Munster 26 Exeter Chiefs 10 (Munster win 34-23 on agg)
Rumours of Munster’s demise, and certainly that of their sixteenth man at Thomond Park, could certainly have been untimely. A clearly thought out sport plan, fantastically executed and thunderously supported, noticed them repel every thing the champions of two years in the past may throw at them and safe their customary place within the quarter-finals of the Heineken Champions Cup.
They earned it too, for there was by no means an inch conceded and not using a combat on this absorbing contest as Munster augmented an enormous defensive effort that includes seven very important turnovers with some well-shaped attacking and selection to drag by by 26-10 on the day and 34-23 on combination, so incomes a quarter-final both away to Ulster or at residence to Toulouse.
The return of Peter O’Mahony and Joey Carbery was at all times probably to supply extra management and sport administration, they usually did that and a lot extra. Alongside the persistently efficient Jack O’Donoghue as he seamlessly switched to quantity eight, O’Mahony was merely immense, making seven carries and 14 tackles, and profitable three turnovers, however his efficiency went past the numbers.
So too Carbery, whose well-taken attempt to six kicks from six in a 21-point haul was the top product of a masterful show. It additionally vindicated their strategy to go for photographs at aim.
Thomond Park could have been removed from full for this crunch knock-out European tie however there was a superb buzz across the floor within the build-up and are available kick-off, with residence gamers and supporters alike feeding off one another’s vitality, initially because of their defensive effort.
Setting the tone, O’Mahony gained the primary of their seven first-half turnovers to finish Exeter’s first foray and when John Hodnett did likewise within the reverse half, Carbery struck a advantageous 35-metre penalty into the breeze from the north terrace.
Still, Exeter had been discovering area on the sting, the place Tom O’Flaherty fended Keith Earls, though Damian de Allende made a overlaying mark and Mike Haley did deal with Olly Woodburn into contact on the other flank.
But when Munster conceded a few penalties close to their very own line it resulted in Sam Maunder tapping and scoring, with the Munster defence caught off guard. What’s extra Conor Murray was yellow-carded for tackling Maunder prematurely, though this was partly the results of Mathieu Raynal’s delayed sign and whistle.
Haley deputised successfully at scrumhalf and Munster went into overdrive when Jack O’Donoghue exploded off the bottom of a scrum, incomes a penalty for Carbery to knock over. And helped by one other turnover penalty by O’Donoghue gained the ten minutes with out Murray by 3-0.
An excellent go by Carbery gave Earls a run up the best, which was backed up by O’Mahony profitable a turnover penalty which Carbery tapped into the nook.
Munster carried onerous and recycled by seven phases earlier than Carbery took O’Mahony’s dive go off the bottom and eyed up a mis-match with tighthead Harry Williams to dummy and glide over, additionally including the conversion.
When Stuart Hogg missed a long-range penalty with Exeter’s final use of the wind it left Munster 13-5 forward on the break and, extra considerably, 21-18 forward on combination.
They needed to put collectively one other sturdy defensive set of 13 phases within the center third of the pitch on the resumption earlier than Jannes Kirsten knocked on, following which Murray kicked out on the complete.
This led to a different assault of 16 phases, as Exeter went extra direct and with shut assist to negate Munster’s menace over the ball and a few close-range faucet penalties earlier than Jacques Vermeulen burrowed over, as he had completed within the first leg.
For the fourth time within the tie Joe Simmonds missed a conversion, this one rebounding from the upright, and so Exeter led by two factors on combination.
There was a fine condition to Munster’s subsequent couple of multiphase assaults, but additionally grit to Exeter’s defence, albeit Murray and crowd alike had been incensed when the French officers someway allowed Woodburn to obviously take out the Munster scrumhalf on the base of a ruck.
Whereupon O’Mahony drove Dave Ewers again off the bottom of a scrum, bounced to his ft and did the identical to Vermeulen. When Ewers went off his ft, the skipper pointed to the posts and Carbery once more bisected them.
Better nonetheless when Kirsten clearly got here in from the facet, Carbery once more landed the kick from all of midway to nudge Munster 4 forward. The residence crowd sought to raise their facet once more when Diarmuid Barron conceded a ruck penalty and Exeter once more opted for the nook. O’Mahony once more got here up with a turnover and Earls one other one when chasing the relieving kick, as the bottom lifted.
Then, with the younger tyros from the bench including impression, from a advantageous lineout take by O’Mahony, Munster launched by Farrell’s onerous outside-in carry and once more probed at tempo and with selection.
Carbery switched broad and handed inside to Haley earlier than Alex Kendellen charged after which labored the ball broad to the hitherto unused Simon Zebo and he opted for the surface he appeared positive to be double-tackled into contact. But he slipped a shocking left to proper offload inside for De Allende to blast by Henry Slade’s deal with to attain and punch the air.
Zebo’s sleight of hand wanted second viewings, prompting each a puff and a cheer from the gang. Carbery even landed the touchline conversion.
Exeter weren’t completed, so time for one ultimate defensive set, one ultimate turnover and one ultimate rendition of The Fields.
Another of these particular Munster European days at their citadel. Good stuff.
SCORING SEQUENCE – 6 minutes: Carbery pen 3-0; 11: S Maunder attempt 3-5; 17: Carrbery pen 6-5; 26: Carbery attempt, con 13-5; (half-time 13-5); 49: Vermeulen attempt 13-10; 60: Carbery pen 16-10; 65: Carbery pen 19-10; 73: De Allende attempt, Carbery con 26-10.
MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Keith Earls, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Simon Zebo; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Josh Wycherley, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley; Peter O’Mahony (capt), John Hodnett, Jack O’Donoghue.
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron for N Scannell, Jeremy Loughman for Wycherley, Stephen Archer for Ryan (55 minutes), Thomas Ahern for (61 minutes),
Craig Casey for Murray, Alex Kendellen for Hodnett (each 69), Jason Jenkins for O’Mahony (75 minutes). Unused: Ben Healy.
EXETER CHIEFS: Stuart Hogg; Olly Woodburn, Henry Slade, Ian Whitten, Tom O’Flaherty; Joe Simmonds, Sam Maunder; Alec Hepburn, Jack Yeandle (capt), Harry Williams; Jonny Gray, Sam Skinner; Dave Ewers, Jannes Kirsten, Jacques Vermeulen.
Replacements: Jack Maunder for S Maunder (58 minutes), Jack Innard for Yeandle, Billy Keast for Hepburn, Patrick Schickerling for Williams (all 60), Richard Capstick for Vermeulen, Josh Hodge for Woodburn (each 72), Santiago Grondona for Whitten, Tom Gilbert-Hendrickson for Ewers (each 75).
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France).