Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


Munster 38-17 Glasgow

Fraser Brown - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography
Fraser Brown - pic © Al Ross/Novantae Photography

The events of last Sunday obviously took precedence over everything else for the Munster rugby family this week, with Anthony Foley being laid to rest on the Friday. The decision was taken to continue with the fixture the very next day against Glasgow, leaving the Scotstoun men in a bit of a ‘No Win’ situation. Thomond Park was obviously packed to capacity in tribute to one of the province’s favourite sons, and the emotion of the occasion was written all over the Muster team, with tears flowing freely for a number of players before the game.

Fears over the Munster state of mind and preparation were blown out the water almost instantly in what was a decidedly one-sided fixture. Roared on by a sea of red, Tyler Bleyendaal showed some individual brilliance to carve a route through the Glasgow backs. Defensively this was the beginning of a complete horror story for the Scotstoun side, but the finish was well taken by Bleyendaal. He stepped up and added the extras to make it 7-0 with 5 minutes played.

Beginning, middle and end Glasgow could not get the ball, and Jerome Garces was not really in the mood to give the Scots any advantage, with the breakdown in particular seeing lots of ‘holding off the ball’ and clear-outs typically way beyond the ruck to create space for runners. Finn Russell was having a torrid time as well, on the back of slow ball. A spell of relative calm saw Russell nab a penalty, but Munster then romped back up the park aided by Glasgow’s complete inability to secure restarts, and scored another. This one was wide on the left with Jaco Taute dotting down. Bleyendaal obviously had brought his kicking boots as well, slotting from the touchline. 14-3 was a fair representation of the first 15 minutes.

This was a day of tribute and emotion, but there was still a rugby game to be played. Unfortunately, Keith Earls took leave of his senses, dumping Fraser Brown way over the vertical in a shockingly similar tackle to last week’s Matt Toomua effort on Russell. The difference – Brown didn’t break his own fall. Red for Earls, and an embarrassing show as he walked off, mouthing off at anyone who would listen. The only blemish on an otherwise admirable day, I hope that Earls has the clarity today to apologise to his teammates, management and Fraser Brown.

So a glimmer of hope for Glasgow? 15 against 14, for 65 minutes, surely Glasgow would have a chance here?

Sadly for Warriors fans, the crowd more than made up for the numerical difference. Gregor Townsend later described the game as being 15 against 25,000, and this was shown on the park. First Bleyendaal added a simple 3 points, moving the lead back to 14. Then Simon Zebo crossed for the 3rd try, converted by Bleyendaal and roared on by the crowd.

Glasgow could not compete and they were lucky to only go in 3 tries down at half time.

Half-time: Munster 24-3 Glasgow

The second 40 started as had the first, with Munster reclaiming the restart and immediately pressurising the Glasgow line. The Munster pack were playing like it was to be their last ever game: hitting breakdowns, rushing in defence and delivering set piece with a ferocity that I can’t say I have ever seen and certainly not since Paul O’Connell retired. It was inevitable that a penalty try would come when another Munster scrum marched the Glasgow pack backwards.

Bonus point secured for Munster, and for Glasgow the plan now became one of damage limitation, or perhaps restoring some measure of respect.

A number of changes from Townsend saw Stuart Hogg move to 10 with Peter Murchie coming in at full back, but in truth it had very little impact.

Glasgow finally scored a try on 65 minutes, Pat MacArthur strolling over after a clever maul setup. Hogg converted, and when Mark Bennett added another try on the 70-minute mark, suddenly Glasgow were a converted score away from a losing bonus point at 31-17, which would have been a near miracle.

This was never to be Glasgow’s day however, with Munster firmly shutting the door on even a single point for Glasgow with their fifth try of the day coming from Rory Scannell.

Glasgow simply were the punch bags for Munster’s grief and loss, the unfortunate bystanders in a tribute to a Munster legend.

Yes, Glasgow were awful; they lacked leadership, go forward and any sort of basic defensive structure. However, it is hopefully a situation that these young players, some of whom are not even 20 years of age, will never need to face again. Some fans are questioning whether they wanted to win, and the simple truth is they probably didn’t.

All in all, though, the result is a secondary concern. Rugby honoured one of its own, with 2 massive rivals coming together in celebration of a great rugby man taken way too soon.

SRBlog Man of the Match: Usually this one goes to a Scottish player, but only one man could take the award. The way that the Munster pack demolished the Scotstoun men was a clear example of the work of the late Anthony Foley. This match was only ever about him. His men provided a fitting tribute to his approach to rugby and life as a Munsterman and it is clear that his legacy should include a ferocious pack that is the equal of any. Seeing his young sons and widow on the park afterwards, singing with the squad was an amazing moment. Rest easy, Axel.

Munster: S Zebo; D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, K Earls; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; D Ryan, B Holland; P O’Mahony (capt), T O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: D Casey, B Scott, S Archer, R Copeland, J O’Donoghue, D Williams, I Keatley, R O’Mahony.

Glasgow: S Hogg; S Lamont, A Dunbar, S Johnson, R Hughes; F Russell, H Pyrgos; G Reid, F Brown, Z Fagerson; T Swinson, J Gray; R Harley, R Wilson, J Strauss.
Replacements: P MacArthur, A Allan, S Puafisi, L Wynne, S Favaro, A Price, M Bennett, P Murchie.

25 Responses

  1. Damn only caught the second half. That game was in impossible circumstances. Reset for the next one!

    1. Maybe so but not one single Glasgow player played up to standard. To a man they were awful and although Munster were up for it there is no way a team of 15 pros should lose to 14 men in that fashion and not have to take a long hard look at themselves. The occasion was emotional yes but that is not an excuse for playing as poorly this week as they played brilliantly last week.

  2. A difficult situation, but Glasgow were pathetic today. The pack went AWOL and the half backs couldn’t do anything right. Truly awful. I realised why this Glasgow side don’t progress in Europe. When it comes to a slug-fest, they go missing.

    1. Agreed. Backs in general were very Edinburgh-like in their inability to find any form of creativity or fluency. Need Sarto and Seymour back asap as Hughes is out his depth and Lamont is well past it. Not sure what was up with Russell but he looked confused and out of sorts (maybe his head injury was playing up?).

      Forwards were just overpowered and outmuscled by a fired-up Munster side with only really Jonny Gray looking like he actually wanted to be there

      1. I fail to see how replacing the wingers will fix what was clearly a massive performance issue at half back. I happen to think that Hughes is a good prospect for the wing but what is needed is a decent back up to Russell when his form tanks like yesterday.

  3. Managed to watch both club games today. Glasgow were awful but I did expect Munster to be fired up and sure enough, they certainly were. Edinburgh were outstanding against a strong Harlequins with Kinghorn and Hoyland having superb games.

  4. I thought Glasgow were atrocious and I am seriously concerned about Russell. He is still making mistakes that I would have hoped would be getting more infrequent with age. On his day he’s still an excellent player, but I feel he should be getting more consistent.

    Edinburgh were very good, it looks like we have a real star in the making with Kinghorn (still only 19, and Watson and Hoyland played well. Would love to see both of them start the AI’s

  5. Being there in the circumstances days early was probably a very bad idea right, in hindsight. Hell they were laying laying wreaths and the funeral was yesterday. It was all one way motivation for Munster and then the game was a memorial service, which Glasgow weren’t invited to. On top of all that there were just too many little changes, with a strike runner short, and Russell was targeted again. I think this game says little about where the team is. Save that it underlines importance of Sarto and Seymour. Move on, the bonus points can come in England and France.

  6. Anyone complaining about that Glasgow performance needs to take a serious moment to reflect on what those young guys were being asked to do. They had been invited to an internationally loved & celebrated man’s funeral and then told to smash into the deceased’s best friends in an attempt to defeat the team the guy committed his life to, in front of a crowd of 25000 grieving people, who all desperately wanted to see them lose, including the guy’s extended family, two teenage sons and widow.

    Those Glasgow players were used as glorified crash test dummies for the grief of a family, a team, a province, and a country. I know personally I couldn’t have done that and they deserve massive praise just for showing up.

    Russell didn’t have some mental block, it wasn’t weakness, he just didn’t want to win – none of them did. I personally admire him and them all the more for that.

    Their job now is to bin the game and move on. We get behind them – that’s our job…

    1. Sorry Robbie, they are professionals and are paid to win. No matter the circumstances surrounding the game that should have been their sole focus once they stepped onto the pitch.

      1. Being a professional isn’t the same as being a robot. They handled themselves with the utmost professionalism throughout under extremely trying circumstances.

      2. I have to agree with James on this. Turning up not wanting to win or simply not putting in the effort is unacceptable in any circumstances. GT has to take some of the blame for this if preparation was the cause. The players should have been isolated from the emotion by keeping them away from Ireland until the night before match day. Any presence at the funeral could have been limited to the coach and the captain, leaving the rest of the squad to focus on the match. Let Munster have their grief in privacy. Cold hearted that may sound but this is a professional sport and by all means pay appropriate respect but don’t just roll over simply to suit the occasion. The question every rugby player, official and coach should ask in a situation like this is “what would the all blacks do?”. They would be respectful yes but also utterly professional about the game.

      3. Last time it was the Paris terrorist attack, and this year the death of Anthony Foley. Glasgow rugby have had to take the emotional backlash of both these incidents while on the pitch.
        I can see Robbie’s point about the relative importance of life and death before sport, and the ‘no win’ situation the Glasgow players have found themselves in. That said, the players didn’t do justice to themselves or us, even if we empathise about the difficulty of the situation.
        It’s interesting how some of us think that the Kiwi’s would have acted differently. The point being that they can either act like victims or winners in these situations. Easy to say I know.
        I hope some team other than Glasgow has to take a turn at being the emotional punchbag in future years?

    2. I don’t agree, but I understand your reasoning. Anyway, the group is wide open after today’s result. Time for all sides to regroup and see where they go. I doubt Munster will find a performance anything like that again in the group stages. GT has to work out how he wins one of the two remaining away games.

  7. Being the proud owner of terminal cancer I spent a portion of my time thinking about my death and my family’s reaction to it.
    My son is a young rugby player and if, after my death he behaved like Earls behaved yesterday after his red, I would dig myself out and skelp him about the head with the shovel I happened to have in my hand

      1. Hard as you like. What a nasty piece of work. Guilty of seriously foul play, then calls the Glasgow player “an @ff@ng cheat.” Frankly despicable.

  8. I have the benefit of not seeing the game however had expected that Munster would be dominant.

    Munster were at home in a game they were expected to win. Taking away all the emotion it was always their game to win, so perhaps it is really the bonus points that we lost out on.

    If our side were at the funeral? (Really) that might have been inappropriate. They should have been parachuted in and helicoptered out on the day.

    I never saw the Earls incident however if a serious injury had arisen from an incident, which he will claim was a lack of judgment based on his emotinal state then , that is a strange way to deal with grief. He should not have been there and In hindsight, Glasgow should not have been there yesterday.

    You need to play your games one at a time and this week, was not our week.

  9. Agree with James & AL. For better or worse rugby at this level is a professional sport. A serious error of judgement on the part of Glasgow/SRU management to allow the players to attend the the funeral. The invite to attend the funeral should have been accepted by officials on behalf of the club. Professional players and the coaching team should have been preparing for the match away from the raw emotion. Given the emotional circumstances Munster would be expected to turn up as men possessed. Glasgow’s players, individually and collectively, just didn’t turn up and the result was a massacre.

    Glasgow has had a good rugby press for the past few years due to the progress and successes on and off the pitch. On this occasion the press needs to ask hard questions about the debacle.
    For a start Glasgow fans who attended should be reimbursed their match ticket fees. What took place was unacceptable in professional sport.

  10. I know and appreciate that this blog is maintained by volunteer reporters. But it only ever seems able to deliver timely match reports on either Warriors or Gunners but rarely if ever both on one weekend. Does it need more volunteers to help keep up? I ask because the site did a survey a year or so ago asking if any respondents wished to volunteer, and I’m sure I was not alone in volunteering. It’s a really good website which could be even better if it were more up to date.

  11. There is no other team sport in which motivation is as important as it is in rugby. There is no room for any “passengers” on the field. Any sports psychologist could have predicted that attending Foley’s funeral would have a depressant affect on Glasgow, while firing up Munster. The week before, the tip tackle on Russell Finn galvanised Glasgow but in the Munster game the very same offence on Frazer Brown, even with the added advantage of Earl’s deserved dismissal, failed to lift Glasgow out of their funereal doldrums. One can only hope that a determination to make amends for this abject – though to some extent understandable — surrender will see Glasgow back to their best against Racing 92. The question is, did the pack flatter to deceive in their dominance against a vaunted Leicester pack? If that is the case, what hope for our attacking play in the backline?

  12. I am not clear that the side did attend the funeral ? If anyone knows better , lets hear it ? Regardless, I believe this was a match only Munster could win and the outcome is not the talking point. The Paris result shows just how inconsistent the group is performing to its perceived form.

    Glasgow have had an imposible task with lack of contiunuity and disruption in the last season and this season is looking no more settled.

    Losing most of the squad for the RWC, then the Paris attack, Nayaravoro heading home before he arrived, players being signed for other clubs mid season and their commitment being dubious thereafter.

    This season GT being appointed Scotland Manager and now rumoured to be linked to the lions.These unfortuante timing and circumstances in Munster . I also think our players are focused in survival to the AI’s where they can showboat for as lions place.

    On this point I believe Paul O Connell’s injury which prevented him joining Toulon has caused players to consider their commitment at key stages. Getting to these AI’s fit and well, is their priority.

    Thoughts are welcome ! I might be wrong ! No facts here , simply wondering what unhelpful things might be going on away from the match day 80 minutes.

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion