The result from Swansea has put a smile on my face as the Ospreys managed a one point win over the Cheetahs to put Munster’s rival for 2nd place and the home play-off game 10 points behind in the table. Their loss in Wales makes the lack of a try bonus point in Cork less of an immediate concern. It did feel like an opportunity lost though given how many Glasgow front liners were away on national duty for the Six Nations (and didn’t they do well in Murrayfield!)
The final Cork appearance of Simon Zebo before he heads to Paris had us hoping for another opportunity to see his flair with ball in hand. It was nice to see him leading out the team with Billy Holland but the chants of “Ze-bo, Ze-bo” were reserved for his final action, kicking the ball out of play to bring the game to an end.
Kicking was the theme of the night and while there were several kicked out of the full plus another 2 blocked down by Glasgow there seemed to be a few too many box kicks simply giving possession away (non contestable to at least give a chance of winning the ball back). However, the kicks I want to highlight are those by the front row, specifically James Cronin and Rhys Marshall! Not a skill you would traditionally associate with front row players but well executed. One interchange between the two players resulted in the second try for Munster finished by Cronin.
Another notable kick on the night was a penalty kick taken by James Hart. While it went wide it is good to see the goal kicking responsibility being shared and Conor Murray did well to successfully kick a key penalty in the Ireland v Wales game the following day.
It was a bitingly cold, breezy night as we could see from the flags blowing towards the Dolphin end meaning Munster had the wind advantage in the first half. It was good to see Tommy O’Donnell and JJ Hanrahan involved in the team warm-up as the former is near a return to action.
Glasgow kicked the ball out on the full from the first kick of the game, giving an idea of the windy conditions.
Cloete nearly scored in the 9th minute off a lineout from a penalty kicked to touch outside the 5m line. Instead Glasgow infringed and Tyler kicked the penalty between the posts to make it 3-0.
A kick ahead a few minutes later was chased by Calvin Nash (a late replacement for Andrew Conway). He forced the Glasgow fullback into touch and handbags broke out but no disciplinary action was required. From the lineout Munster mauled well. Scannell was dragged over the line but the referee brought play back for an earlier infringement (side entry.) This time the maul broke down so Munster went though the phases and seemed to be making ground when the referee penalized Cloete for crossing to let Glasgow off the hook. Cloete made up for it by winning the next penalty – the one Hart attempted.
In the 24th minute a powerful maul off another lineout drove for the line. The TMO was asked to review to confirm no double movement by Niall Scannell as he placed the ball. The TMO agreed that the try could be awarded and Tyler converted to make it 10-0.
Full credit to Alex Wootton for his superb tackle on #7 Matt Smith to prevent a certain try. I am sure the Warriors winger (#11 Ratu Tagive) following up is annoyed at himself for not managing to ground the ball! Cloete won another penalty when the Glasgow player did not release (he gets into such a great position over the ball) which Tyler kicked to make it 13-0 at the break.
However Glasgow were quick out of the blocks in the second half. Sam Johnson supported by George Horne broke through the defence to take play into the Munster 22. A penalty conceded by Archer was put between the posts by Hastings to get Glasgow on the scoreboard.
Niall Scannell was injured in the early exchanges of the half and was replaced by Rhys Marshall. Niall has had a very stop-start season with injuries and hopefully this new setback is not too serious.
A superb choke tackle by James Cronin and Chris Cloete won another penalty for Munster in the 44th minute. However from a lineout in the 46th minute Lee Jones broke through and with George Horne running a great support line the scrum half took the pass and scored. Hastings added the extras to make it 13-10.
It was concerning to see Cloete stay down after a tackle in the build-up to that score as he had been playing a stormer. It looked like a serious arm injury, the extent of which will be known after a scan. Hopefully it is not going to finish his season as he has added a new dimension to the backrow options for Munster which is key to the playoff ambitions. Tommy and Conor will be ready to step up as needed so great to have them both fully fit again. Update 25th: Chris tweeted a gruesome pic of his arm saying surgery is finished. Best wishes for recovery.
Shortly after, as the referee advised the ball was out, Rhys Marshall put pressure on the scrum half, getting his boot to the ball to nudge it clear. James Cronin gave chase, hacking on the ball and barging over the line with Lee Jones. The latter failed to touch down the ball so Cronin had a simple finish. The conversion was wide so the score remained 18-10.
Calvin Nash nearly scored from a chip ahead by Hart but the ball grazed the sideline as it bounced and his foot was also just in touch so no try was awarded but he deserves credit for his athletic finish captured in this photo.
Another penalty just after the hour mark was put between the posts to put more than a score between the teams. Rhys held the ball steady for Tyler.
Just minutes later Rhys was to the fore again, this time gathering an overthrown lineout in the Munster 22 which he kicked downfield. Jack and Rhys gave chase and it bounced back towards Rhys who showed great footballing skills to hack it downfield again. Dan Goggin got back to pin Glasgow in their own half but disappointingly there were no more scores and no whiff of a bonus point for either team in the final quarter hour.
Munster: Simon Zebo; Calvin Nash (Darren Sweetnam 78), Sam Arnold, Dan Goggin, Alex Wootton; Tyler Bleyendaal (Ian Keatley 67), James Hart (Duncan Williams 78); James Cronin (Dave Kilcoyne 67), Niall Scannell (Rhys Marshall 43), Stephen Archer (Brian Scott 74); Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland; Dave O’Callaghan, Chris Cloete (Jack O’Donoghue 48), Robin Copeland (Gerbrandt Grobler 74).
Glasgow Warriors: Ruairidh Jackson; Lee Jones, Sam Johnson, Brandon Thomson, Ratu Tagive (Nicko Matawalu 74).; Adam Hastings (Richie Vernon 68), George Horne (Henry Pyrgos 59); Ollie Kebble (Alex Allan 62), James Malcolm (Grant Stewart half-time), Siu Halanukonuka (Zander Fagerson 56); Kiran McDonald (Lewis Wynne 74), Scott Cummings; Rob Harley, Matt Smith (Chris Fusaro 59), Matt Fagerson.
Robin Copeland was awarded Man of the match and it was funny watching him “lovin’ the camera” when it was on him as Tommy and JJ enjoyed his preening.
Stats from ESPN are here and show that Munster had 36 kicks from hand and lived on 30% possession and 28% territory in the second half (40% & 49% respectively over the 80 minutes) and we can attest to that as all the action seemed to be in the far half – over on the west side and down in the Dolphin half whereas we were in the east at the Sunday’s Well end. Given the low possession there were some big tackle numbers put in by the midfield pair and the pack. Stephen Archer may not have gotten in on the kicking trend but he tackled all about him and made some good carries as did Killer on his introduction.
It was great to find a spot between Tony / Imelda and Joan / Kevin near the 22 in our mini west terrace reunion. I enjoyed the treat of hearing Tony’s classic comments in person as opposed to other people quoting him. He filled me in on his experiences in the East Stand where he was consulted after a recent game by the great Dougie for his opinion :-).
It didn’t seem too cold initially but as the night wore on we felt it seeping into our fingers and toes. At least we were partially sheltered by the roof behind us from the breeze. Hopefully the games next weekend will be ok given the weather forecast for snow during the week. I was delighted that the Scarlets game was (finally) fixed for Saturday 24th as I had been expecting a Friday night fixture to give them a longer recovery for their European quarter final the following Friday. That game could have a crucial impact on the final playoff places in both conferences. If the game goes ahead in Edinburgh next Friday, and weather permitting in Dublin, I hope to get into the River Bar to watch it with MRSC Dublin.
Finishing up for the special night that was in it with this lovely shot of Zebo and his team mates. He did not get to show us on the night why this blog was nearly called “The Greatest Showman” (the theme tune of which was in my head for the drive to Cork and Zebo certainly marches to the beat of his own drum). We will miss his unpredictability, audacious skills and huge smile but hopefully we will have plenty more of those to enjoy before the end of this season. Let’s get a few more additions to his try-scoring record to raise the bar for the younger lads coming through! Allez le Zebo!