- Jack O’Donoghue was the official Man of the Match in the week of his 23rd birthday. In his player diary in the Independent on Friday he had written how they were disappointed in Edinburgh and how he would “be looking for an improvement” so he delivered on that objective! I read the following Friday in his diary how that had been his first MOTM for Munster! Congrats Jack.
- Jaco Taute played at centre and full-back, made some great tackles and brought his try count for this season to 7 with a brace – creative license taken as his name is pronounced Yaco – so he should be well pleased with his performance also.
- Throughout the match, the defence coach/physio Jacques Nienaber was paying close attention to proceedings from the sideline, often in front of us, ice pack in hand and first aid kit at the ready. I felt colder watching him in his shorts, often with one knee on the cold ground as my gloved fingers and double socked toes went numb! His contribution to the winning run has been significant.
It was a bitingly cold night, just 3°C before adding the baltic wind chill factor but that did not deter 8,008 supporters packing out Irish Independent Park to cheer on the team as they maintained their winning ways and position at the top of the league. At one stage it looked like they would pass 50 points but they had to settle for 45 from 6 converted tries and a penalty. The players won’t get carried away by their win either. They will be looking to reduce their penalty count (12 conceded) and to defend against mauls better, perhaps studying the recent excellent defensive maul master class by Donnacha Ryan in Paris but the 14 clean line breaks were very exciting and overall it was a big improvement from the previous game in Edinburgh. Stephen Archer on his 101st Pro12 game may come in for some praise at the review on Monday for his handling skills in the second half which TG4 likened to the Harlem Globetrotters!
A lovely kick by Tyler Bleyendaal was well chased by Ronan O’Mahony to put Munster into the Dragons 22 in the opening minutes before a high tackle on Rory Scannell resulted in a penalty for Munster which Tyler put between the posts to get the first points on the board after a lively opening 6 minutes.
Darren Sweetnam, in his first game since his knee injury on St Stephens Day showed no ill effects and continued his impressive workrate as demonstrated when he made a tackle, released the player and when that player rolled and went again he reacted quickly to chase and tackle him again on the 5m line!
A few phases later Dragons won a penalty which they converted to tie the scores after 11 minutes. That was as close as they got on the scoreboard.
From the restart when Dragons kicked possession away Jack carried play back to them. Andrew Conway brought the attack into their 22, before the pack went through phase after phase with big carries from Rhys Marshall, Dave (Killer) Kilcoyne, Tommy O’Donnell, Ronan O’Mahony, Dave Foley, Jean Kleyn, Rhys again and Dave O’Callaghan, sucking in the defence before Duncan sent the pass wide to Jaco who scored his 6th try. We could even hear the Dragons players talking during the silence as Tyler kicked the conversion.
Jaco continued his impressive defence when he and Darren combined well to drive the Dragons winger Pat Howard into touch.
Shortly after when the Dragons were attacking the Munster line Tyler intercepted a pass and charged out of the Munster 22m. Knowing he did not have the pace to run the length of the pitch he checked to see who was in support before kicking infield as he approached the Munster 10m line for the chasing Conway and Sweetnam. From that distance we could really appreciate the pace of Andrew as he raced after the ball which bounced up well for him to gather it without breaking stride, fend off the sole defender Dorian Jones and touchdown beside the posts. Tyler converted to make it 17-3 after twenty minutes. Half way to the bonus point win we hoped! Andrew’s pace in chasing the chip by Tyler was almost “rewarded” by naming this weeks blog “Speedy Conzales” in his honour.
The TMO advised foul play was committed when #5 Landman shoulder charged Conway as he got up from a tackle. Tyler tried to get too much distance out of the resultant penalty and failed to find touch. Munster claimed possession back through Sweetnam and Tyler put in a lovely grubber to bring play midway into the Dragons 22m. The Dragons lineout was put under pressure and Munster won back possession.
There was controversy when Dave Foley was tackled around his legs, lifted up and dropped to land heavily on his shoulder. We thought it was surely a card offence but the TMO and referee were satisfied that a penalty was sufficient. Darren O’Shea came on to replace Dave. The ball was kicked to touch and Munster were on the attack. Dragons were penalised again, this time for taking out the lifter and again Darren claimed the Munster throw. The maul was pulled down so the forwards took on the defence. Jack came close then Williams picked out Jaco again to score from about a metre out right beside the post. Tyler had no problem adding the conversion to make it 24-3. The bonus point by half-time was looking possible with 11 minutes left.
However, from the restart the Dragons won a penalty for not releasing which they kicked up to the 5m line. The Dragons maul surged one way and then another and Munster conceded a penalty. Again the Dragons kicked for touch and deployed their maul. They thought they had scored but the referee could not see a grounding with the mass of bodies from both sides.
Andrew Conway required a HIA and was replaced by Dan Goggin who took up position on the wing. From the 5m scrum Munster drove them back initially but Dragons retained possession. Another advantage for not rolling away kicked to touch and the line-out and maul set up again and this time they succeeded in scoring the try through Rhys Buckley. Dorian Jones added the conversion to make it 24-10. “There’s your 4th try before half-time” said Kevin with three minutes left!
From the restart the Dragons under pressure passed the ball deep in their own 22 before a loose pass went straight into touch. From the lineout Jack carried towards the line, then Killer. Jaco came close to scoring a hat trick but was short, then Killer took it on again. A scrum was awarded as the ball was unplayable and the pack drove forward. Munster won another penalty and opted to scrum again as the clock went past 40 minutes. From that scrum it went wide and Rory Scannell was just inches from the line when he was tackled. Munster still were in possession and the pass to the wing was knocked down with one hand – so after consultation with the TMO it was deemed to have prevented a probable try and the full back Carl Meyer was yellow carded for an intentional knock on and a penalty try was awarded. Tyler kicked over the conversion to go in at the break 31-10 up.
During the break the minis enjoyed a lively game while over on the west side the record-setting Sinead Kane and her sighted co-runner John O’Regan were warmly welcomed by the crowd. How inspirational her accomplishment of running 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days was as she told us: ”I wanted to show people that a disability should never hold you back”
Jean Kleyn who had been treated several times did not return for the second half so Conor Oliver came on with Dave O’Callaghan moving into the second row.
I noted that the sin binned player had a foil wrap to keep warm. Kevin wondered what he would do with the foil when he left the bin! It did not get over to us anyway.
Despite the man advantage Munster failed to capitalise though they had some good attacks including a super kick ahead by Tyler which Darren Sweetnam collected. A few minutes later Darren gathered a Dragons kick and weaved his way to the halfway line before passing to Ronan who charged into the 22. Unfortunately his pass to the supporting Jack did not go to hand and Dragons were able to clear the danger again.
Darren Sweetnam was replaced by Francis Saili resulting in a Munster backline of four centres with Jaco moving to fullback and Dan on the wing.
Darren O’Shea was sinbinned after charging in to clear out a ruck “with no attempt to grasp the body.” Brian Scott came on for Archer shortly before Rhys Marshall was replaced by Kevin O’Byrne. Another driving maul from a lineout on the Munster 5m line resulted in a try for Dragons awarded to Elliot Dee their replacement hooker. Dorian Jones converted to make it 31-17.
Rory Scannell stooped to grab the ball in the Munster half and accelerated through a gap to charge deep into the Dragons 22. Phase after phase Munster applied pressure near the Dragons line. Ronan O’Mahony came close as did Duncan Williams.
From the restart O’Byrne came close before Killer took it on and there was no stopping him as Jack and Brian helped drive him over. Tyler converted to maintain the 100% kicking record of both teams in the game and bring the score to 38-17 with 15 minutes left. A great achievement to get a try during the sinbin period!
Pat Howard who played for Munster as a medical joker some years ago made a super break down the east wing for Dragons but as he slowed to gather his kick ahead Rory caught up to tackle him. The referee was not sure which restart applied so had to call on the TMO for assistance which earned him a sarcastic “three cheers for the referee” from a bright spark on the terrace as he awarded Munster the scrum for the knock-on.
Killer was replaced by Peter McCabe. Dan Goggin made a super run to bring play back close to the Dragons 5m line and ensured Munster stayed in the right area of the pitch. When Jaco went off with 7 minutes remaining Abrie Griesel – a scrum-half for Young Munster – came onto the wing with Ronan switching to full back.
Dragons continued their efforts to break out of their half but the defence held firm. Darren O’Shea intercepted a pass with Brian Scott in support but possession was turned over. Dragons began to find some space but a great tackle by Ronan O’Mahony won possession back and Rory tried to set Dan off down the win only to be called back for a forward pass. Three minutes remained but as per the first half there was to be another final score at the close. Jack made another good break into the Dragons 22 but it was a clearance kick in the 79th minute which was received by Ronan and he accelerated through a gap to extend his lead at the top of the try scoring charts for this season. Tyler converted and the full time whistle blew.
Match stats from ESPN are here
Munster: Andrew Conway (Goggin 32); Darren Sweetnam (Saili 55), Jaco Taute (Griesel 73), Rory Scannell, Ronan O’Mahony; Tyler Bleyendaal – capt., Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer (Scott 56); Jean Kleyn (Oliver HT), Dave Foley (O’Shea 24); Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue. Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Peter McCabe, Brian Scott, Darren O’Shea, Conor Oliver, Abrie Griesel, Francis Saili, Dan Goggin.
DRAGONS: Carl Meyer; Adam Hughes, Tyler Morgan, Adam Warren (Sam Beard ’61), Pat Howard; Dorian Jones (Angus O’Brien ’61), Tavis Knoyle (Sarel Pretorius ’61); Sam Hobbs (Thomas Davies ’63), Rhys Buckley (Elliott Dee ’52), Brok Harris (Lloyd Fairbrother ’63); Matthew Screech (Nick Crosswell ’53), Rynard Landman; Ollie Griffiths, Nic Cudd (Harrison Keddie ’69), Lewis Evans.
I think I overheard the ultimate compliment for Duncan Williams as someone mused the number 9 was really Conor Murray wearing a scrum cap!
I spotted Joan and Kevin as I arrived so I stopped to enquire how her TV appearance at the Racing 92 game had been received! After the game John said hello as he passed by heading for Waterford. I am sure he was delighted with the local hero claiming the MOTM. Ian also spotted me as he was leaving and when he took off his glove to shake hands I was amazed by how warm his hands were compared to mine! He made a good investment in his gloves. Bernie and Edward had arranged to meet after the game. They had arrived early and with free seating in the stand had opted to sit right behind the team. Bernie was delighted to get a photo with Andrew Conway and a high-five with Rassie 😊 They are also planning to attend A team quarter-final in the British and Irish Cup in March against Ulster A. It is great for MRSC members to get free entry to the only home Munster action in March. Like me they had also bought their tickets for the European Quarter final in April also which went on sale to members during the week.
During the week I was pleased to pass the 75,000 views milestone. While other blogs may get that number of hits in a few months or even weeks a lovely community has built up over the past four years since I started writing this. The appreciative comments on the blog facebook page and Twitter when I publicized the milestone are testament to that. Regular readers will know that I love when virtual becomes reality and I get to meet some of you! I was delighted during the week to get an email from Olive who comments from time to time and read that I plan to go to Cardiff for the away game on March 4th. She is also planning to go and offered me a lift from Bristol so I am looking forward to meeting her as well as Peter and Daryl then. If any more of my readers are going to the Cardiff game let me know!
TG4 player has the program here
I enjoyed the TG4 interview pre-game with Tyler Bleyendaal which is also available on their player here
Super action shows from the MRSC photographers here – all included in the blog are my own.
Congrats to Ireland who won in Italy with a great debut by Niall Scannell, two tries finished by Keith Earls and three by MOTM CJ Stander who is probably on everyone’s Fantasty Rugby team! Glad he is on mine anyway. I had Jack on my Pro12 fantasy team so his MOTM was good for my team in that league also 🙂