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Dublin: 14 °C Wednesday 19 September, 2018
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Good afternoon and welcome to The42‘s live minute-by-minute coverage of Munster’s Champions Cup opener.

Rassie Erasmus’s side are in France where they take on a familiar foe in Castres Olympique.

Kick-off is in about 20 minutes, at 1pm. Plenty of time to stick the kettle on.

TEAM NEWS: Here’s how Castres will line out at the Stade Pierre Fabre this afternoon.

Castres Olympique

15. Julien Dumora
14. Taylor Paris
13. Afusipa Taumoepeau
12. Robert Ebersohn
11. David Smith
10. Benjamin Urdapilleta
9. Rory Kockott

1. Antoine Tichit
2. Jody Jenneker
3. Daniel Kotze
4. Loic Jacquet
5. Rodrigo Capo Ortega
6. Yannick Caballero
7. Steve Mafi
8. Maama Vaipulu

Replacements:

16. Marc-Antoine Rallier
17. Mihaita Lazar
18. Damien Tussac
19. Christophe Samson
20. Anthony Jelonch
21. Ludovic Radosavljevic
22. Florian Vialelle
23. Armand Batlle

TEAM NEWS: Five changes to the Munster side which lost to Leinster last weekend - Zebo, Sweetnam, Scannell, Archer and Flanagan all start.

It’s Flanagan’s first start for the province since joining on loan from Sarries.

Munster

15. Simon Zebo
14. Darren Sweetnam
13. Chris Farrell
12. Rory Scannell
11. Keith Earls
10. Tyler Bleyendaal
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Niall Scannell
3. Stephen Archer
4. Mark Flanagan
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Tommy O’Donnell
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Rhys Marshall
17. Liam O’Connor
18. John Ryan
19. Robin Copeland
20. Jack O’Donoghue
21. Duncan Williams
22. Ian Keatley
23. Andrew Conway

Despite Munster’s dominance in this fixture, winning nine of the 12 meetings between the sides, the bookies make it a virtual coin toss.

Who do you fancy?

KICK OFF: Castres get us underway, and Conor Murray immediately clears his lines with a box kick from inside the 22.

2Mins

2 mins – Good pressure from the Munster line, and they’ve forced a couple of basic handling errors from Castres in the early exchanges.

3Mins

3 mins — Munster’s early strategy seems to be to put the ball up and test the Castres back three in the air. Niall Scannell takes the ball into contact but he’s isolated, Vaipulu pounces, and Munster concede the turnover penalty.

5 mins — YELLOW CARD! Conor Murray is gone to the bin, and that’s an early blow for Munster.

Good probing work by the Castres attack and Taumoepeau carries well to break the Munster line. Kockott tries the grubber but as Caballero, a diving Murray clips him around the ankles, and there are no real complaints as he heads for the line.

8Mins

8 mins – Could this be another yellow for Munster for a deliberate knock on by Simon Zebo? Dumora tries to ship the ball out the back door as he’s tackled by Earls, and Zebo puts a hand in to knock it down.

Had he got the pass away, Paris was outside him and definitely would have scored. Zebo escapes punishment, but Munster’s indiscipline – spoken about on multiple occasions this week – has already got them skating on thin ice.

11Mins

10 mins – Munster clear their lines again but Castres are straight back into red territory. CJ Stander forces a turnover.

Flag 12Mins

TRY! Castres 7-0 Munster (Ebersohn, 12′)

Just as Munster looked like they were about to get out of dodge, Chris Farrell tries an ambitious pass to Flanagan and he’s punished. Ebersohn steps into the line, intercepts, and once he’s done that, there’s no doubt he’s going to run the length of the pitch and score.

Urdapilleta converts. Munster trail.

14Mins

14 mins – Farrell immediately sets out to make amends for that mistake by levelling Ebersohn in the middle of the field. Perfect technique.

18Mins

18 mins — MISSED PENALTY: Urdapilleta decides to try his luck with a penalty from inside his own half but he shanks it and it dribbles under the posts and dead.

20Mins

20 mins – Castres pinged for a high tackle and Bleyendaal kicks play down to just outside the 22. Chance to set a good attacking platform here.

21Mins

21 mins – Munster try a bit of training ground trickery from the lineout but Castres knock it on as they try to intercept, and the visitors will have another chance to build from an attacking scrum.

26Mins

26 mins – More of the same from Munster: penalty kicked into Castres territory, but the opportunity is squandered, and the hosts have the put-in to the scrum.

28Mins

28 mins – That looks like a let-off for Munster. Vaipulu looked to have his body position just right to jackel for the turnover from Niall Scannell, but he’s deemed to be infringing, and Bleyendaal kicks right down into the corner.

29Mins

29 mins – Much better from Munster as O’Mahony picks off the top of the lineout. Stander drives to within a couple of inches of the line, and then Kockott reaches in from the side and plucks the ball out illegally.

Penalty Munster, but no yellow card for the scrum-half.

Flag 30Mins

TRY! Castres 7-7 Munster (Zebo, 30′)

Munster’s pressure finally pays. Dave Kilcoyne is held up just short but when play is recycled, Zebo hits the line at speed and it’s enough to carry him over the line. Bleyendaal converts.

Flag 32Mins

TRY! Castres 14-7 Munster (Dumora, 32′)

That didn’t take too long, and it’s brilliant handling by Castres as they slice through the Munster defence to take the lead again. Capo Ortega gets the offload just right, Kockott keeps the ball moving quickly, and Julien Dumora has the perfect line to dart in and touch down.

Urdapilleta adds the extras to make it 14-7.

36Mins

36 mins – Castres infringe at the breakdown and here’s another great opportunity for Munster with a lineout five metres out…

37Mins

YELLOW CARD: Castres continue to concede penalties as Munster hammer away at their line, and Ebersohn is sent to the bin. That had been coming.

38Mins

38 mins — PENALTY! Castres 14-10 Munster 

Bleyendaal taps over the penalty in front of the posts.

A reminder of the three tries from that first half:

Robert Ebersohn scores a try Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Simon Zebo celebrates his try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Julien Dumora scores a try Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

41Mins

SECOND HALF: Back underway again. Munster should have the wind at their backs in this half – but can they make it count?

42Mins

42 mins — Yep, that’s a strong breeze at Munster’s backs, as Tyler Bleyendaal has just found out. He overcooks his kick and the wind does the rest to carry it dead, costing Munster a lot of territory.

45Mins

45 mins – Super Munster scrum in midfield, marching Castres backwards and forcing the penalty. They haven’t always been as fluent as they’d like but this game is there for the taking for them.

Flag 46Mins

TRY! Castres 14-17 Munster (Kilcoyne, 46′)

Great start to the second half by Munster, and they get their reward. Zebo is dragged down just short after picking a great line off Bleyendaal’s inside shoulder, and then with advantage being played, Murray tries a looping pass to Flanagan.

It bobbles off his hands and into touch but from the lineout, Munster move quickly — quicker than the Sky cameras, who miss it — and Kilcoyne powers over.

Bleyendaal converts and Munster lead.

51Mins

PENALTY! Castres 17-17 Munster (Urdapilleta, 51′)

All square as the Castres out-half drops a penalty between the posts.

53Mins

53 mins – Disappointing by Munster as a moment of absent-mindedness from Chris Farrell proves costly. O’Mahony is making tracks but Farrell gets ahead of him and they collide, giving Castres possession for the accidental offside.

55Mins

Munster subs: Rhys Marshall and John Ryan on for Niall Scannell and Stephen Archer as Erasmus freshens up that front row.

58Mins

Munster sub: Ian Keatley is on to replace Tyler Bleyendaal.

60Mins

60 mins – Oooooh. Rory Kockott thinks he’s given Castres the lead, diving over in the corner, but his foot is in touch and Munster can breathe. That was a bit close for comfort.

61Mins

61 mins – Munster are all over the place here…

62Mins

62 mins – Sweetnam! What a magnificent covering tackle from Sweetnam, a certain try-saver. Munster are totally stretched and as Taumoepeau dives for the line, Sweetnam does enough to force him into touch.

65Mins

Dicey stuff from Munster in the last five minutes in particular and all of a sudden, Castres look the more likely side to kick on and get the decisive score in these last 15 minutes.

65Mins

Munster sub: Robin Copeland is on to replace Mark Flanagan.

66Mins

Munster sub: Andrew Conway is on for Darren Sweetnam. His final contribution might well have been his most important.

67Mins

67 mins – Keatley has a shot from distance and a chance to give Munster the lead…

67Mins

67 mins – Missed it. Still 17-17 with 13 minutes to play.

68Mins

68 mins – Munster pile forward as Keatley and Conway combine. They’re about 10 metres from the Castres line…

69Mins

69 mins – Zebo drives, O’Mahony drives, Marshall drives, but the Castres defence is holding firm.

71Mins

70 mins – And when the mistake comes, it comes from Munster. Rory Scannell doesn’t secure the ball as he’s brought to ground, it bobbles away from the breakdown, and Castres clear towards the sidelines.

In fact, they’ll have the lineout as well as it came off Chris Farrell last as he attempted to stop it going into touch.

72Mins

72 mins – More Munster possession squandered as Murray fumbles possession and Kockott is able to kick clear.

The positive for Munster is that most of the last few minutes have been played in Castres’ half.

73Mins

73 mins – Keatley tries to turn the Castres defence, and he finds touch, even if he hasn’t made a huge amount of territory with the kick in behind.

75Mins

75 mins – Could this be Munster’s last chance? If it is, it’s gone a-begging as they’re pinged for holding on to the ball, and Castres clear into the Munster half.

77Mins

77 mins – Madness. Kilcoyne is pinged for coming in from the side at the breakdown and, into the wind, Urdapilleta will have a chance to win this.

78Mins

78 mins – He’s missed it, short in the wind, but Munster aren’t out of trouble yet.

80Mins

80 mins – TMO to check on a late penalty call for Castres. Copeland reached into the breakdown, but it’s only a scrum for a knock on.

One last chance…

80Mins

Castres could set for a drop goal here, but the wind isn’t in their favour…

FULL TIME: Castres 17-17 Munster

Drama at the death as Urdapilleta tries the drop goal into the wind but it drifts off right and wide.

All over!

Here’s Brendan Gallagher’s take on that final non-penalty call on Copeland…

Hard to know what to make of that. Munster leave France with two points, and have definitely ridden their luck in the last few minutes especially, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that the game was there for the taking.

Our man in the Stade Pierre Fabre, Sean Farrell, will have the match report, reaction and analysis over the course of the afternoon and evening.

Thanks for reading and for commenting.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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