A win built on grit, fighting spirit and that “never give up” ethos we love to see in our team, despite facing an uphill battle with a scoreline of 0-18 after quarter of the game. Maybe because the As had been focused on helping the senior team prepare for the European semi-final all week, simulating the Saracens instead of focusing on their own challenge, it took them a while to get into the game. Jersey had travelled with good support and got off to a dream start. Missed tackles and errors by Munster did not help the home team’s cause but they stuck at it and eventually turned a nightmare start on it’s head, showing the attitude and workrate of Champions.
While there were some experienced players on the Munster A team, notably Robin Copeland and Mark Chisholm (who started in place of John Madigan) many were from the next generation of players. Billy Holland captained the last Munster A team to win this competition in 2012 and several more of his team mates from that victory have graduated to the senior team – Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Duncan Williams Dave O’Callaghan and Stephen Archer. There are only three competitions which it is possible to win each season and Munster got to the play-off stages of all three.
The full game is on YouTube, see below as ITV Channel Islands streamed the game. There was no big screen in the stadium but most of the action took place down the Dolphin end where I stood.
The Jersey Reds full back Adair and winger Scott combined well to score the opening try down the east wing after a poor box kick had handed possession back to the visitors. The conversion was missed by Callum Sheedy – his only miss of the night but a crucial two points given the final scoreline.
A knock on from the first Munster lineout gave Jersey the put-in to a scrum. The referee penalised Munster and from outside his own 10m line Sheedy put the ball between the posts to make it 0-8. From the restart a strong maul brought the visitors quickly back into the Munster half from where they won another penalty at a ruck just outside the Munster 22 and before we knew where we were Munster were 0-11 down and it was looking like a long night could be in store. Another scrum, another penalty, this time kicked for touch just inside the 22. The maul was repelled but another penalty conceded, again kicked to touch, this time closer to the try line. No maul this time, the visitors peeled back on the blind side and scored a second try through their hooker Joe Buckle, converted by Sheedy within 15 minutes to make it 0-18.
Munster dug deep and spent time in the Jersey half but some good opportunities were undone by mistakes. However Jersey began to make errors too – a knock on at a lineout, an overthrown lineout was gratefully received by Kevin O’Byrne; a scrum penalty against them allowed Munster to build some phases and work their way back into the game. However, it took until almost half time to reflect that pressure on the scoreboard. A high tackle on Johnston in front of the posts was kicked to touch again. Gavin Coombes just managed to get to the ball at the back of the lineout.
Munster probed through Darren O’Shea, Kevin O’Byrne, Dan Goggin before passing back infield to Coombes who was driven back by three defenders. Munster crucially kept possession and their nerve. Cian Bohane tried to surge through before John Poland passed to Darren O’Shea who got to within a metre of the line. Peter McCabe was next to carry before Poland found Gavin Coombes in a bit of space who this time crashed over to score. David Johnston added the extra 2 to make it 7-18 on the stroke of half time.
A perfect start to the second half with an excellent break by Alex Wootton getting play into the Jersey half. Stephen Fitzgerald was in support and carried it a few metres further. When Sam Arnold took it on he was tackled high but Munster did not need to come back for the advantage. Gavin Coombes was almost in again with another strong run but Kevin O’Byrne was there to take the pop pass from Poland close to the try line to score the 2nd Munster try, within minutes of the restart.
Johnston converted and the turnaround from 0-18 to 14-18 in those few minutes either side of half-time showed the shift in momentum. They call them championship moments for a reason!
Unfortunately a Munster scrum yielded another try for the visitors as the ball seemed to ricochet off a Munster foot – Kieran Hardy reacted first and the scrum-half raced down the wing before cutting inside to score. Sheedy added the conversion and Munster had to start building again.
Munster kept the pressure on, kicking penalty after penalty to touch. Jersey were warned about a possible card. From the next penalty kicked to touch the Munster maul was held up so Poland found Johnston who cut through to score in the corner. The conversion was missed but the gap was back to 19-25.
A superb break put Munster into the lead for the first time. From his own 22m a long pass from David Johnston found Cian Bohane out wide who cut infield to draw in the defenders before passing to Wootton on the wing on his own 10m line. Showing his pace and side-stepping skills the international 7s player raced all the way to the line. David Johnston added the extra 2 points to make it 26-25. The first time Munster had been in the lead all game!
The sides traded a penalty apiece and Munster showed great game management to pin Jersey deep in their own half for the closing minutes. The final score was 29-28. It was a shame to see Robin Copeland go off injured – he was wearing a sling for the trophy presentation. I read since on Instagram that this was his first ever medal in his professional rugby career!
The celebrations and trophy presentation were fun. Thanks to Daryl for the inclusion of his photos. See his full set here.
Muster A: Stephen Fitzgerald; Dan Goggin, Sam Arnold, Cian Bohane – capt., Alex Wootton; David Johnston, John Poland; Peter McCabe, Kevin O’Byrne, Brian Scott; Mark Chisholm, Darren O’Shea; Gavin Coombes, Conor Oliver, Robin Copeland. Replacements: Duncan Casey, Liam O’Connor, Rory Burke, Fineen Wycherley, Sean O’Connor, Abrie Griesel, Greg O’Shea.
Jersey: Ross Adair, George Watkins, Jordan Davies, Apakuki Ma’afu, Nick Scott, Callum Sheedy, Kieran Hardy; Jake Woolmore, Joe Buckle, Simon Kerrod, James Voss, Pierce Phillips, James Freeman (Capt), Gary Graham, Nick Haining Replacements: Nick Selway, Sean McCarthy, Jake Armstrong, Uili Kolo’ofa’i, Max Argyle; Joel Dudley, Lewis Robling
Match report from The42.ie Jersey Reds report: http://www.jerseyreds.je/news/2016-17/munster-a-29-jersey-reds-28.aspx
I hope the visitors enjoyed their visit to Cork. It is a pity that there were not more supporters there from Munster but the mass migration to Dublin for the European semi-final, also known as the RedWave made it difficult for many to get there. I was glad I made the day trip from Dublin and enjoyed watching the game with Ger and Paddy, regulars on the west terrace at Thomond. It was also great to catch up with Daryl at half time and to meet Niall and Danny after the game. Lots of proud family members and friends of the parents were there to celebrate with them.
I saw on Twitter that captain Cian Bohane is retiring from professional rugby so I wish him all the best in the future. Congrats to all the team and best wishes in the future. You did the jersey proud throughout this campaign! Also congrats to the management team including Peter Malone – best wishes to Peter as he takes on the challenge of the JRWC.
The full game is on YouTube – picture starts 4 minutes in with an insight into Jersey Reds road to the final – game starts at 21 minutes in. The ITV Jersey commentator was not aware that Mark Chisholm had started in place of John Madigan.