Thursday, October 25, 2012

Munster warriors stand up and fight

Our Munster contributor Trevor Murphy gives us a pitchside perspective of the Embra massacre

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It was great to have Heineken Cup rugby back in Thomond Park this weekend. These are the days where dreams are made! As is usual for H’Cup games the excitement, nervousness and anticipation started as soon as the head lifted off the pillow. Texts were sent to confirm the time and place myself and my buddies were to meet. Anybody that knows me understands that such arrangements are set in stone as soon as they are made. Woe betides someone who doesn’t adhere to the schedule! I’ll get back to this in a bit...

We usually get to the ground two hours before game time to have a drink, slag the living daylights out of each other and discuss the team selection. Unusually, there seems to be a lot of consensus in these discussions recently. That’s not necessarily a good reflection on the rest of the group because everyone knows what I’m like Smile

It does indicate a degree of understanding and patience with the project Rob Penney is committed to in Munster. The omission of Peter Stringer did cause some concern. I’m not alone in thinking Stringer has the ability to ignite a back line with his speed of passing. Programs are perused and the accuracy of the team selection checked. The obligatory “That was printed three months ago, it can’t be right” gets an airing or two. The pints get polished off and we head into the stadium.

We always aim to be in the terraces an hour before kick off. The lads were in a separate section of the stadium on this occasion. The running joke was they got tickets where I wasn’t to give their ears a rest. After a few days in Charlotte NC I can assure you my voice wasn't in any kind of shape to reach the volumes usually attained on match day. A copious amount of beer has a similar effect on my voice to shouting advice to a referee or linesman for a full eighty minutes. Imagine my horror when a friend, who shall remain nameless, tells me that they are getting a bite to eat in Clohessy’s as we settle into our spots on the terrace Sad smile

The build up to the game was punctuated by a few people getting brained by Ian Keatley’s practice kicks. Honestly, we were standing directly behind the centre of the posts. Not the brightest place to be reading or texting! The sun was directly into our faces. It could not have been a better day for a rugby match. I was expecting a backlash from Edinburgh after their shellacking by Saracens the previous week. If you can’t get motivated after an ass kicking like that there has to be some serious issues in the club. It wasn’t to be.

Munster got an early score with Keatley converting a penalty a few minutes in to make it 3-0. Edinburgh’s line out is looking like it will have a tough day at the office with O’Connell stealing one early. Progress is proving difficult in the wider channels. Fifteen minutes in give the crowd the action they want to get their teeth into. Munster blast Edinburgh back over their own try line in a show of power and determination . It felt at one stage like the retaining wall wasn’t going to be enough to halt the Edinburgh retreat. Plenty of chat and aggression on show after the whistle and a shamozzle develops. Murpho Happy!! We put another three points on the score board to bring the score to 6-0.

Dave Kilcoyne is having a good game. In the first half he actually looked like our most dangerous runner. Bursting through tackles and making yards to get Munster moving. Ten minutes before half time Keatley took on a 56m attempts on goal. This shows how uncomfortable the team was with the 6-0 score at this stage. It’s a low percentage kick at best and is missed to the right. On the positive side Keatley did have the range required. The half is closed out with the Edinburgh scrum under pressure again. Rees kicks the ball to touch and the teams head for the sheds.

6-0 was a poor return for the pressure we had Edinburgh under for most of the half. There was at least one try left out on the park in the first half. O’Connell was imperious in the lineout and was difficult to shift when he got himself over an Edinburgh ball. Considering the length of his lay off he is playing very well. O’Callaghan was his usual effervescent self and the back row was imposing themselves on their opponents.

Some people in the crowd were getting pretty disillusioned at this early stage of the game. There was a lot of talk about the bonus point and how necessary it was. While it’s true that the bonus point was important, you cannot get a bonus point without winning the game first. At 6-0 it was by no means certain that Munster would win. While it’s true that Edinburgh showed little in attack, it would only take one pushed pass for an intercept try. Imagine the effects of an event like that on the Edinburgh team? Regardless of the previous half the game would take on a completely different complexion.

Early in the second half our handling is letting us down again. We knocked a couple of balls on in crucial attacking positions. Second row forwards were found wide out on the wings with some regularity today. I reckon that O’Connell or O’Callaghan have been the last men on three occasions in the strike runner positions. International quality players they are, wingers they are not! Around the ten minute mark Hunter kicked the ball too deep and Edinburgh end up conceding possession in their 22. With the forwards doing the heavy lifting, Murray takes a pass from O’Connell to dive under the posts. Quite the role reversal. The TMO deliberates before giving the most crucial score of the game. At this point with half an hour to go the bonus point is a real possibility. The score stands at 13-0.

Within five minutes Keatley converts a forty yard attempt to increase the lead to 16-0. This was after a great tackle by Howlett on Jones. The Munster captain drove Jones back in the tackle. With 60 minutes on the clock there is still the possibility of maximum points on offer.

Felix Jones makes a welcome return with thirteen minutes on the clock. Time ticked away towards the inevitable conclusion and few in the crowd believed we would score the two remaining tries necessary for the bonus point. With ten minutes to go Munster won a penalty and to the delight of the crowd we kick for touch. A maul formed from the resulting lineout and the forwards get to within a yard. O’Mahony dove for the line to score under a pile of bodies. A just reward for the Munster number 8 who put in a strong performance on the day. Score: 23-0

Do we dare to dream? Edinburgh are in disarray, Munster well on top... Within two minutes the crowd are in raptures again as Keatley breaks deep into Edinburgh territory where Dougal finished off the score. Try number three and four minutes to go.

There is hardly time to draw breath! Two minutes... Hurley streaks through the Edinburgh defence to set up an attacking position. The Scots concede a penalty deep in their own 22 and Munster goes for an attacking line out. A sensible call as the Munster set piece has been in good shape for most of the game. Another attacking maul, another forward scoring a try. The crowd went wild. Another unlikely result by the Munster warriors. We are truly spoiled in Munster. When the chips are down the players dig deep to fight for the points required.

I expect Saracens to be a much tougher proposition in December. I also expect that by then our execution will be showing the effects of a few more matches. Munster Abu! Roll on round 3!

I’m Trevor, 39. A passionate Munster and Irish Rugby Fan. I have strong opinions on this beautiful game of ours. Stand up and fight!

Click here for the latest Around The Fringes which suggests some Embra fans’ reactions

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