Munster have drawn their opening Champions Cup match 17-17 against Castres at the Stade Pierre-Fabre. It was a tightly contested affair played in warm but breezy conditions at the southern French venue.
Munster got off to the worst possible start when Conor Murray was yellow carded for tackling Yannick Caballero off the ball as he was chasing a grubber kick. Castres scored the game’s opening try soon after when Chris Farrell’s pass was intercepted and Robert Ebersohn ran in under the posts.
Munster hit back with a great score to level proceedings, Zebo ran a great line and Murray found the darting Cork man who wiggled his way over the line.
Munster’s defence was at six’s and seven’s for Castres’ second try. Julien Dumora ran a great line to take advantage of a scrambling Munster defence who were cut open a phase earlier due a scintillating line break from the French side.
Tyler Bleyendaal added a penalty when Robert Ebersohn was sent to the bin for cynical play close to his own line.
In the second half, Dave Kilcoyne went over for Munster’s second try to put them into the lead but Castres hit back with another penalty. The game remained 17-17 for the final 20 minutes but Munster completely lost their discipline at the end and they did their best to hand the French side victory when Kilcoyne needlessly came in from the side of the ruck to award Castres a kick at the posts but Benjamin Urdapilleta fluffed his chance.
Finally, when you thought Munster were to learn from that mistake, Robin Copeland needlessly put a hand in the ruck when the Castres scrumhalf tried to get the ball away, it was penalty, the referee bizzarely deemed it a knock on and the French side missed a dropgoal at the death a few phases later.
Munster will be happy in a way to come away with two points when they could have left with just one. Here we take a look at some of the major talking points from the game.
Munster conceded 11 penalties in the game but it was their discipline at the end when the game was in the melting pot which will worry supporters. Kilcoyne and Copeland were both guilty of nearly blowing the match for Munster at the end when they did their best to hand the game to Castres. Munster’s discipline under pressure will have to improve when Racing 92 come to Limerick next Saturday.
Conor Murray – Simon Zebo Axis
Simon Zebo’s return to fullback was a huge boost for Munster after the Cork man missed the last number of games with a skin infection. He was astute under the high ball and he offered a great threat from deep with some great counter attacking.
However, it was his almost telepathic partnership with Murray which was most pleasing for Munster. On more than one occasion, Zebo ran scything lines and Murray found the 28-year-old with ease. One of these moves led to Zebo’s try and Munster will be hoping for more of the same next week.
A few eyebrows were raised when it was announced that Stephen Archer was starting up front ahead of John Ryan, who’s meteoric rise over the past 18 months has been nothing short of outstanding. However, Archer grew into the game and put in an excellent shift and he eventually got to grips with the scrum which put pressure on Castres at crucial points in the game.
Archer put in nine tackles and carried well too and it’s a huge boost for Munster to have quality of depth in such a key position.
Munster Get Out Of Jail
There are not many games where you can describe a team as easily capable of winning comfortably but equally so in terms of losing but that’s what applies to Munster here. They had plenty of territory and possession in that game but due to unforced errors and their poor work at the breakdown, possession was turned over all too easily.
On the other side of the coin, some last-ditch tackles and indiscipline at the end of the game could have cost them the draw.
Munster leave France with two points which in the context of the group, isn’t a bad result.