A five-star showing for the Jolly Green Giants of Munster who are now just one win away from a quarter final place, thanks to their five try demolition of Gloucester at Kingsholm in Pool 2 of the Heineken Challenge Cup last Friday night.
Munster welcomed back Peter O’Mahony, but it was the half-back pairing of Conor Murray and man of the match Joey Carberry that dictated the exchanges in this winner take all game. A loss for either side would open the door for Castres or Exeter Chiefs to take control of the group, so Munster knew what they had to do from the start.
It turned out to be a demolition job with Johan Van Granns Munster executing their game plan to perfection, although the home side took first blood with Billy Twelvetrees’s converting a penalty. Once Carberry equalised Munster began to take control and were camped in the opposition 22 for long periods. The opening try came in the 26th minute with Murray’s skipped pass allowing Carberry to score and convert before adding a second penalty to put Munster 13-3 in front on the scoreboard. Munster continued to dominate the remainder of the half with Rory Scannell adding a second try just before the interval and with Carberry converting Munster led by 20-3 at the interval.
Gloucester began the second half much better forcing Munster to retreat and a spell of constant pressure earned the home side an unconverted try with Ollie Thorley crossing the line. The Munster reply was swift as within minutes Billy Holland who had replaced Peter O’Mahony, placed Keith Earls for a try in the corner and again Carberry converted with aplomb to make it 27-8. Munster were almost home and hosed but the home side continued to show spirit and Billy Twelvetrees’s crossed for a try which he converted to make it 27-15 to the visitors.
With the game now beginning to open up Carberry with a superb grubber kick sent Andrew Conway in for a 4th try and the bonus point and the flyhalf rounded off a perfect evening when he intercepted a Ben Morgan pass to run in for a fifth Munster try to take his personal tally to 26 points. More importantly Munster remain in control of Pool 2 and a win next Saturday at Exeter Chiefs will secure qualification for the quarter-final.
Both Leinster and Ulster also recorded wins to keep their quarter final hopes in their own hands as well. The final round of games will indeed be very interesting with the eight qualifying places still up for grabs. After next weekends matched focus will then switch to the RBS Six Nations and the opening game with England so it is certainly exciting sides for Irish rugby supporters.
Locally there should be a big crowd at Town’s Park on Saturday afternoon as Midleton resume their season against visitors Tullamore. Midleton have been going very well prior to the Christmas break and Tom Mulcahy’s side will be hoping to pick up where they left off with a win over the Offaly side this coming Saturday at 2.30pm.