Monday 18 December 2017

Munster channel emotional energy to destroy Warriors

Munster 38 Glasgow 17

Munster 's Jaco Taute celebrates scoring a try during the match at Thomond Park. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA
Munster 's Jaco Taute celebrates scoring a try during the match at Thomond Park. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA
Simon Zebo scores Munster's third try during the European Champions Cup match at Thomond Park. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA
An emotional Ian Keatley celebrates the convincing Munster win. Photo: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

Normally Munster give vent to Stand Up and Fight in a huddle in the changing room, when the result has gone the right way and the day is done. Yesterday, minutes after the final whistle, Dan and Tony Foley - the sons of Anthony - were centre stage, surrounded by the squad in the middle of the pitch, as the anthem was sung like never before.

This was an extraordinary game of rugby, one none of us was confident about calling ahead of time. For Munster, the issue was whether their emotional baggage would fix them to the road and let them drive on, or prove such a weight that they would be rooted to the spot.

"I'm relieved because there was an unknown about the whole week," Rassie Erasmus said. "I wasn't sure how I would react, how the players would react, the referee, the opposition. You can't really prepare for that. Even in the warm-up I wasn't sure what we would get out of this. I'm relieved."

As for Glasgow, who flew out of the traps in the first round with a bonus-point win at home over Leicester, they were always invading someone else's space here, so the question was how they would behave in that situation. When they needed to do a bit of bullying instead they had their lunch money taken off them not long after the bell rang.

Their coach Gregor Townsend maintained they were already being modelled for second place before Keith Earls was sent off in the 19th minute. "I felt Munster were pretty passionate before that," he said. "They started pretty well and they never stopped. Maybe neutrals or maybe our players felt they would have an advantage playing against 14 but it never looked that way. We were playing 14 and 25,000 out there today."

True, his team were trailing 14-3 when Earls walked for a tip tackle on Fraser Brown before the first quarter was even out, but there was a sea change in the mood then. En route to the touchline, Earls upped the ante by getting involved with Stuart Hogg.

If the crowd had come along to take part in an ordered and respectful set-piece, clapping the Glasgow players getting off the bus, clapping them off the pitch at the warm-up, clapping them back on for the start of the game, then it was a whole new vibe thereafter. They were fully engaged on an altogether different level.

Consequently, the loss of a man seemed to have no negative effect. Their set-piece was unaffected and only got stronger as the game went on. With Glasgow's nerves getting the better of them there was a fair bit of ball put down. Munster had more than twice as many put-ins, and looked very good on them all.

Moreover referee Jerome Garces seemed swayed by the Earls incident. He looked downright apologetic to be taking a man away from Munster on this day of all days. No yellow cards and only six penalties for the home team (Glasgow gave up 10) conceded gave you an idea of where the game was going.

And driving it all was man of the match Tyler Bleyendaal. At last fit and firing, we can see what it was that attracted Foley, who recruited him two years ago. The Canterbury man was outstanding in everything he did. So was captain Peter O'Mahony, and second-row Billy Holland - who rarely gets public credit for his efforts.

Munster had two tries on the board when Earls was sent off - the first a fine effort from Bleyendaal, who can shift when he wants, and the second from Jaco Taute who is fitting in well to the midfield.

Earls was gone only seven minutes when Munster's momentum earned them another penalty. Bleyendaal looked like he could put it over the black spot all day. A try from Simon Zebo on the half-hour mark, with Bleyendaal's extras, put Munster out to 24-3 and you couldn't see Glasgow getting anything from the day.

"I think the most important aspect of any performance is the level of effort you put in," Townsend said, clearly unimpressed with a handful of his squad. "There were some individuals in our team who were working really hard but for other guys it wasn't meant to be their day today. You need to have 15 players playing close to their best to win over here."

Glasgow were far short of that stat. In the end they got a bit of a gallop going which would bring them back-to-back tries, but by then the incline was already impossibly steep. They needed to start the second half on the front foot, and instead were pummelled at a series of scrums close-in for a penalty try and a 31-3 deficit.

To round off the day, Rory Scannell got over in the corner, on the end of a series of picking and jamming which was just what they needed to sit Glasgow down again. The only black spot was the injury to Duncan Casey who was carted off only seven minutes after coming on. His knee injury will be scanned today or tomorrow. Otherwise, it was a happy camp despite the backdrop.

"If we drop the standards from today it would be a shame," CJ Stander said. "The boys know what they can do now."

Let's see how far they can take it.

Scorers - Munster: Bleyendaal try, pen, 4 cons; Taute, Zebo, Scannell try each, Pen try; Keatley con. Glasgow: MacArthur, Bennett try each; Russell pen, Hogg 2 cons.

Munster: S Zebo (R O'Mahony 78); D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, K Earls (yc 17); T Bleyendaal (I Keatley 66), C Murray (D Williams 76); D Kilcoyne (B Scott 72), N Scannell (D Casey 61; N Scannell 68), J Ryan (S Archer 68), D Ryan (R Copeland 78), B Holland, P O'Mahony (capt)(J O'Donoghue 61), CJ Stander, T O'Donnell.

Glasgow: S Hogg; S Lamont, A Dunbar (M Bennett 61), S Johnson, R Hughes; F Russell (P Murchie 61), H Pyrgos (A Price 48); G Reid (A Allan 27), F Brown P MacArthur 48), Z Fagerson (S Puafifi 44), T Swinson, J Gray (capt), R Harley, J Strauss, (S Favaro 35) R Wilson

Referee: J Garces (France)

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