they announce the kick-off times for rounds 5&6 later this week as Leicester may win in Paris and be challenging for qualification when they welcome Glasgow on the last day. Hopefully we will be playing for a lot more than pride this season by then too, with Racing out of contention as you say it is within our own control.
      Nollaig shona dhaoibh go leir

      • Happy Christmas Gayl: -Storm Connor’s assist to Leinster’s arrival in Thomond Park on St Stephen’s Day will not stop them been blown off the field. After squads announced earlier this week, it gives home advantage the opportunity to win and with Nigel playing Santa will there be a bonus point under the Christmas tree for Munster. It’s Christmas Eve and Top of the Pro12 -Table in 2017 would be a brilliant present. Looking forward to WTview report on the day Up Munster

      • Happy Christmas to you and yours Tony. the IRFU restriction on International team players time does mean it is not a true reflection of the best 15s but I am glad we are putting out a strong team after the disappointment of last Christmas. With a record breaking number of tickets sold it is important to continue to make Thomond a fortress again as success will mean more will want to come to the next home game, and the next. It will be good to have Nigel take charge also. See you there.

  6. Happy milestone. Now to target the 100k mark. Glad to see so many glass half full comments. Good to see the grassroots supporters out in numbers and in fine voice. Our mettle was tested and we were up to the challenge. A few wobbles but, to be fair, there were some on both sides. Now to step up the intensity and drive on to a full house in Thomond Park. A fine read…..12+ clichés in one paragraph…..I take my hat off to you. Rest on your laurels and happy Christmas to you and yours. See you on the terrace next week.

    • Thanks Imelda, the next milestone will be to see if I can get to the same # views in 2016 as I did in 2015 and I am about 1600 views short so I need a strong finish next weekend! The views so far this season have been a lot better than those at the start of 2016, reflecting the big improvement in the teams performances also and hopefully there will be plenty more great wins to write about in 2017.
      Have a lovely Christmas, I’ll wish you a happy new year in person on Stephens Day!

  7. Hi Gayl disappointed on Two fronts the result and not meeting you I rushed out to pick up my tickets and left my phone in the hotel. Another great blog again and I think you have got it spot even the clichés. Though disappointed our young guns will learn from this defeat and I am looking forward to next years progress.
    Have a great Christmas and looking forward to the blog V the boys from Dublin.

    • Hi Peter, thanks for your weekly contribution and hopefully I will have plenty of good things to write about next weekend. Have a lovely Christmas and hope to see you sometime. Maybe I will take in an away game in Wales for a change in 2017!

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