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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 1 September, 2015


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Munster have got their Heineken Cup quest back on track with a home win against Gloucester. It may not have been pretty for the 80 minutes, but Rob Penney’s men scored two tries against a stubborn Gloucester team. We went minute-by-minute…

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the game. E-mail, tweet @rugby_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Munster 26 – 10 Gloucester

Not long until kick-off at Thomond. Here are the teams for today.

Munster: Felix Jones; Keith Earls, Casey Laulala, James Downey, Johne Murphy; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Damien Varley, BJ Botha; Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell; Donnacha Ryan, Sean Dougall, Peter O’Mahony (c).Replacements: Mike Sherry, James Cronin, Stephen Archer, James Coughlan, CJ Stander, Cathal Sheridan, JJ Hanrahan, Denis Hurley.

Gloucester: Martyn Thomas; Charlie Sharples, Mike Tindall, Ryan Mills, Jonny May; Jonny Bentley, Dan Robson; Dan Murphy, Darren Dawidiuk, Rupert Harden; Lua Lokotui, Will James (capt); Matt Cox, Akapusi Qera, Ben Morgan. Replacements: Dan George, James Gibbons, Yann Thomas, James Hudson, Gareth Evans, Tavis Knoyle, Freddie Burns, Rob Cook.

So how’s this one going to go Munster fans? A fairly weak Gloucester team on paper, can Munster punish them for not bring the star names to Thomond Park?

Gloucester are out on the pitch… and here come Munster! Time to get their Heineken Cup campaign on track after the disappointment of last weekend in Murrayfield.

And we’re underway at Thomond Park!

Excellent start from Munster. Peter O’Mahony makes a half break out of his 22 on receiving the kick-off, Conor Murray launches a hanging box kick and Casey Lualala makes a smashing tackle. ‘Fields of Athenry’ rings out around the stadium already. Superb atmosphere.

Munster win a penalty in front of the posts after some sharp phase play as almost every member of the pack get their hands on the ball, with Murray directing play at scrum-half confidently. The Ireland international is already making good decisions, picking out men in space. Keatley elects to go for goal.

Munster 3-0 Gloucester

And he slots the easy effort. Great start for the home side.

Munster win an excellent turnover in midfield as Gloucester go on the attack, but then Felix Jones is penalised for holding onto the ball after the tackle. Good signs in terms of physicality from Munster though. Johnny Bentley takes aim from 35 metres out.

But he’s pulled that effort to the right of the posts. Unconvincing strike.

Early substitution for Gloucester as Martyn Thomas comes off for Rob Cook. The fullback seemed to be injured in that early tackle from Lualala. 8 minutes gone at Thomond Park.

Munster 6-0 Gloucester

Keatley strokes over another penalty from in front of the posts after the visitors go off their feet at a defensive ruck. Excellent kick chase from Keith Earls at the root of those three points. The Limerick man has started this season in excellent form. Is he best suited to the wing? We think so.

Munster have been back on the attack, with Ian Keatley adding variety to their play with passes to inside runners and putting width on the ball at other times. Gloucester concede another penalty in front of their uprights and Keatley will surely punish them. Straightforward for Munster so far…

Munster 9-0 Gloucester

No problems for the Munster out-half, whose confidence will be boosted by these three opening efforts. So far, Munster dominating and Gloucester need to find a way into this game. 82% possession for Munster at this stage, with 13 minutes gone.

Munster 9 – 5 Gloucester

Totally against the run of play, Gloucester kick down into Munster’s left-hand corner. From the resulting lineout, they play through three or four phases before Charlie Sharples dives over from a Dan Robson pass. Bentley converts wonderfully from the touchline.

Munster seemed as surprised as anyone at Gloucester’s try there. Possibly a little easy for the Premiership side to score from that close in. Intelligent play from scrum-half Robson though, who drew in the defence to release Sharples. Game on!

Gloucester have been really buoyed by that score and their defence has switched right on. Munster’s attack is suddenly struggling to make ground and then Ben Morgan makes a magnificent steal at the breakdown. The visitors go back on the attack outside Munster’s 22…

Sustained pressure for Gloucester inside the Munster 22 ends with an excellent turnover penalty for Damien Varley. But the tide has suddenly turned in this game. Gloucester are looking to break the game up, move Munster around the pitch and lift the tempo. 22 minutes gone at Thomond.

After watching the replay, it was Paul O’Connell who deserves credit for that turnover. He looks fired up for this.

Downey nearly breaks through for Munster, but Gloucester centre Ryan Mills is quick to wrap up Murray at scrum-half and turn the tackle into a maul. Excellent technique from the young English centre. Promising to see Downey giving Munster that directness, a balance to the width they so love to play with.

Earls knocks on as he looks to counter-attack. Gloucester then look to put width on the ball, but there’s another superb choke tackle to run possession over. And of course Donncha Callaghan is involved, he’s made an art form of that technique in recent years. This game has really balanced out after Munster’s strong start.

French referee Jerome Garces has been delivering his view on the scrums so far to the front rows. After his lecture is complete, he penalises Gloucester for driving straight down. Munster kick the penalty to the right-hand touchline, 35 metres out from the visiting team’s tryline.

Lualala breaks through with his dazzling footwork, Keatley and Murray put the forwards to work and then Keith Earls bursts up the right. The heavies go back on the charge with Kilcoyne and Botha before O’Mahony goes close. Gloucester look in trouble and concede the penalty. Better from Munster, more direct, stronger carries.

And Munster decide to go to the corner, despite the chance for three points…

Munster roll the maul and it appears to get over for the try! Garces is going up to the TMO to get a decision…

Munster 14 – 7 Gloucester

The television match official has awarded the try to Munster. It’s Damien Varley who got the touch down!

Peter O’Mahony’s ballsy decision to got to touch with that penalty has been fully vindicated. Keatley takes aim with the conversion…

Munster 16 – 7 Gloucester

And he’s on target. Lovely, clean strike from the out-half. 36 minutes gone now.

Gloucester get their turn with ball in hand. Dan Robson has been lively for them at scrum-half, but then a huge double hit comes on from O’Callaghan and Both. However, Garces gives a penalty against Munster for hands in the ruck at the subsequent breakdown. Bentley lines up the kick…

Munster 16 – 10 Gloucester

The out-half obliges for three badly-needed points. Munster just can’t pull away.

HALF TIME Munster 16 – 10 Gloucester

So what are the Munster fans’ thoughts on that first half? Should Munster be further in front? Or are Gloucester playing well and keeping themselves in it? We’d love to hear your predictions for the second half.

Munster’s best periods of play have come when they’ve been direct and gone through the phases with their forwards. Keatley and Murray need to work Gloucester’s defence in close before they attempt to spin it wide. As always, finding that balance will be the key for Munster. Alan Quinlan is bemoaning the home team’s lack of line speed in defence too, and it’s hard to disagree.

What have you made of the famous Thomond Park atmosphere so far? Rob Penney called for their support during the week. Have the Munster fans delivered so far?

Over in Wales, Jonny Sexton’s Racing Metro are 20-10 down to the Scarlets at half time. The Ireland out-half has kicked a penalty and conversion, but isn’t having everything his own way.

So, as we get set for the second half the keys for Munster look to be a more direct attacking approach and added aggression and energy in defence. Easier said than done?

The SECOND HALF is underway as Keatley sends his drop kick high towards the Gloucester 22. O’Connell makes the first tackle of the half.

Dougall claims Varley’s lineout throw and Munster get rumbling on the Gloucester 22. Ridiculous penalty from O’Connell though, flying in from the side. Poor from the experienced lock, went straight off his feet too. Wastes a good attacking position.

O’Connell has been outperformed by O’Callaghan in the second row so far. Really surprising to see him give away a penalty like that. His experience should mean he is the one ensuring that kind of thing doesn’t happen. Still time for him to have a positive influence on this game, but Munster need him to step up a level or two.

Another clean take at the lineout allows Rob Penney’s men to power their way towards the Gloucester line, and there’s the directness that we were looking for. Peter O’Mahony carries dynamically, and he has looked at home in the No. 8 jersey. Munster are awarded a scrum five metres out as the ball fails to come back from an ensuing ruck. Excellent attacking chance…

But Gloucester turn the ball over after more superb work from scrum-half Robson, who jumps on O’Mahony as he attempts to pick and go from the base of the scrum. The 21-year-old has been hugely impressive for Gloucester at 9, alert and full of energy.

Freddie Burns in on for Gloucester at out-half as the Munster scrum concedes another penalty. Garces is not happy with the binding from Penney’s men, and they need to sort that out. Giving up field position with needless penalties.

Burns is likely to add an edge to Gloucester’s attack with his passing and vision. The England international will certainly be eyeing an upset at Thomond Park.

But Munster win a penalty after Felix Jones is deliberately impeded while chasing up a Johne Murphy grubber. Keatley to the left of the posts…

Oooo, that’s his first poor connection of the evening. Sends the ball away to the right of the posts. Just didn’t look comfortable with that strike. But here go Munster again as they counter-attack from Gloucester’s clearing kick.

Kilcoyne gets Munster over the gain-line and as Munster spread the ball back to the right, Lualala attempts a spectacular offload out of the back of the hand. Didn’t need to force that, but that’s the kind of player he is. Can be frustrating when it doesn’t come off, but Lualala will keep trying.

Lots of crabbing across the pitch from Munster players, including some of the forwards. They need to straighten up and run more directly. It’s been relatively easy for Gloucester to defend Munster’s attack because they have been so lateral. They could do with getting someone like CJ Stander onto the pitch to run straight and hard. 59 minutes gone at Thomond Park.

Gloucester are looking to benefit from every Munster error by bursting down field through the likes of Dan Robson and Rob Cook. Nigel Davies’ side are looking lively despite having been under the cosh for much of the game. With Munster still only six points ahead, this is far from over. Penney’s men need to get more points on the board as soon as possible. Scrum to Gloucester around 40 metres from the Munster tryline now…

There’s a good hit from Sean Dougall, who is growing in influence in the second half. More aggression in the tackle and James Downey helped his openside to force the knock-on. More of that needed for Munster.

So close to a try for Munster!! That is better. Keith Earls creates a clean line-break out of nothing, jinking past two defenders up the right-hand touchline. He offloads to Johne Murphy but then the former Leicester Tigers man knocks on in the tackle and the chance is gone.

Superb break from Earls there. He has been excellent again on the wing. Surely discussions over his best positions are a thing of the past.

Munster have really lifted themselves all of a sudden. Massive pressure at that scrum and Sean Dougall smothers Ben Morgan in a choke tackle to earn Munster another brilliant attacking position…

Munster 19 – 10 Gloucester

The home side win another penalty from the resulting set piece and O’Mahony decides that taking the points is the smart move. Keatley slots the kick from the right of the posts and Munster have opened up a more comfortable lead. Can Gloucester bounce back yet again?

Munster 26 – 10 Gloucester

Beautiful score for Munster through Johne Murphy, who collects a well-balanced Ian Keatley diagonal kick in behind the Gloucester defence. Great work again from Dougall in the build-up, bursting through the Premiership side’s defence. Keatley converts.

A delightful little kick from Keatley there in what was easily Munster’s most exciting passage of play in the game. Dougall providing that directness in ball carrying that the home side have so badly needed. 71 minutes have elapsed and JJ Hanrahan, CJ Stander, James Coughlan and James Cronin are all on the pitch for Munster.

And there’s Stander’s first thunderous run for Munster, bullocking through the tackle. Always adds so much for Munster off the bench, hard not to wonder what he’d bring to the starting team. Keatley comes up with a majestic clearing kick soon after, and Munster are looking confident and relaxed.

Mike Sherry is the latest man to come off the bench for Munster, as Gloucester look to create something here. However, they come in from the side at ruck time and Munster are awarded the penalty. There is an audible lift in atmosphere every time CJ Stander is near the ball. He’s become a real fans favourite, despite not having started many games.

It’s finished 26-26 between Racing Metro and the Scarlets over in Wales.

Back at Thomond Park, Sherry has missed his man at the lineout and Gloucester are back on the attack with 76 minutes gone.

Peter O’Mahony has been named man of the match and it’s difficult to argue with that. He’s been excellent at No. 8, where he looks very comfortable. The Cork man was, of course, a No. 8 coming up through age grade rugby and it is his ‘natural’ position. Strong carrying today, big effort on defence and as always, he has been hugely audible on the referee’s mic, encouraging his teammates.

Gloucester have possession for the final play of the game. A scrum 40 metres out, last chance…

FULL TIME Munster 26 – 10 Gloucester

That’s it after Munster rip the ball away from the visitors. Lualala leads one final attack for Munster with his superb footwork and then CJ Stander releases Earls down the right-hand touchline for what looks like another try. However, Garces calls them back for a forward pass and Earls boots the ball into the stand in frustration. Four points for Munster.

So that’s it, Munster go top of the pool for now, but Perpignan host Edinburgh tomorrow in the other Pool 6 fixture of the weekend.

Gloucester certainly performed better than expected after the controversial team selection. Rob Penney will be content with the four points, but there will be frustration for Munster. Far from a complete performance from the home side, who didn’t manage to create many try-scoring chances despite an abundance of possession.

What were your thoughts on the game? Pleased with Munster’s win or were there more tries left out there? Feel free to post your comments below.

Thanks for joining our liveblog of the game, and it’s been great to see all four Irish provinces winning in the Heineken Cup today.

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