Sport Rugby

Friday 22 August 2014

Hapless Munster take eyes off the ball in home defeat

Munster 5-22 Glasgow Warriors

David Kelly

Published 12/04/2014 | 20:38

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12 April 2014; Alex Dunbar, Glasgow Warriors, is tackled by Gerhard van den Heever, Munster. Celtic League 2013/14 Round 19, Munster v Glasgow Warriors, Thomond Park, Limerick. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Alex Dunbar, Glasgow Warriors, is tackled by Gerhard van den Heever, Munster. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

MUNSTER slipped to a shock first home defeat of the season to three-try Glasgow, just a week after thumping Toulouse in a Heineken Cup epic.

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Clearly, their minds were on the Côte d'Azur rather than the banks of the Shannon as they turned in their most hapless display of the season.

Poor attacking shape, terrible ruck protection and a lack of intensity before a less than half-full audience was far removed from last week's heroics.

Munster's chances of a lucrative home semi may now be imperilled, especially with two tough derbies to come against Connacht and Ulster to come.

Munster's strength last week was the rumbling maul; here, there were undone by their visitors as early as the fifth minute, Jonny Gray barrelling over for a score which seemed less surprising the longer the first-half went on.

Weir kicked both the conversion and a 9th minute penalty as the stunned, silent crowd - officially tallied at 13,859 but one should have demanded a recount - contributed to a dearth of atmosphere.

Simon Zebo did more than most to try to kick-start the evening, making yards from standing starts, albeit much of Munster's attacking play was composed of stops, rather than starts.

Gerhard van der Heever kicked one ball dead as Munster threatened and CJ Stander was held up as another strike one attacking move faltered with JJ Hanrahan hogging the ball instead of passing with the line at his mercy.

Eventually, they did strike just as the first quarter ended.

James Downey made the bust from phase one lineout ball on the left, then Zebo made some 35 scintillating metres. A quick recycle allowed Keith Earls and Downey to combine unfussily to send Stander into the far corner.

Hanrahan shanked his conversion; he would soon depart, perhaps in the act of effecting such an unusually awry effort.

Glasgow, who still have their pay-off destiny in their own hands - they also have a game in hand on all rivals - weren't cowed by the expected Munster armada.

Instead, they scored next and this time Zebo displayed the negative side of all the wonderful array of talents he possesses.

Downey forced the initial leak, missing a midfield tackle before Sean Maitland easily fended off a pathetically high and meek tackle attempt from Zebo to dot down a 26th minute try for 15-5.

Munster didn't lack for attacking ball but some of their support play was poor and their ruck security was often poorer.

Both these elements combined to gift Glasgow an unlikely third try just before the break. First, Downey waltzed into a halfway line cul de sac, then his forwards couldn't clean up the mess.

By the time Zebo had carried Chris Cusiter's impish box-kick over his own touchline, Munster were in an even greater pickle.

A couple of stout tackles merely delayed the inevitability of a third try for Josh Strauss, converted again by Weir for a 22-5 lead at tea-time.

Munster needed to score first after the break; instead, Glasgow nearly did.

Gordon Reid burst free from another uprotected ruck outside the 22, seconds later Ryan Wilson would have scored were it not for Gerhard van der Heever's robust tackle and Downey's timely placement of a hand to prevent the score.

Dave Kilcoyne emerged from the bench to win the scrum penalty and Munster sensed a reprieve.

If it seemed like a liveline to most, Conor Murray dropped it with the line at his mercy as Munster sensed blood having transported themselves to the other end of the field.

Munster fans were now at the end of their tether and, instead of the result, they were now fretting about the fitness of key players.

Zebo received treatment but were deemed fit to drive on. The question was would Munster.

It didn't seem so, especially when they continued to turn over attacking ball at a rate of knots against visitors increasingly shadowing the offside line.

When they did get close to the Glasgow line, they curiously spurned a maul from only five yards and a contrived playbook option came to naught.

It took them five minutes to get back to the same position again and, with Glasgow on a team warning, Duncan Casey skewed his throw.

Munster – F Jones; G van den Heever (J Murphy 63), K Earls, J Downey, S Zebo; JJ Hanrahan (Keatley 22), C Murray (D Williams 71); J Ryan (D Kilcoyne 49), D Casey (Q McDonald 71), BJ Botha (Ryan 71), D O'Callaghan (B Holland 71), D Foley; CJ Stander, S Dougall (P Butler 71), J Coughlan (capt).

Glasgow Warriors – P Murchie (R Horne 72); S Maitland, A Dunbar (R Vernon 62), F Russell, T Seymour; D Weir, C Cusiter capt (H Pyrgos 73); G Reid (J Yanuyanutawa 67), D Hall (P McArthur 61), J Welsh (G Cross 55), T Swinson (L Nakawara 59), J Gray; J Strauss, C Fusaro (R Harley 61), R Wilson.

Ref – N Owens (WRU)

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