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We have Dreams and Songs to sing: Munster: 10 – Saracens: 26

aviva1

Banner at the North End of the Aviva

While the head expected a Saracens win, my heart and dreams were hoping for another heroic Munster victory.  The Red Army were there in great numbers to do what they could to swing the game in Munster’s favour but Saracens proved why they are champions of Europe and of England.

Traffic nightmares on the M7 made it a stressful journey for many of the buses and cars heading to Dublin from the southern province.  Thankfully, by the time the team were ready to leave the pitch after their warm-up most seats had been filled and the noise levels as we cheered the players off would give you goose bumps as would the reception they got on their return, a standing ovation with red flags being waved all over the stadium.  It felt special to be part of that expression of the bond between team and supporters.

The singing, cheering, clapping, howls of protests at perceived high tackles / penalty offences, the perceivable rise in energy levels to urge on the team as the scrum or maul sought to drive forward, gasps of admiration and applause at some spectacular aerial combat under the high ball or stolen lineouts all added to the atmosphere along with the dominant red colour and flags around the arena.

Dreams and songs to sing are not enough but they do give a lift to the team and none more so that at the end of a tough defeat so it was great to see so many wait to show their support, waving flags, cheering and singing after Munster had clapped the Saracens from the pitch.

after the whistle

Thousands remained long after the final whistle to show their appreciation and support. Photo by Gayl from South Stand

You can’t fault the endeavour of the team – things did not always work out the way they intended, be it a mis-kick, a knock-on or turnover but they worked hard for each other, for the team, for the jersey they are proud to wear and for their fans.  Time and again Andrew Conway and Simon Zebo hurled themselves into the air with no thought for their own safety to secure possession.  The two teams with the best defensive records in the competition again ensured no tries were conceded in the first half.  Munster had plenty of possession and the territory advantage in the first half in particular but couldn’t find a way through.  Forty eight times CJ Stander, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell and Dave Kilcoyne carried the ball to the Saracens.  If you look at the stats on ESPN you will see how many tackles each of the Saracens pack had to make to ensure no way through for the men in red until the very end.  It was scant consolation for the efforts of the team but it does make the scoreline a little more respectable.   Even after CJ Stander scored the try for Munster at the death, Ian Keatley drop kicked the conversion to save time and give them a chance for another score before the final whistle as the team refused to go quietly into the night.

CJ

CJ carries the ball again in the dying minutes of the game. Photo by Gayl

MUNSTER: Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Jaco Taute (Francis Saili ’56), Rory Scannell, Keith Earls (Darren Sweetnam ’64); Tyler Bleyendaal (Ian Keatley ’72), Duncan Williams; Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin ’53), Niall Scannell (Rhys Marshall ’61), John Ryan (Stephen Archer ’64); Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Dave O’Callaghan ’53), Tommy O’Donnell (Jean Deysel ’51), CJ Stander.

SARACENS: Alex Goode; Chris Ashton, Marcelo Bosch (Alex Lozowski ’75), Brad Barritt (captain), Sean Maitland (Chris Wyles ’63); Owen Farrell, Richard Wigglesworth (Ben Spencer ’72); Mako Vunipola (Titi Lamositele ’72), Jamie George (Schalk Brits ’51), Vincent Koch (Petrus Du Plessis ’72); Maro Itoje (Jim Hamilton ’75), George Kruis; Michael Rhodes, Jackson Wray (yellow card ’23 to ’33) (Schalk Burger ’56), Billy Vunipola.

In the post match comments of Rassie Erasmus I see that Jean Deysel sustained fractured ribs while Peter O’Mahony had to go off for a head injury assessment so I hope they will make a good recovery.  Both teams put their bodies on the line and while Munster will be bitterly disappointed I don’t think this is the end of the road but rather a new work in progress.  Lessons will be learnt from defeat including how to deal with the suffocating pressure exerted by the champions.  While the bar has already been raised this season Saracens have shown how high the bar of European success is set.

To have secured top 4 placings in all 3 competitions in which Munster participates is a huge achievement.  While the European dream is over for this season we got a lot further than recent years, despite looking like the weakest team in our pool initially, with some terrific performances while the team have had to deal with the sudden death of Anthony Foley.  Another competition came to a conclusion this weekend when the B&I Cup was secured by the A team – full credit to them for the way they came back from 0-18 down to win 29-28 against Jersey Reds – see my short blog of that game here.  Some of those players will continue to develop and push for places in the senior team.  In the third competition, the Pro12 league only Scarlets could overtake Munster in 2nd place (with the valuable home semi-final) in the unlikely event that Munster slip up in their 2 remaining rounds so plenty left to play for yet this season.

So thanks to the team for giving us so many heroic performances, for inspiring our dreams and for occasions like today, rekindling the bonds between team and supporters.  I will be back on the terraces at Thomond for the visit of Connacht and hopefully for the Pro12 semi-final this season and am signed up for 2016/17 also.  A new journey started under the stewardship of Rassie Erasmus last summer and it is great to read that he will remain to oversee more progress next season after all the recent speculation.

Match reports: The42.ie and Irish Independent and the Irish Examiner

Highlights from the BTSport site:

The post match thoughts of defence coach Jacques Nienaber:

Fellow Supporter John captured the welcome for the team bus, the warmup, the fantastic support for the team as they finished their warm up and their final lap of the arena to thank the support.  It was a fantastic show of support.

 

PS: CJ liked my photo so much he put it on Instagram with these lovely words:   cjstanderA picture worth a thousand words.
80 minutes on the clock with a brutally honest scoreboard … what stands out to me, the @munster_rugby supporters! Without a doubt THE best rugby supporters in the world… Thank you to every one who came out to support us yesterday. This is not the end, but only a chapter in our story! #redwave #munsterrugby #SUAF 📸cred: @gayl_wtview blog!

It was featured in articles on SportsJoe and the Irish Examiner!

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10 comments on “We have Dreams and Songs to sing: Munster: 10 – Saracens: 26

  1. And so we live to fight another day. It was an amazing spectacle in the Aviva and one I was so proud to be a part of. Okay, this particular chapter has finished but we haven’t finished the season yet. AND what a season we have had. Being a Munster fan is so much more than the sport. We are all together in this epic battle and the machine rolls on to the next encounter. This blog must have been tough to write and well done on a good job. Congrats to the ‘A’s on Friday

    • Thanks Imelda. It has been a very special season and we have another cup to fight for yet. Hopefully Conor will be back before the end of the season too. Saracens will be favorites for the Cup so we now have a measure of the progress required to reach their level. Lets enjoy the journey with the team.

  2. From Facebook:Shona: Not to be today but a lot to play for yet. Brilliant blog as always.
    Frances: Wonderfully written- thank you. It says it all. How proud we all are of Munster and how brave they were from start to finish this season, even after the terrible nightmare of Anthony’s passing. The strong bond between players and fans is now stronger than ever. That was proven yesterday. I’m so glad to have been a part of a special day.

    From Twitter: Donal: Great blog Gayl, you sum up my sentiments exactly. Not the result we wanted but no shame in loosing to a better team.’SUAF like hell’ they did!

  3. Hi Gayl. Well it just wasn’t our day. With the Aviva turned Red and 50,000 in great singing voice, the current ERCC Champions Saracens defence aggression and accuracy top class, their shrewdness and savvy out played Munster’s game plan, they deserved their win. However Munster’s display did us proud and this young group of players definitely have a future together. Roll on Pro12 Semi-final. Up Munster

    • Hi Tony, the players tried their hardest right to the end but kept running in a black wall of Saracens shirts time and again. It was a hell off an occasion to be part of and hopefully we’ll be back again. This team have given us hope to dream again!

  4. Hi Gayl Brilliant blog again in a weekend of agony and ecstasy. So proud of both teams performances and I think we have a great future ahead also great news with Rassie. Fair play to Sarries they were fantastic in what was a cauldron of noise and an intimidating Red Army in full voice. Hope the bodies have recovered for the weekend and we get a pro 12 final place the players deserve.

    • Thanks Peter, did you see the semi-final is set for the Saturday May 21st – in either Thomond or Scarlets as they are the only team who can get past Munster? That of course gives the winner one less day recovery time as Leinster will play the other semi on the Friday night! I think we will see a lot of players rested this weekend after the exertions in the SF and 2 tough games v Glasgow and Ulster and then go fully loaded against Connacht.

  5. Hi Gayl Munster supporters influence on the global game. In “”View from abroad: Ireland the perfect 2023 Rugby World Cup host”, by Robert Kitson (Irish Times) where after an epic supported ERCC Semi Final between Munster v Saracens he writes “From a seat in the Aviva Stadium over the weekend, with the Fields of Athenry being belted out at full volume, the answer felt almost too obvious. No country breeds more committed rugby supporters. For years Munster’s fans, in particular, have traversed Europe, lending colour and passion to places where such qualities are not always universal. Mix in the diehard followers of Leinster, Ulster and Connacht as well and local enthusiasm for rugby union, albeit in its provincial format, is hardly in short supply.” It indeed was a proud moment for the Red Army. Even talking to Sarries supporters before kick-off, they were very envious. Best wishes to Munster against Treviso, a victory would secure a home league semi final. Up Munster

    • Hi Tony, a friend of mine from work – not a rugby fan – was out for a walk in Herbert Park in Ballsbridge and was saying how well the “Fields of Athenry” sounded coming to her from the Aviva. it was some atmosphere for sure, pity we could not help them find a way through the black wall of defenders but c’est la vie. I think the WRWC in UCD and Belfast this summer will also have an impact on the decision re RWC 2023. I got tickets for 2 of the days in UCD. Hopefully they will be well attended and will run smoothly. Fingers crossed for a win in Treviso to secure the home semi. Erasmus said he will be resting some players – no harm – so the youngsters will be keen to show what they can do over in Italy. See you for the Connacht game.

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