“Until you hear the bell, the final bell” indeed! Munster were not content for the visitors to claim a consolation score at the death and defended their line as if the result was still in doubt. Penalties were conceded but it was a statement of intent. It was important not to let the momentum shift at half time in the double header. The five points are banked and the good news received before kick-off from Castres of their win over Racing means Munster are now in pole position in the pool. If they can bring the same intensity and clinical performance to Welford Road they will be able to cement their position further. Lessons will have been learnt from last season when a long range penalty in the final minute deprived them of an valuable away win and their attitude at full time was very much that they see this as a job half-done and are focused on maximizing their return in these key back-to-back fixtures next Sunday.
Rhys looks at home under the high ball in the top left picture of these other action shots tweeted out by the Tigers
A striking image from the game was of the Leicester full back Telusa Veainu, going over to check on Andrew Conway after their collision before being applauded off the pitch himself. I read he has a broken jaw after that incident so will be out of action for some time and it is a mark of the man that despite his own injury his thought was for Andrew who at the time was stretched out surrounded by the medical team. The crowd showed their appreciation as he left and we were delighted some minutes later to see Andrew able to walk off the pitch himself. He is always so brave and fearless especially chasing those high balls. I wish both players all the best with their recovery.
One of Andrew’s highlights from the evening was this super break reacting quickest to counter-attack off a grubber kick which had our hearts pumping as he raced past us from deep in his own half to the other 10m line and presented the ball for the supporting players to put Munster on the front foot. The resulting period of pressure resulted in the opening points for Munster when Leicester infringed and Keatley took the 3 points on offer. We had noticed a boot lying on the pitch as play had moved on and it turned out to be Keatley’s so the clock had to be stopped while he got re-booted before lining up the shot at goal. Gif courtesy of the ThreeRedKings:
From the previous restart Rhys showed great athleticism to keep the ball from going into touch. Another garryowen was launched with Conway in pursuit and he did enough to force Leicester to conceding the scrum.
Ian Keatley raced over to make a tackle and stayed down injured. Thankfully the medics got him up and running again. Alex Wootton, making his European debut fielded a penalty kick to touch to rob Leicester of a good territorial advantage. The lineout functioned well
Another Euro debutant Sam Arnold combined well with Andrew Conway to force a penalty when Leicester did not release. Rory’s left boot dispatched the penalty to the corner. Munster were still just shy of their 4000th European points and it was last week’s Man of the Match who continuing in a rich vein of form had the honour of crossing that milestone. From his lineout, Billy secured the ball and the maul tried to move forward. Then Dave Kilcoyne carried, before Billy took it on to suck in the defence. Rory charged forward to take the ball into contact before Rhys’s juggling skills bamboozled the defence as he scored his first try in the European Cup. Keatley converted to make it 10-0 after 20 minutes.
You can enjoy the video of the score in this tweet:
Leading by example captain O’Mahony showed his infamous poaching skills to win the ball and Murray raced up the wing to set up another good position for the home team. The team hunted in packs, harried the visitors, forcing them into mistakes and indiscipline. An infringement at a ruck gave Munster another kickable penalty to make it 13-0 as Munster opted to take the points on offer.
Coming up to the half hour mark from a lineout Rhys threw long to Rory Scannell in midfield. Conway probed up the west side before play moved quickly to the opposite wing where Cloete gave a super handoff to Ford before passing to O’Mahony. Cloete kept the tempo up as twice he went in at scrumhalf in the build-up to the second try scored by Simon Zebo. Listening to the post-game interview with Ian Keatley he gave Zeebs credit for spotting the space and calling the play. The skill to execute it as the defence rushed to tackle him and the kind bounce of the ball helped. The post try celebrations by Simon showed how much he was enjoying the moment. The TMO seemed to call for a check as Ian lined up the conversion but the replay confirmed that Zebo had not been ahead of the kicker so the try was good and the conversion sailed over the bar to make it 20-0.
A penalty kick found touch to put Leicester into a good position. Another penalty conceded close to the try line as the Munster defence was tested resulted in the first points for Leicester as George Ford kicked it between the posts to make it 20-3 after 35 minutes. However Munster cancelled it out almost immediately when the TMO called on the referee to stop play while he showed him a neck-roll on Cloete. The crowd expected a yellow card as had been the decision for a similar offence against the same player last week but it was deemed to be just a penalty which Keatley kicked to make it 23-3. A shoulder barge by Tom Youngs on CJ resulted in another penalty but there were no more scores before the break.
The resumption of play brought no let up in intensity and Jean Kleyn nearly got on the score-sheet except he lost control of the ball over the try line. The incident involving Conway and Veainu happened shortly afterwards and both were replaced after the stoppage by Sweetnam and Malouf respectively.
A break by Keatley on the halfway line released Wootton with an inside pass. Kleyn in support took it up to the 22. Killer almost got to the 5m line before getting isolated and Leicester cleared their lines with a penalty kick to touch but we felt that the pressure would pay off sooner than later.
However it was Leicester who were on the attack next, winning a scrum against the head and breaking up-field. Cloete got back first and held him up with help from O’Mahony to win back possession.
An excellent push on a Leicester scrum with Brian Scott on at loose head in place of Killer put Leicester under pressure. Rhys ripped the ball off Leicester and the ball went wide one way and then the other before Sweetnam took out the last defender as his offload found O’Mahony in the right place at the right time to score the 3rd try with the simplest finish. His fist pump in delight matched our own feelings. The touch line conversion was missed but the 28 – 3 scoreline after 55 minutes gave us hope that there was time for a bonus point.
A super tackle by Marshall dragged Malouf into touch as he was falling (with Wootton in support) when Leicester were on the attack epitomized the workrate of the whole team.
Thacker replaced Tom Youngs and from a 5m lineout it looked like Barrow was set to score off a maul only for Rhys Marshall to come away with the ball! However from the next play, another 5m lineout to Leicester they got the maul working again and scored a try through Thacker. Ford converted to make it 28-10 after 65 minutes. As often happens one score is quickly cancelled out by another as two minutes later, Munster with a penalty of their own kicked to touch got their maul motoring. Chris Cloete was credited with the try to seal the bonus point and put the game out of reach for the visitors.
Credit to the Tigers they kept fighting till the end but Munster dug deep. A kick over the top did not bounce as kindly for Joe Ford as it had earlier for Simon and JJ touched the ball down to avert the danger. A penalty had been conceded in the build-up so Leicester kicked for touch. Harrison was almost through off the back of a maul. A further infringement in defence gave Leicester another penalty as the clock entered the final minute and they opted for a scrum. After battering Munster in the trenches they went wide and knocked on to bring proceedings to a close.
Brian O’Driscoll selected Sam Arnold on his European debut at 21 years of age for the official Man of the Match, noting his defensive contribution but there were so many who would have been worthy recipients in a great team performance and they will be keen to back that up next week,
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo, Andrew Conway (Darren Sweetnam 46’), Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton, Ian Keatley (JJ Hanrahan, 73′), Conor Murray (Duncan Williams 73’); 1. Dave Kilcoyne (Brian Scott 55′), Rhys Marshall (Kevin O’Byrne 69’), Stephen Archer (John Ryan 61’), Jean Kleyn (Darren O’Shea 69’), Billy Holland, Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Jack O’Donoghue 72’), Chris Cloete, CJ Stander.
LEICESTER TIGERS:. Telusa Veainu (Malouf 46′), Adam Thompstone, Matt Smith, Mathew Tait, Jonny May, George Ford, Ben Youngs (Sam Harrison, 69′); Kyle Traynor (Logovi’i Mulipola 51’), Tom Youngs (captain) (Harry Thacker 63’), Dan Cole (Chris Baumann 69′), Mike Fitzgerald (Dom Barrow 51’), Graham Kitchener, Valentino Mapapalangi (Mike Williams 63’), Luke Hamilton, Sione Kalamafoni.
Match stats from ESPN show how clinical the team were without dominating possession or territory, being content to let Leicester have the ball and trusting their defense.
A great selection of photos are on MunsterRugby.ie
If you missed it on Saturday morning, this interview with Rhys from The42.ie is well worth a read. What an addition he has been to the team. Indeed all the additions last season and this have made an impression (I am sure GG will also when he is fit!) while the academy is also producing talent such as Liam O’Connor, Sean O’Connor and Calvin Nash who have all featured this season. Great to see such strength in depth!
Here is the link to the official highlights video
The forecast was ominous but the brave and faithful were not deterred from turning out in numbers to support their team. Some people seemed to have put on their Christmas pounds early but it was probably just the number of layers worn in an effort to avoid hyperthermia! Pascal reckoned he had more layers on him than an onion while others felt they were like the character from Wanderly Wagon known as Fortycoats or resembled the Michelin man. Chris Farrell was interviewed before the game and the choir and Hit Machine entertained us. When the flames lit up the west terrace during the choirs rendition of “Stand up and fight” and again to welcome the team those in range all welcomed the blasts of heat!
We protested that the winger was constantly ahead of the kicker at each restart but the officials did not pick up on it. We were also not impressed that Mr Garces did not deem the neck roll on Cloete to be worthy of a card but the penalty awarded was duly dispatched between the posts. In fairness he did allow a good contest at the breakdown which according to Donncha on the BT Sport term is not the case in the Premiership (which might explain the “cynical” verdict of Matt O’Connor in the post match interview.)
The east side let us all know when a Leicester throw was crooked while at another stage they got the singing going. George commented later on that it should be noted that the south terrace started another round of song. When handbags broke out late in the game of course we had to break into “Stand up and fight”
Even though the game was well won and the conditions so cold I did not note any early exodus from the terrace. I didn’t go the bar post game as I deemed it prudent to high tail it to Dublin to beat the orange weather alert due to spread across the midlands. Walking briskly back to my car got the blood circulating again after the numbness and tingling sensation endured on the terrace from 5.45 – 9.45! There should be a support group for us :-).
Thanks to all who read, like and comment on my blog. It is a labour of love and while I need a strong finish to December in order to maintain the number of views year on year it is lovely to see such comments as “excellent” and “brilliant” which last weeks edition received. Hope to see some folks on the day trip next week, at the airport or Welford Road itself. Safe travels to all. Let’s be red, loud and proud there and hopefully finish the job. As the Irish proverb says a good start is half the work (Tús maith, leath na hoibre) and that was definitely achieved in round 3.