Munster honour Anthony Foley in style with victory over Glasgow
Published 22/10/2016 | 16:16
Fourteen-man Munster honoured their late captain and head coach Anthony Foley with a barnstorming 38-17 bonus-point Champions Cup win over Glasgow at Thomond Park.
Despite Keith Earls' red card for a tip tackle midway through a frenzied first half, Munster were 24-3 clear by the interval after tries from European debutants Tyler Bleyendaal and Jaco Taute along with a fortuitous effort from Simon Zebo.
Munster's dominance up front yielded a penalty try, early in the second period, and although Pat MacArthur and Mark Bennett both touched down in the final quarter, a closing seven-pointer from Rory Scannell was a fitting end to a highly emotional day in Limerick.
A sell-out 26,500 crowd watched Munster open their European campaign in tearful circumstances, just a day after Foley was laid to rest in his home town of Killaloe, County Clare.
The 42-year-old's sudden death at the team hotel in Paris last Sunday forced the postponement of Munster's round-one clash with Racing 92, and the subsequent days saw the rugby community, at home and abroad, unite in support of the Irish province and most importantly, Foley's wife Olive and their children Tony and Dan.
The outpouring of grief continued at Thomond, where special tributes were paid before the lunchtime kick-off, including renditions of 'There is an Isle' and 'Stand Up and Fight' - the rousing songs of Foley's beloved Shannon RFC and Munster - an impeccably observed minute's silence and the West Stand supporters holding up cards to poignantly display his nickname 'Axel' and shirt number, '8'.
Munster retired Foley's number eight jersey for the game and had his nickname proudly displayed below their crests. It was fly-half and man of the match Bleyendaal who struck the first blow, breaking onto Earls' offload, weaving through from outside the 22 and using his momentum to touch down wide on the left with just three minutes gone.
Bleyendaal converted and also added the extras to Taute's 13th-minute score in the same corner, combining with Scannell to send the South African over after an initial turnover from CJ Stander and strong carries from the equally fired-up Dave Kilcoyne and Tommy O'Donnell.
The complexion of this round-two fixture changed with Earls' 18th-minute dismissal, the winger guilty of being over-zealous in lifting Fraser Brown's leg in the tackle and dumping him on his shoulders. French referee Jerome Garces, having consulted with TMO Arnaud Blondel, reached for his red card.
However, Finn Russell was unable to add his earlier penalty success and Bleyendaal rewarded a monster Munster scrum at the other end for 17-3. The points kept coming for the hosts, centre Scannell's defence-splitting break leading to Zebo wriggling over after Stuart Hogg was adjudged not to have completed a tackle on his opposite number.
Bleyendaal swept over another superb conversion from out wide, with the energy and defensive solidity of the home pack ensuring Glasgow failed to respond before half-time.
The Warriors had looked a shadow of the side that thumped Leicester 42-13 last week, but their replacement prop Alex Allan did well to get his body in the way and prevent a Conor Murray try on the restart.
Allan and fellow replacement Sila Puafisi could do little, though, as the Warriors leaked three successive scrum penalties in scoring range and Garces duly awarded Munster a 46th-minute penalty try and their bonus point.
An over-cooked kick from Russell and further control from the Munster forwards saw the hosts keep an iron grip on proceedings. Entering the final quarter, Glasgow finally created a try-scoring chance for possession-starved winger Rory Hughes but he was bundled into touch by Zebo and Darren Sweetnam.
The visitors did manage to cross the whitewash with a quarter of an hour remaining, a well-set lineout maul allowing replacement hooker MacArthur to crash over and full-back Hogg converted.
As expected, tiredness crept in for Munster. Cramp left them down to 13 men at one stage and Glasgow quickly turned defence into attack, replacement Bennett straightening up to go over on the left after Sweetnam's initial try-saving tackle.
However, with six minutes to go, Murray teed up Scannell on the blindside to go over for Munster's fifth try in the left corner. Replacement Ian Keatley successfully converted and the home support soon rose to sing 'The Fields of Athenry' in acknowledgement of a pulsating collective performance from the players - one which had Foley's imprint all over it.