Heineken Champions Cup: Munster Rugby 36 – 22 Gloucester Rugby

Munster secure bonus point win

Munster Rugby secured their first pool win in this European Cup campaign with a bonus point try victory over a determined and resilient Gloucester Rugby outfit. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action at the Limerick venue. 

Munster team cohesion still lacking

The opening period exchanges were keenly contested. Gloucester Rugby you would have to say were on the front foot as they took advantage of a sloppy start from the hosts. This was evident in the opening kick off, the kick was let bounce by the Munster Rugby players, allowing Gloucester Rugby to easily win possession. 

Further sloppy issues in the basic fundamentals surfaced for Munster Rugby in the line out. Were Munster Rugby spooked by the fact that former Munster Rugby player Gerbrandt Grobler was in the Gloucester Rugby ranks because the line out execution was poor, indecisive calls and execution. The video analysis on the line out set piece will need to be scrutinized on Monday morning for sure. 

Gloucester for their promising start were not hurting Munster Rugby. Running lines were static, passing back and forth through the attacking line with little success. Munster Rugby were able to finally able to secure a platform after Tom Savage was given a yellow card for a shoulder charge on Dan Goggin at the breakdown, an initial key moment in this contest. 

The ten minutes of the sin yielded a 5-3 score for Munster Rugby. The hosts opening their account as a solid line out was then moved down the line through Carbery, Conway for the full back Mike Haley to cross in the corner. O’Mahony from the restart was pinged on the ground and Danny Ciprani slotted home an excellent long range penalty. Cue the key event of the fixture. 

Ciprani sees red 

The key event of this contest. Rory Scannell collected a pass on the halfway and aimed for Ciprani whose shoulder was extremely high. The initial reaction was that it warranted a card but what color would it be? TMO and match officials reviewed it and a red card was issued. A devastating blow for Gloucester and ultimately the contest. Munster Rugby were now in the ascendancy. The directive is now clear, anything high is going to penalized with a card but the officiating consistency issue reared its head soon after as Billy Twelvetrees high tackle was only a penalty. 

Munster turn the screw

Immediately after Twelvestree’s penalty concession, Munster Rugby bagged their second try of the afternoon. A solid line out resulting in a compact maul which Gloucester Rugby could not stop. Rhys Marshall on hand to crash over. The fact that the line out went to Peter O’Mahony spoke volumes on the issues experienced by the hosts in the set piece. Possession guaranteed with the back row player and the score was required. 15-3. 

Dominant Munster Rugby third quarter

Two tries in the bag and Munster Rugby looked to secure the bonus point in double quick time. The scrum was a source of comfort for the hosts throughout and after two dominant scrums, Carbery received the ball and with options out wide decided to cross himself. 22-3. 

The bonus point try point was secured soon after and it was a highlight reel moment with Carbery’s pass to Sweetnam. The ball was quickly distributed from the ruck and credit Sammy Arnold for a superbly timed running line to score the fourth try. 29-3. 

Despite a Gloucester Rugby try from Grobler,  Munster Rugby promptly scored a fifth try from Andrew Conway with a sharp running line after a deft Carbery pass. 35-10. 

Gloucester fight hard in final quarter

You have to credit the work rate and fight of Gloucester Rugby today. Plenty of sides faced with the prospect of playing with fourteen players for fifty minutes would have given up the ghost but the side fought hard until the final whistle and deservedly score two further tries from Matt Banahan and Ben Morgan. Both tries setup by good pack work and an ever increasing penalty count from the hosts. Gloucester Rugby will be disappointed with the loss but the fight and spirit means that Ackermann and coaching staff can take solace from the fixture. 

Munster Indiscipline

The last quarter was blighted by Munster Rugby indiscipline. The Stephen Archer and Sammy Arnold incidents highlighted this; lack of composure in the ranks defensively were exposed. Archer was lucky not to receive a red card, the tackle was high on Ben Morgan. Plenty of scope to improve for Munster Rugby but perhaps the fixture last weekend at Sandy Park was a contributory factor. In any case, the discipline and penalty count in the second half needs to be looked at. 

Injury Front

A mixed bag for Munster Rugby performance wise and the injury count increased with the ankle injury sustained by Tommy O’Donnell and a serious looking knee injury to Dan Goggin at the death. Rhys Marshall also sustained a knock which saw Kevin O’Byrne enter the fray. Tommy O’Donnell injury nightmare continues. 

Munster Performance 

Mixed bag. There is a definite disconnect in the game plan execution at present. The 1-10 cohesion looks strong but the game plan ethos to the back line is a work in progress. The basic skill set of this side needs to be upgraded in a hurry and the three quarter threat with ball in hand looks sporadic at best. Mike Haley potentially is a quality full back with ball in hand but no supporting runners were available for offloads. Mathewson’s ability to distribute at ruck time saw some good improvement but there was too much stationary ball carriers during the eighty minutes; a sign that players are unsure of the game plan and line calls. Crowd was not energized and the performance on the pitch dictated as much. Munster Rugby are top of the pool but they will know that significant improvement is required for the December series of games in this competition against Castres who beat Exeter Chiefs today. 

Man Of The Match

Munster Rugby’s performance was a mixed bag but the display from Mike Haley was a standout. The full back was solid in the aerial exchanges and his ability with ball in hand provided bright moments for the side. Haley scored Munster Rugby’s opening try which was a decisive try. Carbery was a close second. 

Guinness Pro 14: Munster 51 – 18 Cheetahs

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One sided affair at Thomond Park

What to make of Munster after two rounds of the Guinness Pro 14? There is promise aplenty but the side have not being seriously tested by either Benetton Rugby or the Cheetahs as Munster stood out to a comfortable 51-18 victory over the South Africans. Hawkeye Sidekick reflects on the action.

All about the boy Alex Wootton

The game will be remembered for the performance of Alex Wootton. The former Northampton Saints recruit has taken his opportunity superbly this season to lay down a berth in the first team squad. His four tries yesterday will have not done his cause any harm at all, clinical try scoring execution throughout and his overall game stood out. When you consider Scannell, Earls, Zebo, O’Mahoney are all yet to start for Munster yet this season, the back line depth looks decent. Dan Goggins will come back into the equation later in the year. Exciting times.

Game over at half-time

This game was pretty much over at half-time as Munster’s pack flexed their muscles at will to setup the platform to create endless attacking opportunities. The pack were instrumental in the opening try of the contest. The impressive Jack O’Donoghue providing composure to pass to the perfectly timed run of Tommy O’Donnell who was not going to be stopped from three meters out. It was the indication of further angst for the Cheetahs who were second best in contact, kick game albeit their passing game at times was easy on the eye.

Wootton was benefiting from excellent work inside where Farrell, Taute and Conway when hitting the line were creating space out wide. His second try of the afternoon emphasized this point. Great work from Keatley, Taute and Sweetnam to create the space out wide for Wootton who had plenty to do but his pace was enough to score. It was a superb score, created with excellent work at the breakdown, incisive passing.

Cheetahs

As expected, the South African teams have struggled for cohesion early doors in this tournament. I expect both the Cheetahs and Southern Kings to be different propositions in this tournament particularly at home as the season progresses. The Currie Cup competition is in progress; the South African internationals are away from the club.

The Cheetahs showed their passing game is going to be a massive weapon as the season progresses; their wonderful try after the interval evidence of this. Great hands and the finish from William Small-Smith was sublime. The kicking game needs to improve; backs need to adapt to NH kicking game, too many times Cheetah back field players were exposed by Munster kicks deep to the corners.

The Cheetahs and Southern Kings personally are good additions for the league; next weekend will be key in how the South African rugby public in Bloemfontein and Port Elizabeth receive the league. This was a humbling experience for the Cheetahs but required to reset the team’s focus for the rest of the tournament. Tough road schedule start. Hope for better next weekend.

Munster Level?

Hard one to quantify right now. The ease at which Munster Rugby have beaten Benetton Rugby and The Cheetahs suggests that form is good within the camp; players like season are getting adequate game minutes. Liam O’Connor and Sean O’Connor again were impressive after good cameos last weekend. The prop forward looks an interesting prospect; his scrummaging was on point and had the Cheetahs in all sorts of trouble early doors; instrumental in the O’Donnell opening try.

It was a first chance for many to see Munster center Chris Farrell and the former Grenoble player did not disappoint with an excellent outing on his Thomond Park debut. Abrasive in ball carrying, tenacious in tackle and defensive play but the attribute to the fore was his ability to pick a line break and use his speed and pace to create. His try showed off these talents superbly, identified a gap in the Cheetahs defense inside and used his pace to run unopposed for a try. Farrell looks an astute piece of business from Munster; good age profile, all the attributes and the player who will continue to improve throughout his Munster tenure.

After seeing off their first two Guinness Pro 14 opponents with ease, it is fair to say that Munster should be evaluated more after the trip to the Ospreys next weekend. A fixture which is always hard fought and competitive, the hosts will be keen to get back on track after a 31-10 loss away to Glasgow Warriors this weekend. Looking forward to the contest as the first two games have being one way traffic fixtures. If Munster can defeat the Ospreys, then it will be a superb start to the season for Erasmus’ side.