The first half provided exactly the response we wanted to see in terms of intensity and physicality after the disappointment of the loss to Leinster. There were some missed opportunities from kicks at the posts and to touch and a lineout or two which did not go to plan but at half-time we were sitting pretty on 0-17. Special mention to Jack O’Donoghue for his role in the excellent maul defence at the end of the first half which had us on a high going into the break. I also thought James Cronin and Niall Scannell were looking very strong in their first starts since returning from injury while Calvin Nash came close to scoring the first try and did contribute to the penalty try by chasing Duncan William’s kick ahead to put Charles Piutau under pressure and with the help of JJ Hanrahan won the 5m scrum which lead to that third try. Losing captain Billy Holland as early as the 23rd minute to a HIA did not impact the pack performance in the first half but his leadership was missed in the final quarter as things unraveled.
Ulster turned the game around in the second half as the stats below show when they had 74% possession. The change to their front row gave them parity in the scrum and from that their confidence grew. As a result of their pressure Munster lost composure and their discipline deteriorated. Overall 12 penalties were conceded but interestingly while Ulster conceded 9 in the first half they had kept all the players on the pitch albeit with a warning. Yet Munster’s Fineen Wycherley was yellow carded for the next offence after a similar warning to Munster in the second half. Worse was to come with a high tackle by Sam Arnold on Christian Leali’ifano resulting in a yellow card with 23 minutes remaining. As the title says it is an 80 minute game and Ulster pressed home their numerical advantage to score 4 tries in the remaining time.
The fact that we were left hoping the final kick of the game would go wide so that we would leave with a single losing bonus point was depressing given how we had had great expectations of a 5 point haul at half-time. Even more-so given that it was the only point we had to show from the back to back inter-provincial derbies over the so called festive period!
Stats are available on ESPN here
ULSTER: Charles Piutau, Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Stuart McCloskey, Rob Lyttle, Christian Leali’ifano, John Cooney; Kyle McCall (Callum Black 40), Rob Herring, Rodney Ah You (Wiehahn Herbst 40), Alan O’Connor, Kieran Treadwell (Robbie Diack 75), Greg Jones, Nick Timoney, Jean Deysel (Matt Rea 45). Not used: Adam McBurney, Paul Marshall, Johnny McPhillips, Andrew Trimble.
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo (Bill Johnston 76), Calvin Nash (Stephen Fitzgerald 40), Keith Earls, Sam Arnold, Alex Wootton, JJ Hanrahan, Duncan Williams, James Cronin (Jeremy Loughman 64), Niall Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne 53), John Ryan (Stephen Archer 51), Darren O’Shea, Billy Holland (Fineen Wycherley 23), Tommy O’Donnell (Robin Copeland 64), Chris Cloete, Jack O’Donoghue. Not used: James Hart.
Will we do better next Saturday in Thomond against the remaining province? I certainly hope so! Injuries to Billy Holland, Niall Scannell, Tommy O’Donnell and James Cronin are a cause for concern along with the 3 week ban imposed on Sammy by the disciplinary review of his red card on Wednesday Jan 3rd.
With the Cheetahs having 2 games in hand to be played against the Southern Kings Munster’s nine point advantage could easily become a 1 point deficit leaving Munster with little wiggle room when it comes to trying to secure home advantage in the play-offs.
Thank you re Survey Feedback
While last weeks blog did not set any new records for views I was blown away to get 70 responses to the survey I included (still open till Jan 4th) and by the number who took the time to comment and not just check an option. Even four first time readers took the survey so hopefully they will become regular readers.
- 71% of respondents read the blog every / most weeks so as I suspected I have some very loyal followers which is great.
- 34% subscribe via email with Twitter, MunsterFans and Facebook providing the balance in that order. I do recommend subscribing by email, click the link in the confirmation email and then whenever I publish a new edition you will receive an email like the picture below with the opening lines and an option to click to read the rest, unsubscribe, etc. The option to subscribe / follow the blog is on the right hand pane on a laptop or bottom on a phone.
- While 10% did think it has gotten stale / repetitive there were some good comments provided to that question and even more to the fourth question re potential changes / enhancements with some good feedback and suggestions.
Thanks to everyone who took the time to provide feedback. It was much appreciated as there are not so many comments on the blog itself from week to week and with views in 2017 being 16% down on 2016 I was questioning whether I should continue. I am thinking about focusing on the games I attend in person and just putting up links and the highlights video for the games I watch on TV so feel free to let me know what you think of that approach which I kind of took this week.
I watched the game on New Years Day in the River Bar with MRSC Dublin. It was great to see everyone as I had not been there since the Zebre game in November. A good crowd had assembled, including some friends from Limerick who are normally on the east terrace at Thomond so it was interesting to hear Patrick and the others around me react to the game as it unfolded on TV, cheering, groaning, applauding, “refereeing” / pointing out infringements and calling for penalties etc. The pro-Ulster commentary on BBC NI also gave us some topics for discussion and a few laughs while the “first try scorer” competition give another element of interest – Paddy was nearly in the money when Calvin came close but the jackpot went to the person who had drawn Munster #2 when the first try was scored off the back of the maul. All in all, it’s what makes it worthwhile heading into the city centre for the game instead of watching it at home. Back to the terrace for me next week for the late kick-off against Connacht. Hope to see some of you there as we get behind our team as they seek to put the last two disappointments behind them and get their league campaign back on track before the trip to Paris.