“Whatever it takes” is the motto you see all around Scotstoun, and both teams gave it everything in this engrossing, closely contested, physical encounter. Defences were severely tested and there was little to separate the sides as they exchanged penalties until a little piece of magic between Zebo, Earls and Saili finally gave Munster the breakthrough to take the lead. Then we had a nervous closing 7 minutes to endure!
Munster hardly got out of their own half in the opening minutes as Glasgow started strongly. A penalty for collapsing the scrum was kicked by Finn Russell to put Glasgow onto the scoreboard after 12 minutes. Dave Kilcoyne got his revenge a few minutes later when from another scrum it was their tight head who was penalised. The penalty kick attempted from half-way was short and Hogg cleared the ball – a quick lineout was not allowed and handbags ensued in midfield.
There was plenty of niggle between the sides throughout, Murray was not happy to be tackled after his box-kick but the officials had no issue with it. That kick had moved Munster into the Glasgow half. There they held onto possession until Lee Jones was penalised for a high tackle. Tyler Bleyendaal kicked well to make it 3 all after 20 minutes.
From the restart we were all astounded to see CJ Stander concede a scrum for a knock-on as he failed to catch the ball cleanly. However a key turnover shortly afterwards enabled Munster to go back on the attack. Indeed while Glasgow had dominated the opening period it was Munster’s turn for a purple patch. A reverse pass from Murray after a well executed lineout put Kilcoyne through the gap and he charged into their 22. His front row partners were next to carry, Niall Scannell with Jack O’Donoghue on his shoulder and then John Ryan as Munster pressed hard. Kilcoyne carried again, then Donnacha Ryan and Peter O’Mahony before play moved to the opposite side of the pitch but the Warriors defence held firm until after 12 phases they won a penalty and cleared the danger.
Just after the half hour mark, another long-range penalty was won by Glasgow when Munster failed to release the ball and Stuart Hogg stepped up to take it and make it 6-3 from just inside his own half (52m). However just minutes later Josh Strauss got tangled up with Murray at the base of a ruck to concede a penalty and then a further 10m for backchat which made the kick easier. Some booing of that decision ensued but Bleyendaal kicked the ball between the posts to tie the scores again after 35 minutes.
Another penalty for a high tackle earned the ref Luke Pearce more boos when he allowed Finn Russell to line up the penalty and then after intervention from the TMO insisted the ball be moved back to the half way line where the offence had occured a few phases earlier. As a result the kick was attempted by Stuart Hogg but it was just wide.
Glasgow dominated the opening exchanges of the second half as they had the first. Some great offloads and lines of running plus skip passes made them a constant threat and tested the impressive Munster defence. After a sustained period of Glasgow possession Keith Earls read and intercepted the pass brilliantly. However from the subsequent Glasgow lineout they again were on the attack. Tim Swinson made a great linebreak through midfield into the Munster 22. Andrew Conway managed to bring the big second row down but conceded a penalty when he could not roll away afterwards. Finn Russell made it 9-6 after 47 minutes and it was no more than they deserved (with 81% possession for those 7 minutes.)
However from the restart Munster were back on the attack. An excellent block down by Jean Kleyn unfortunately was recovered by Russell.
Tyler stepped up to level the scores again with just under half an hour to play when Fraser Brown did not release.
I wondered how much pressure Munster could absorb as they continued to defend in their own half. Penalties against CJ in the 57th and 58th minutes gave Glasgow territory and another opportunity to kick for goal. Finn Russell made it 12-9 as the game moved into the final quarter. Another penalty conceded shortly after allowed Glasgow kick for an excellent touch.
A shrill blast of the whistle and the referee called for the medics immediately which is always a bad sign. There were no replays shown on the big screen so I was not sure who was involved. After treatment Conor Murray was deemed ok to play on but a few minutes and a tackle or two later the referee told him he had to go off for a HIA. He ran off the pitch. (update Jan 16: Munster’s handling of the HIA to be reviewed)
Andrew Conway showed great aerial skills to win a high ball and when Tyler’s clearance kick took a deflection it gave Munster the throw in. The microphones then picked up Andrew urging his teammates to get out of a maul and into position so Sky had to apologise for any offence caused.
Munster still had possession but needed to get into the opposition half. Rory Scannell put in a super kick to take them to just outside the 22. However, from the Glasgow lineout when Ali Price kicked straight into touch it gave Munster the throw in, just outside the 22. Josh Strauss who had been immense limped off to be replaced by Chris Fusaro. Rhys Marshall, after throwing in then took possession at the back of the maul. We urged them on over the chants of “we are warriors” as the home supporters tried to encourage their men’s defensive efforts again. The pack kept it tight for a dozen phases before the backs got a look in! Saili burst forward, Duncan Williams was almost there, but the defence held firm. However Munster kept plugging away within the 5m area.
In the 21st phase of attack Tyler and Scannell combined to get the pass wide to Andrew Conway who raced forward. Stuart Hogg caught him in the head with a flailing arm and while we thought it could be a penalty try the TMO decided it was a penalty and a yellow card as Lee Jones had managed to turn Conway to prevent him grounding. Boos rang out as Munster kicked to touch, opting to try to win the game instead of looking to equalise once more as Conor Murray returned to play. Lineout secured Munster went for the maul. The Glasgow defence drove them back before collapsing and conceding advantage. Play continued and with Glasgow missing their full back there had to be space out wide and so Munster went looking for it. Tyler got the long pass to Zebo who made ground before getting his pass out of the tackle to Earls. The interplay then between Earls and Saili was superb. Earls brought the defence infield before pivoting to pass to Saili arching behind him, who went sailing over the line into the corner just 60s into the ten minute sinbin period. The conversion just went the wrong side of the posts to set up the tense closing 7 minutes of the game – a penalty or drop goal would suffice for Glasgow as Simon Zebo (later seen with his knee iced) was replaced by Ian Keatley.
From the restart Munster secured possession but when Murray’s box kick was blocked down Glasgow were exactly where they needed to be – in the Munster 22. Defence had to be robust and also discipline to survive this onslaught. Finn Russell moved into position for a drop goal but the option was not taken. Five minutes still remained as Glasgow were pushed back out of the 22. A dropped ball gave Munster a scrum and a chance to clear the danger again. A reset of the scrum was welcome as the clock ticked down and though our nerves were shredded we urged them on. Steam rose from the scrum as the rain fell. Scannell kicked the ball back into the Glasgow half but they counter attacked.
The 63 metres run by Tim Swinson (MOTM) was the most by any player during the game and most of it was in that 77th minute. A “gazelle” the Warriors fan behind me likened him to and it took a well executed tackle by Ian Keatley to bring him down after he had built up a head of steam. Glasgow kept possession but opted for the chip ahead which Conway had covered. He kicked it deep and Glasgow had to start again from just inside half-way. Harley secured the lineout and the maul was formed but the defense held firm.
Glasgow were being forced backwards until they managed a break down the wing. Andrew Conway and Conor Murray combined to force Jones into touch and win possession back for Munster with less than a minute remaining. By the time the lineout was thrown there were just 5 seconds left. It wasn’t taken cleanly but it was in Munster hands and Murray kicked it out to bring the game to a close.
Highlights on SKY webpage here
Full game on YouTube
GLASGOW WARRIORS: Stuart Hogg (yellow card ’71); Tommy Seymour, Mark Bennett (Nick Grigg ’63), Alex Dunbar, Lee Jones; Finn Russell, Ali Price; Gordon Reid (Alex Allan ’78), Fraser Brown (Pat MacArthur ’63), Zander Fagerson (D’arcy Rae ’78); Tim Swinson, Jonny Gray (captain); Rob Harley, Ryan Wilson, Josh Strauss (Chris Fusaro ’68). Replacements not used: Matt Fagerson, Grayson Hart, Peter Murchie.
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo (Ian Keatley ’73); Andrew Conway, Jaco Taute (Francis Saili ’57), Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray (HIA – Duncan Williams ’65 to ’71); Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin ’49), Niall Scannell (Rhys Marshall ’67), John Ryan (Thomas Du Toit ’61); Jean Kleyn (Billy Holland ’54), Donnacha Ryan; Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Dave Foley ’73), Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.
Referee: Luke Pearce [RFU].
The ThreeRedKings did an excellent analysis of the key 21 phases during the week which can check out here
Stats: from ESPN here show that Glasgow had more possession and territory in the second half
The team walked around the stadium to thank their supporters and share their delight. Peter O’Mahony who had been taken off for a HIA in the closing stages was in good spirits.
Kiss and tell: CJ and Peter made up after a few words were exchanged when CJ conceded those two penalties in quick succession! You can read CJ’s explanation in The42.ie here
It was great to meet so many west terrace and other supporters over in Glasgow. About 75% of the passengers on my Ryanair flight were Munster fans. I enjoyed dinner with Paul on the Friday evening, hearing about his 7 month old daughter Anna and it was fun to chat about other rugby and non rugby topics also. He is still on crutches so we didn’t go too far for food before catching some of the Leinster game. Next morning I wandered around Glasgow. At 10.30 there were not so many red jerseys out and about but I did see a few around the Cathedral which was worth a visit, but a bit of a walk up past the university area. I said a prayer for Anthony Foley and for my mother there.
When I went back into the city I met the lads who are always behind us at Thomond who had arrived off the early morning flight. After lunch I headed out to the stadium by train and met “MunsterBecks” on the platform before boarding so we had a good chat about how she has a season ticket for Glasgow and Scotland since she is working in Scotland but would naturally support Munster over Glasgow (and she was in her red Munster gear) and England or Ireland over Scotland in Murrayfield which confuses the heck out of the other season ticket holders sitting near her there! She also told me how Rob who was with me at the Leicester home game had given her a lift from Manchester to the Leicester away game – another example of the great camaraderie between supporters. She got off before Scotstoun so I started chatting to a Glasgow supporter as we walked to the grounds. She was “working” with the supporters club so was heading in early. I mentioned having read the Glasgow blogger earlier TopofTheMoon and she knew him by name which impressed me. Then I realised that some of the MRSC committee would also know me, since I stand right behind them at the home games.
Anyway despite the gates not opening till 4pm I was not alone! There were other Munster supporters there, one of whom recognised me from the MRSC Dublin gatherings at the River bar – with his ear-muffling hat on I did not recognise him but we had a good chat. A stream of taxis deposited more supporters including Sinead and John from Waterford (and the WT) who had taken the afternoon flight from Dublin and come straight to the grounds. They had the same taxi booked to collect them to 8 so I asked if I could join them – I wanted to pay my share but was not allowed so thanks John!
Fiona was handing out Munster flags so I complimented her Sky interview from Paris. When I told her I could not hear her over the noise in the bar she joked that probably a lot who did hear could not understand her Cork accent! I also met Joe, Dee and Hilary from my home town of Thurles. Joe had bought 16 tickets when he saw they went on general release in December so he had made a lot of folks happy! Glasgow had not experienced that Munster phenomena before as there is not the same amount of traveling support for league games. The public sale of tickets boosted the 15% allocation to Munster. The official attendance was 7,351. Hilary had travelled from Luxembourg through Charleroi and Edinburgh which was a bit of a trek but was delighted to be there and has booked out the quarter-final weekend and other key dates in her diary ready to SUAF again. Priorities!
As the team bus arrived two pipers played. When a few lads saw Jerry they burst into “There’s only one Jerry Flannery” which brought a smile to his face.
Going through security I assumed my half empty bottle of water was more likely to be allowed than a full bottle (less of a missile I was thinking) but no, the sealed bottles were fine, the half empty one had to be binned in case I had “something” in it! I saw a few hip flasks got inside while another man had his “wee drop” in a cough bottle! Medicinal purposes to keep out the arctic chill!
The west stand is covered but a temporary and the metal base made a difference when the home support were stamping their feet and chanting “we are warriors, we are warriors.” I was chatting to Sean seated near me, who had taken the bus and ferry option from Limerick, only to be unable to dock for 2 hours due to poor weather on arrival! He introduced me to Niall Ronan’s mother so it was nice to have a chat with her. I had enjoyed reading about his success with his local GAA club team in November.
I generally don’t like being behind the goal posts as you end up watching the action at the other end on the big screen but it was interesting to have a close eye on the Munster warm-up. In Scotstoun the running track is between the pitch and the 2 main stands which means you are a lot further back from the action.
Local hero, Andy Wilson delivered the match ball.
After the game I met up with Sinead and John at the rendezvous point and the taxi had us at the airport in under half an hour. A lot less hassle than my planned train and bus route. The terminal was almost deserted with only the flight to Dublin and the charter flight back to Limerick for the squad and supporters on the schedule. Mark and Ger who were waiting for the Limerick flight came over to chat to me. Everyone was tired but happy. A quarter-final secured with a game to spare. Not a perfect performance but full of heart and grit and things to work on for next week, with the opportunity to ensure a home venue next weekend. They will also be wary of not underestimating Racing 92 and Ronan O’Gara!
As the gate number for the Dublin flight was displayed the players began to filter through into the departure area. John was keen to meet Jack to discuss the important match for Waterpark the following day in which Jack’s brother was expected to play. As we were waiting we congratulated the others coming through, including Conor Oliver for the A team’s qualification for a home quarter-final in the B&I Cup. He had played in Bandon on Friday night. Then CJ arrived and Sinead got a selfie while I asked John to take a photo for me. I was so thrilled when he mentioned the blog (I did not have to bring it up as a “by the way”) and more so when he said that he likes it. When I mentioned getting a photo with him before in Glasgow he said that he remembered that, and commented that it was taken before boarding the team bus! How many photos has he posed for since May 2014 with so many supporters? It was a lovely moment for me, as I don’t write the blog for commercial reasons, I am not looking for a change in career, I just love supporting this team and sport. So moments like that, or nice comments, shares, views etc. make the hours I spend on this worthwhile. I was so excited I had to post about it on my facebook & twitter pages and there were some lovely comments back by the time I landed in Dublin. it is no wonder CJ is such a favourite with supporters.
PS I was glad to have my jacket inside my coat as it was bitterly cold at the game. I had a base layer on also but had taken that off before the flight.
Watching the game back, the number of references to Lions throughout the commentary was high. I wonder can you take a bet on how often they will mention it? I must ask my betting expert George next week 🙂
Next weekend is looking like a full house for the return of Ronan O’Gara and the chance to get into the top 4 for a home quarter-final. There’s nowhere I’d rather be!
Thank for reading the longer than usual blog this week. Check out my Facebook page for other updates.