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Reds win battle, lose war

19th November 2008 By Munster Rugby

Reds win battle, lose war

It was a harsh result, but Thomond Park might well see the likes of it again after a match of huge intensity that was more than worthy of a great occasion – the official opening of a great new stadium.

If New Zealand assistant coach Steve Hansen has his way, the All Blacks will be back in Limerick to play matches of this intensity in years to come. Based on this display, Munster will be willing, ready and able for them.

Hansen reiterated his view that there is room for matches such as this in the international calendar.

“I think we saw this evening, what fixtures like this can do for the game in general,” he said.

It was a privilege to be at this hallowed ground 30 years ago. We didn’t expect to nearly see a repeat by a team stripped of most of their front line troops. The chief of staff was Mick O’Driscoll, and he needn’t have worried about a lack of support. He had it in spades.

For those who had to pay, it was worth the entrance fee alone to see Rua Tipoki, Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi and Jeremy Manning dictate the trend of the evening by doing their version of the Haka before the All Blacks did theirs.

The New Zealand Munster contingent covered themselves in glory and they set the scene for less celebrated colleagues who gave not an inch to the men in black. Timmy Ryan, James Coughlan and Neil Ronan spring to mind immediately.

Often apparently dead on their feet from the intensity of a massively demanding physical game, Munster’s players picked themselves up and stood toe to toe again for more confrontation and physicality.

It was worth the entrance fee to see Paul Warwick pick up a pass from his ankles in the seventh minute and seconds later knock over a 50-metre penalty to give Munster the lead even if the lead lasted a mere two minutes before Stephen Donald replied with a penalty from 22 metres.

Munster didn’t hold back from there and after 18 minutes Warwick kicked another penalty.

The out-half gave the crowd more reason to cheer with a drop goal from 30 metres, but the All Blacks did their worst with a finely-executed try from Donald against 14-man Munster, with Denis Leamy having treatment on the touchline as the score went in.

Donald kicked the conversion to give the visitors the lead against the run of play and for the first time.

But this was not a night when Munster felt inclined to capitulate. They picked themselves up and set off in pursuit of glory.

Freddie Pucciariello and Ryan between them had the All Black scrum in trouble, and within a few minutes of the interval they helped set up a lead score.

Coughlan broke from a solid scrum and the ball went out via Peter Stringer to an unopposed Barry Murphy for the try that Warwick converted brilliantly.

New Zealand got out of jail early in the second half when Munster conceded a couple of kickable penalties to Donald. The out-half knocked over one after five minutes but missed the second, to the delight of the crowd who disagreed with the decision anyway.

Donald missed another penalty chance as referee Romain Poite apparently did everything possible to earn the wrath of the crowd.

Staring down defeat, New Zealand produced one brilliant move in the 76th minute after opting to kick a penalty to touch before mauling Munster 15 metres, sucking in the defence and allowing Joe Rokocoko to get in for a try despite the combined efforts of Howlett and Stringer in defence.

It was an agonising way to lose a match they really deserved to win, but a reminder to New Zealand that quality rugby does exist at this side of the world.

Munster: D Howlett, B Murphy, R Tipoki, L Mafi, I Dowling, P Warwick, P Stringer, F Pucciariello, P Stringer, F Sheahan, T Ryan, M O’Driscoll (capt), D Ryan, J Coughlan, D Leamy, N Ronan.

Replacements: B Holland for Leamy (23), T Buckley for Ryan (40), J Manning for Tipoki (54), D Fogarty for Sheahan (62, injured).

New Zealand: C Jane, H Gear, A Tuitavake, I Toeava, J Rokocoko, S Donald, P Weepu (capt), J MacIntosh, C Flynn, B Franks, R Filipo, J Eaton, A Thompson, L Messam, S Waldrom.

Replacements: K Read for Thompson (50), J Afoa for Franks (56), A Mathewson for Weepu, H Elliott for Flynn, R Kahui Gear (all 63), B Thorn for Felipo, M Muliaina for Tuitavake (70).

Referee: R Poite (France). 



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