What is it with Munster Rugby and European competition? The backs against the wall scenario faced at different points in history by this club and the team have delivered time and time again.
You think back to the epic encounters. Saracens, Northampton Saints, Sale Sharks, Glasgow Warriors post Axel’s death.
You think of the trails and tribulations of this club to get to the European Cup summit before the Biarritz victory in Cardiff.
This result today must now rank in those epic fixtures in the history of this storied rugby club. The South African URC nightmare, the quarantining of the squad and management who made the trip, the scramble to identify players to come into the squad and prepare them for the biggest game of their lives.
Much credit must go to Ian Costello who was with the players who did not travel to South Africa. It would have been easy for the club to forfeit the fixture but this club live for European action. This was never an option and the squad assembled had a potential power keg of experience and youthful exuberance.
Wasps came into this fixture with injuries aplenty and then news of several Covid-19 positive results. A complete rejig in the pack and back line and this game started in a frenzied manner. Wild intensity to those opening exchanges.
Joey Carbery scored two pens and then came a marquee moment of the game. Brad Shields deployed to the second row for this fixture was warming to the task but his shot on Dave Kilcoyne was high. TMO review and a red card issued. A tough harsh and it provided more fuel in the Munster Rugby youngsters to impress.
Wasps to their credit did not let the red card deter them and Barbeary scored after a frantic period of play. Good work from Wolstenholme and Le Bourgeois setting up the score. The home support in Coventry celebrated! Earls opportunistic try was an excellent score and a real blow for Wasps.
Murray’s kick looked destined to go dead but a bounce of the ball caused consternation. Earls ever alert to score. 13-7 half-time as Wasps were down to thirteen players as Dan Frost was sin-binned for deliberate kill the ball right on the Wasps line.
The third quarter from Munster Rugby was seamlessly clinical and put the game to bed within the hour mark. Patrick Campbell with a lovely line to score soon after the restart. Excellent passing and tempo from Munster Rugby in attack leading to that score, stretching Wasps defense to breaking point.
Daniel Okeke was huge for Munster Rugby at eight. His line break soon after the restart setting up more attacking platform. Wasps were rattled and an unforced error allowed Andrew Conway to coast in for the third try. 7-25. The game was completely blown wide open.
Cue the bonus point try. Munster Rugby lineout straight from the training ground. A superb throw, quality possession take and then the fast hands to allow Scott Buckley to score under the posts. The try was richly deserved from Buckley who was outstanding. 7-32.
Wasps did score again thanks to Romain Poite defensive block but Munster Rugby responded straight away with a superb Joey Carbery penalty kick to make it 14-35. Game was up for the hosts. Carbery had a superb day but a late hit resulted in a shoulder injury. Hoping for not another lengthy absence for the fly-half but the image of the player with his arm in a sling does not look good. Time for Crowley and Healy to impress!
Can I just add a comment on the Munster Rugby support in Coventry today. The game, the hype around an opening fixture in Europe personally was unprecedented but this felt like a home game such was the support for the men in red. Extraordinary atmosphere created!
This was a result where every junior and senior club coach in the province should be proud of. Twelve debutantes that have come through the provincial feeder system. The young kids done good here ladies and gentlemen! A result and performance which needs to see the head coach Johann van Graan open his eyes to the talent in this province.
Ian Costello in two weeks has done an incredible job to ensure the side were so well prepared and cohesive in arduous circumstances! I do not ever what to hear that Munster Rugby do not have the players. They do have the talent, the young kids can play.
Time to embrace youth now and move to the next level. The squad members in quarantine have a point to prove now as Okeke, Buckley, French, O’Connor, Hodnett were hugely impressive. How good was Peter O’Mahony and the rest of the experienced guys in the side today? Inspirational performances. I love this team!