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14-man Munster pay Axel the ultimate tribute with sensational Thomond Park win

Peter O’Mahony and his men were utterly sublime in scoring five tries against Glasgow.

Munster 38

Glasgow 17

Murray Kinsella reports from Thomond Park

THIS IS HOW Anthony Foley wanted Munster to play.

Direct, technically sublime, confrontational, intelligent, aggressive, skillful, vicious and with no mercy, no let-up, no doubts. Emotional and masterful, a bonus-point win with 14 men.

Jaco Taute celebrates scoring a try Jaco Taute celebrates his first-half try. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Thomond Park this afternoon was a surreal place, dripping with emotion and full to the rafters. After a week of hell for Anthony Foley’s family, friends, team-mates and fellow coaches, here was a Munster performance that brought a smile to the face.

The connection between Munster fans and their players has always been famous, but it hasn’t crackled like it did today for a long time. This was something special, something unforgettable.

The ultimate tribute to a man who would have loved every single second of it.

Munster’s forwards – passionately led by Peter O’Mahony – carried with supreme effectiveness, their footwork and sheer desire to get over the gainline proving incredibly hard for Glasgow to halt.

The backline, with Kiwi out-half Tyler Bleyendaal in sensational form, handled with accuracy, allowed their team-mates time on the ball, and broke with intent at every opportunity.

The defensive shift was heroic, as Munster drew on their love for Foley and turned it into huge impact tackles, an undying work rate and the kind of intimidating linespeed that appeared to dissuade Glasgow’s players from carrying at them.

And all of that despite losing Keith Earls to a red card just a quarter into the game, the left wing sent off for a dangerous tackle on Glasgow hooker Fraser Brown.

Foley would have loved this full Thomond Park too. The crowd started to take their places from two hours before the 1pm kick-off, reaching a deafening crescendo by the time Jerome Garces signalled the start of a game that will go down in rugby history.

Tyler Bleyendaal on his way to scoring a try 22/10//2016 Bleyendaal scored a brilliant try. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Though Glasgow managed to grab a foothold in the game late on, having trailed 24-3 at the break, Munster expended every ounce of effort and energy available to them to do their fallen brother proud.

The magnificent Bleyendaal gave Munster the dream start, though it was built on a brilliant 15-metre maul by his pack that Foley would have enjoyed.

Earls darted at the Glasgow defence several phases later and laid up the most delicious offload for Bleyendaal to burst onto. The out-half slalomed through Glasgow’s despairing cover defence, his momentum carrying him over for a TMO-confirmed try.

Munster’s defence was ferocious in the early exchanges, while their ball-carrying dynamism and aggression found a pitch that has been missing for some time. They did go off their feet while building an exit to allow Finn Russell to draw Glasgow back to 7-3, Bleyendaal having converted his own try.

But Thomond Park didn’t have to wait long for another reason to cheer, with a sublime CJ Stander breakdown turnover just outside the Glasgow 22 sparking their second try.

Tommy O’Donnell broke the Scots’ defensive line, with his fellow forwards adding further vicious carries, before Bleyendaal beautifully delayed a screen pass to Rory Scannell in the left corner, giving his centre time to send Jaco Taute crashing over.

‘The Fields’ bellowed out around the Limerick stadium, followed up swiftly by ‘Stand up and Fight,’ but then Munster lost Earls to that red card.

Keith Earls is sent off Earls was red carded in the first half. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The left wing, who had started with eye-opening aggression, tipped Brown over in the tackle and referee Jerome Garces had to find the composure to red card him after the TMO footage showed the Glasgow hooker landing on the back of his head.

Earls departed after a few angry words with Glasgow’s backs, but Russell proceeded to miss the penalty shot at goal – to the Munster fans’ delight.

And Munster took heart, keeping their focus. The scrum demolished Glasgow’s pack to allow Bleyendaal’s first penalty to send Munster 17-3 ahead, and then another sensational try.

Russell kicked dead to give Munster a scrum on the Glasgow 10-metre line, centrally positioned, from where the brilliant Rory Scannell stepped his man, burst forward 10 metres and fed Simon Zebo on the left touchline.

The Ireland international fullback just beat Stuart Hogg for pace, rolling out of the Scot’s tackle and using his momentum to carry himself all the way to the tryline – all the while somehow keeping his feet out of touch.

For a second time, Bleyendaal slotted the touchline conversion from wide on the left.

14-man Munster even had the belief to go for a fourth try before the break, turning down a kickable shot at goal to go to the corner. This time, however, Glasgow turned on an excellent maul defence to repel them.

Any concern that Munster’s emotional intensity would dip after the interval was dispelled instantaneously, as the regathered their restart and pummelled a pathway to within metres of the Glasgow tryline, Murray, Holland and others carrying with impact.

Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland and Tommy O'Donnell celebrate winning a penalty try Munster celebrate their penalty try. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The TMO denied Murray a possible try against the base of the post, but Munster’s scrum was not leaving without the bonus-point score. Three times Garces reset the set-piece on Munster penalties, before finally losing patience and heading for the penalty try, converted by Bleyendaal for 31-3.

Even with their lead built to such an impressive position, captain O’Mahony insisted that they kept going after tries. Glasgow turned away a number of further attacks, but the intent was nonetheless brilliant.

A stunning try-saving tackle from Zebo and Darren Sweetnam denied Rory Hughes in the left corner, but Glasgow’s maul then managed to barge over for the Scots’ first try in the 65th minute trough Pat MacArthur.

Hogg converted and a 70th-minute score from replacement Mark Bennett – another incredible try saver from Sweetnam in between – brought Glasgow back to 31-17, but Munster were not to be stopped.

Conor Murray sent Rory Scannell over in the left corner heading into the closing minutes, with sub out-half Ian Keatley taking over from Bleyendaal by slotting the conversion to seal one of Munster’s greatest wins.

They did Anthony Foley proud.

Munster scorers:

Tries: Tyler Bleyendaal, Jaco Taute, Simon Zebo, Penalty try, Rory Scannell

Conversions: Tyler Bleyendaal [4 from 4], Ian Keatley [1 from 1]

Penalties: Tyler Bleyendaal [1 from 1]

Glasgow scorers:

Tries: Pat MacArthur, Mark Bennett

Conversions: Stuart Hogg [2 from 2]

Penalties: Finn Russell [1 from 2]

MUNSTER: Simon Zebo (Ronan O’Mahony ’78); Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls 9 (red card ’20); Tyler Bleyendaal (Ian Keatley ’66), Conor Murray (Duncan Williams ’76); Dave Kilcoyne (Brian Scott ’72)), Niall Scannell (Duncan Casey ’61 to ’67), John Ryan (Stephen Archer ’68); Donnacha Ryan (Robin Copeland ’77), Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony (captain) (Jack O’Donoghue ’61), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.

GLASGOW: Stuart Hogg; Sean Lamont, Alex Dunbar (Mark Bennett ’61), Sam Johnson, Rory Hughes; Finn Russell (Peter Murchie ’61), Henry Pyrgos (Ali Price ’48); Gordon Reid (Alex Allan ’27), Fraser Brown (Pat MacArthur ’48), Zander Fagerson (Sila Puafisi ’44); Tim Swinson, Jonny Gray; Rob Harley, Ryan Wilson )Lewis Wynne ’76), Josh Strauss (Simone Favaro ’33).

Referee: Jerome Garces [FFR].

Attendance: 25,600.

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