Munster 40-29 Glasgow Warriors
A spirited fightback in Cork earned Glasgow Warriors a four-try bonus-point in defeat this evening, going down by 40-29 to Munster at Musgrave Park in the BKT United Rugby Championship.
Five tries would send Franco Smith’s squad home with a valuable point in their back pocket, as Sione Vailanu, Johnny Matthews, Rory Darge and Angus Fraser all crossed to add to a penalty try.
With temperatures hitting freezing as the opening whistle sounded, both sides sought an early breakthrough. It would be the hosts that found one to the raucous approval of the Musgrave Park crowd, as successive penalties kicked to the corner gave Edwin Edogbo the field position to spot a gap and dive over under the posts. Jack Crowley converted, giving Munster a 7-0 lead after eight minutes.
Keen to make the most of their early advantage, Munster would go straight back on the attack. With Nathan McBeth sent to the sin bin as a result of the concession of too many early penalties, the hosts struck for their second score. A cross-kick from Shane Daly would land in the arms of Tom Ahern, the blindside finishing well under pressure from the scrambling Glasgow defence.
The conversion attempt from Crowley drifted wide, but Munster were in no mood to hang around. Straight from the restart, the hosts would go end-to-end for their third try, Alex Nankivell and Antoine Frisch combining to break the line and race into Glasgow territory. With the extra man out wide, Craig Casey’s scoring pass would send Diarmuid Barron over, Crowley converting for a 19-0 lead after as many minutes.
Glasgow knew that the next try was crucial, and with their first foray into Munster territory they would come up with the score. A pinpoint kick from Duncan Weir took the Warriors to within five metres, and when Matthews’ throw found the arms of Scott Cummings the maul would be unstoppable. Vailanu would be the beneficiary, Weir’s conversion drifting wide to leave the score at 19-5.
The final word of the opening period would belong to the hosts, though, as Munster claimed their four-try bonus-point before the interval. Gavin Coombes would do the damage, breaking the line and racing up to the Glasgow 22, before good hands would send Ahern over in the corner for his second of the night. Crowley again converted, taking the half-time score to 26-5 in favour of the hosts.
Once more, the Warriors knew a response was needed and it came from a familiar source. Tom Jordan – on at full-back in place of Ollie Smith at the end of the first-half – found himself taken out in the air, allowing Weir to boot the penalty to within five metres once more. This time Matthews himself would get the ball down, showing good patience to stay with the rolling maul and cross for his eighth try of the campaign. The conversion drifted wide but Glasgow were coming out fighting.
Stung by the visitors, Munster themselves would land an early blow at the start of the second half. Advantage in hand, Nankivell’s line saw the centre cut back against the grain and just about ground the ball over the whitewash, Crowley’s conversion from in front of the posts extending the lead to 33-10 with 49 minutes gone.
Back came the Warriors once more, the maul proving a lethal weapon yet again in Munster’s 22. Rolling fully 20 metres, a Munster transgression could prevent Matthews but not Darge, the openside bursting through the resulting breakdown to touch down. Weir was unable to add the extras, but the visitors were feeling the momentum.
Glasgow voices were making themselves heard, and the volume would be raised another notch on the hour mark. Another unstoppable maul would force Munster to collapse illegally in front of the posts, referee Marius van der Westhuizen dispatching Tadhg Beirne to the sin-bin and awarding a penalty try for good measure to narrow the gap to 33-22 with 19 minutes to play.
Now it was Munster who needed the next score, and the hosts would find it with 15 minutes to play. John Hodnett would be the man to come up with the try, burrowing over under pressure to give his side some breathing room. Crowley’s conversion made it 40-22, and the Musgrave Park faithful would breathe a sigh of relief.
There would be a final salvo from Franco Smith’s men, however. As had been the case all evening, Glasgow’s upper hand at the maul would pay dividends with two minutes to go. Fraser’s throw to Cummings was deadly accurate, before the young hooker became the third different player to score from a maul that evening. Weir was deadeye from the tee in an ultimately fruitless attempt to chase a losing bonus-point, leaving the final score at 40-29 in Munster’s favour.
A solitary bonus-point would have to suffice for the Scotstoun outfit; a return home next week and a new challenge awaits under the Friday night lights, as Northampton Saints visit Scotstoun to kick-off the Investec Champions Cup.