Wednesday 17 July 2019

'One guy's got a broken jaw' - Munster set to face riled up Leicester at Welford Road

Munster 33 Leicester Tigers 10

Munster’s Peter O’Mahony celebrates after scoring his side’s third try during their Champions Cup clash at Thomond Park. Photo: Sportsfile
Munster’s Peter O’Mahony celebrates after scoring his side’s third try during their Champions Cup clash at Thomond Park. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

There will be blood. More of it. Bad blood courses through this European rivalry like a rampaging river.

The conclusion to a third successive season of December double-headers between these belligerent rivals will be box office stuff next Sunday.

Sam Arnold of Munster is tackled by George Ford of Leicester Tigers. Photo: Sportsfile
Sam Arnold of Munster is tackled by George Ford of Leicester Tigers. Photo: Sportsfile

It may have seemed like a bloodless coup for merciless Munster against toothless Tigers, but the claret that poured forth from Telusa Veainu's mouth, after a sickening 46th-minute collision with Andrew Conway, will create a stirring scent in English nostrils as they count down the days to the rematch.

They were riled that the incident was rather less a mere collision and more akin to a recklessly high, head-first tackle - at least coach Matt O'Connor was.

"Well, one guy's got a broken jaw," said O'Connor when we asked him to expand upon some earlier needling on the radio.

"That's what I'm annoyed about. Surely there's a duty of care? How is it not a high tackle when he's clashed heads and smashed him in his face with his head? We're talking about seat-belt tackles. And a bloke's got a broken jaw."

Dom Barrow of Leicester Tigers wins possession in a lineout ahead of Billy Holland of Munster. Photo: Sportsfile
Dom Barrow of Leicester Tigers wins possession in a lineout ahead of Billy Holland of Munster. Photo: Sportsfile

He had earlier offered a stern reply when asked to confirm Veainu's injury, commenting: "Yeah. From Conway. Where he smashed him in the face with his head. You saw it, I saw it. Duty of care, is it there?"

Johann van Graan - clearly already immersed in the crash courses in diplomacy so beloved of coaches based in Ireland - was utterly circumspect when assessing how Conway was concussed. Mercifully, the player recovered speedily to speak with his coach after the game, but curiously the pair didn't discuss how he had lost consciousness in the first place.

Although Van Graan, disappointingly, wasn't able to confirm what was obvious to every man, woman and child in the Thomond Park fridge freezer, not to mention Brian O'Driscoll in the commentary box.

"I'm not sure. I can't comment on that. The good thing was he got up and walked off the field, which I'm pretty happy with," he said.

"It was a kick in the air, a collision and both guys got injured. Nothing more to say."

This was unacceptable circumspection; his defence of the tackle was much more understandable.

"Like I said before, this game is a collision sport and I'm glad that both guys got up and walked off that field.

"I thought that's the spirit of rugby, two teams going at each other for 80 minutes, but at the end of the day we are all people and the well-being of players is pretty important."

Referee Jerome Garces didn't think there was anything awry, either, despite Conway's reckless approach to the tackle situation; neither, too, the gracious Veainu, who stopped playing and immediately responded to the prone player.

Humility

The Tongan international's concern was a rare touch of humility on a night where the broiling, bristling intent contrasted sharply with the plunging mercury.

Tom Youngs - whose personal travails are far graver than a game - typified the frustration as he was penalised twice for illegal hits in the first-half. First, the 'seat-belt' tackle on Chris Cloete to which his coach referred; secondly, a late dunt on CJ Stander.

"He was a bit frustrated, given the way the game was being officiated," said O'Connor, whose side were routinely being out-witted and out-muscled at the breakdown.

Garces doesn't ref in the English Premiership, where the superb steals from Peter O'Mahony, in particular, would probably be illegal.

O'Connor accused Munster of being cynical at the breakdown, killing the ball when Leicester had opportunities to score.

Munster effectively built their 20-0 lead by the half-hour upon such turnovers, which culminated in clinical finishing.

As Munster argued, quite rightly, when Leicester carp about illegality on the floor, they may as well whistle into the wind.

Every game is about adapting to the referee and the visitors simply weren't able to impose themselves sufficiently to do so, either physically or numerically.

Youngs' shunt on Stander was pointed; the Munster eight had previously killed the ball beneath his posts, which may have been a yellow in another language, but not that of the laissez-faire Monsieur Garces.

By the time the tide turned in the second-half, it was too late for the visitors to get back into the game.

"We were inaccurate at the breakdown, they got results when they needed to in the first-half and from there they were very cynical, killed the ball and made it hard for us to score," said O'Connor.

Asked if his side might benefit when home advantage swings their way, O'Connor was typically forthright.

"Hopefully there is a reciprocal home game arrangement. There was a lot of stuff that went on that was pretty harsh.

"There was a blatant incident of killing the ball in the first-half when we had momentum. That was probably a yellow card. We kick three and they're still in the game. Hopefully it's quid pro quo."

The fundamental law of the breakdown jungle applied, though.

Munster, as they were in all facets of play, bar the defensive maul, were simply hungrier, more committed and smarter.

"You play the referee, the opposition, you play lots of things," noted Peter O'Mahony, adding more ballast to his contract talks, his first try of the season capping a fine personal display.

"If you are penalised three or four times then you change what you do. But I thought Jerome had a fine game. We were penalised a lot of times ourselves at the breakdown."

They must rouse themselves next week, with O'Connor indicating what awaits them.

"It's going to be mental next week," he said. "It's going to be all mental."

Seconds out, round two.

Munster: S Zebo; A Conway (D Sweetnam 46), S Arnold, R Scannell; A Wootton; I Keatley, C Murray (D Williams 73); D Kilcoyne (B Scott 55), R Marshall (K O'Byrne 71), S Archer (J Ryan 61), J Kleyn (D O'Shea 70), B Holland, P O'Mahony captain (J O'Donoghue 72), C Cloete, CJ Stander.

Leicester Tigers: T Veainu (N Malouf.46); A Thompstone, M Smith, M Tait (J Ford 74), J May; G Ford, B Youngs (S Harrison 71); K Traynor (L Mulipola 51), T Youngs captain (H Thacker 63), D Cole (C Baumann 72), M Fitzgerald (D Barrow 51), G Kitchener, T Mapapalangi (M Williams 63), L Hamilton, S Kalafamoni.

Ref - Jerome Garces (France)

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