Monday 23 October 2017

Oliver takes chance as Reds grind out victory

Munster 10 Glasgow 7

Conor Oliver is tackled by Ryan Wilson at Irish Independent Park. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Conor Oliver is tackled by Ryan Wilson at Irish Independent Park. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Munster, like Ireland, may be top heavy with quality back row forwards at the moment, but former Irish U-20 Conor Oliver has put himself in contention for action at the business end of the season.

The former Blackrock College and St Mary's clubman, who now plays with Garryowen, produced a stunning display in only his third start for Munster to give Rassie Erasmus further options as they bid for glory in the Guinness PRO 12 and Champions Cup.

Oliver with his Man of the Match award. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Oliver with his Man of the Match award. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Oliver is registered for the Champions Cup, but has yet to make his European debut. He will come into contention now, especially if CJ Stander does not recover from injury.

The Skerries native, who made his Munster debut off the bench in February last year away to Glasgow Warriors in Kilmarnock, picked up the Man of the Match award at Irish Independent Park on Saturday night, a week after collecting a similar gong in the B&I Cup semi-final win over Ealing Trailfinders.

With South African Jean Deysel producing a fine display in his first start in the back row, the win represented a great night's work for high-flying Munster, even if the margin of victory didn't reflect their dominance.

"It was a brilliant result, low scoring, but a really tough game," said 21-year old Oliver. "They are a great team, nearly a whole Scottish international team on the field.

Ali Price, left, and Jonny Gray of Glasgow Warriors manage to ground the bell to prevent Ronan O'Mahony of Munster scoring a try. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Ali Price, left, and Jonny Gray of Glasgow Warriors manage to ground the bell to prevent Ronan O'Mahony of Munster scoring a try. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

"Our low penalty count kept us in the game. They have some really good long-range kickers, but we didn't give them the opportunity.

"It was a great result for us heading into a massive Pro12 game against Ulster next week."

Erasmus, who may be without Stander for the Champions Cup semi-final showdown with Saracens, was thrilled with Oliver's display and said it was indicative of the way young players have seized their opportunity with Munster this season.

"A lot of guys this year have put their hands up - Dan Goggin, Brian Scott, Darren O'Shea and others. Rory Scannell, remember, was only a youngster last year, Darren Sweetnam is doing well. It's always nice to see guys coming through who maybe were not well-known names or established players before this season."

Dave O'Callaghan of Munster is tackled by Fraser Brown and Rob Harley of Glasgow Warriors as he passes the ball to team-mate Darren Sweetnam. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Dave O'Callaghan of Munster is tackled by Fraser Brown and Rob Harley of Glasgow Warriors as he passes the ball to team-mate Darren Sweetnam. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Deysel was another to catch the eye on his first start for Munster as they eventually saw off the challenge of a Glasgow side who needed to win to have any realistic hope of making the knockout stages.

Munster led 7-0 at the break when James Cronin squeezed over, after Tyler Bleyendaal had forced a good turnover from a Glasgow defensive five-metre scrum after six minutes.

Dominated

The Munster out-half went off a couple of minutes later with what Erasmus described as "a normal concussion" and the Kiwi will now go through the usual return to play protocols.

Munster dominated the second-half following the introduction of skipper Peter O'Mahony and Donnacha Ryan - probably for his last action in a Munster shirt in Cork - but struggled to extend their lead, with efforts from Jack O'Donoghue and Ronan O'Mahony ruled out by the TMO.

Rory Scannell extended the lead with a 61st-minute penalty, but Glasgow finished strongly with Stuart Hogg scoring after a chip and chase which bounced horribly for the hard-working Andrew Conway 12 minutes from time.

Rory Scannell of Munster is tackled by Ali Price and Peter Horne of Glasgow Warriors. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Rory Scannell of Munster is tackled by Ali Price and Peter Horne of Glasgow Warriors. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

Munster remained disciplined to the end and held out for a priceless win, with Erasmus stating afterwards that he is hopeful Irish scrum-half Conor Murray will return for the clash with Ulster next week, but he feared that Stander would not be ready.

Munster: A Conway; D Sweetnam, F Saili, J Taute, R O'Mahony (S Zebo 75); T Bleyendaal (R Scannell 9), D Williams; J Cronin (D Kilcoyne 43), R Marshall (N Scannell 50), S Archer (J Ryan 50); D O'Callaghan, B Holland; J Deysel (P O'Mahony 43), C Oliver, J O'Donoghue (D Ryan 54).

Glasgow Warriors: S Hogg; T Seymour, N Grigg (R Hughes 62), A Dunbar (P Horne 17), L Jones; F Russell, A Price (H Pyrgos 70); G Reid (A Allan 54), F Brown (P MacArthur 22), S Puafisi (D Rae 46); B Alainu'uese (S Cummings 67), J Gray; R Harley, R Wilson (C Fusaro 54), A Ashe.

Ref - Nigel Owens (Wales).

 

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