Tuesday 18 June 2019

Van Graan's troops feel wounded in full-on battle with Castres

Castres 13 Munster 12

Castres’ Rory Kockott waits for the ball to come out of the scrum during his side's clash with Munster. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Castres’ Rory Kockott waits for the ball to come out of the scrum during his side's clash with Munster. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

A member of the Munster organisation pointed out that whatever disciplinary action does or not follow for any Castres player after this game will be of little value to Munster.

Perhaps, but that's not how the system is designed. It was that sort of contest where you checked each collision for a bit of afters.

Johann van Graan's side didn't get what they came for - a really dominant lead at the top of Pool 2 before going to Gloucester in the New Year - but definitely got a handful from the highly-charged lads at Stade Pierre-Fabre. Castres were like men possessed.

If that possession gets them in trouble we'll know soon enough. The protocol is that Munster had 26 hours from the start of the game in which to make a complaint to English citing commissioner Chris Catling, and he in turn has 50 hours from the same starting point to decide if there is a case to answer.

If the old days of non-independent citing still obtained then air traffic control would have been challenged by the number of writs flying back and forth. Judging by the comments of Van Graan afterwards, he thinks there is a case to be answered.

"All I can say is the values of rugby are pretty important and we got spoken to during the week about the values of rugby and I thought we stayed within the values of the rugby tonight," he said. "I just hope that due processes will be followed.

Conor Murray kicks a penalty. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Conor Murray kicks a penalty. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"Every week there's brilliant communication from Joel Jutge (World Rugby's referees manager). You know, all across the board the values of rugby are pretty important and certain things aren't in the values of rugby."

Contact

The chief incident clearly was facial contact from a Castres hand to the face of Chris Cloete in the build-up to the game's only try, for Castres in the first half.

The Munster flanker had just completed a tackle on scrum-half Rory Kockott who had obvious discipline issues in this game. At the end of that period Sammy Arnold was also giving referee Wayne Barnes an earful over what he reckoned was a series of cheap shots from the locals.

Joey Carbery feels the full force of a tackle from Thomas Combezou. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Joey Carbery feels the full force of a tackle from Thomas Combezou. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Van Graan steered clear of stitching it to the referee himself but there was more than a hint of the wild west about the breakdown. And on a miserably wet night, with passions running high, there was a lot of action in that area.

Even so, for a team with ambitions Munster were well removed from the required level of efficiency and control. Joey Carbery had a hard time - emptying the Munster 10 is becoming a popular pastime for big hitters.

He gets on with it admirably but his boot let him down here, both out of hand and off the tee.

Van Graan said missed kicks weren't the issue but evidently they were a factor: three from seven went south for Carbery along with one from Conor Murray. At least Munster are on top of the table.

Ludovic Radosavljevic of Castres Olympique clears the ball down field. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Ludovic Radosavljevic of Castres Olympique clears the ball down field. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

"Look, big lesson learned last year in the Racing game, that one bonus point made a big difference at the end," the coach added. "Very disappointed that we lost this game. We knew it was going to be a battle and a battle it was - I think two teams that really wanted to win.

"I guess the frustrating thing is we created enough opportunities. Small margins in sport, you score that try, you win and it's a different ball game but, you know, we didn't win the game so that's not good enough.

"Going back to the bonus point, we'll take it. We're still three points ahead of Castres and four against the two opponents that we play. So the Gloucester and Exeter games will be massive and so will the Gloucester-Castres and Exeter-Castres games. I think that's the beauty of Europe and pools. It's a pretty tight pool and four teams are still in it with two rounds to go."

This reiterated the difference between a full Munster squad and one where they are springing lads from the bench with only a few minutes to go.

Munster were light on reinforcements here, and it was hard for Jeremy Loughman and Fineen Wycherley to be thrown into such a high-octane battle with no time to settle.

Conor Murray offloads the ball to team-mate Rory Scannell after a tackle from Florian Vialelle. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Conor Murray offloads the ball to team-mate Rory Scannell after a tackle from Florian Vialelle. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

After a slow start at the scrum Munster had begun to dominate there so it was a killer for them to have a scrum buckled as soon as the two youngsters came off the bench with the clock counting down.

Tough for Carbery too to be called ashore, with JJ Hanrahan being asked to pull off a magic trick.

He didn't really get the chance. So, January has a different feel to it now in this pool.

"I think it's exciting," Van Graan said. "It's challenging. These Christmas and New Year periods are always very intense and ones we're looking forward to.

"I would have loved to have walked away with a win here tonight and the good thing is, I said to the team afterwards, I can't fault them for effort. I think everyone in the squad and management put in the effort and when you come in one point short you've got to look at yourself, take it on the chin and move on."

In the review Munster will regret lots of things, including not being able to take more advantage of having only one man binned - Niall Scannell for dropping a maul - to two from Castres. Not quite the Christmas they wanted.

Castres - S Spedding; M Laveau, T Combezou, (R Ebersohn 61); F Vialelle, T Paris; B Urdapilleta, R Kockott (L Radoslavjlevic 61); P Fa'anunu, (A Ticjit h-t), K Firmin (M Rallier 65); yc 70), M Clerc (W Houkpatin h-t), T Lassalle (C Samson 61), L Jacquet, Y Caballero (K Gimeno 72), M Babillot.

Munster - M Haley; A Conway, S Arnold, R Scannell, K Earls; J Carbery (JJ Hanrahan 73), C Murray; D Kilcoyne (J Loughman 75), N Scannell (yc 55-65), J Ryan (S Archer 64), T Beirne, B Holland (F Wycherley 76), P O'Mahony, CJ Stander, C Cloete (A Botha 55; K O'Byrne 63-67).

Ref - W Barnes (England)

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