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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 24 April, 2019
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There may not be a knock-out berth to play for, but there’s a word above the tunnel in Thomond Park and Munster will be determined to at least live up to that single-word mission statement.

As always, we’d love to hear from you throughout the game. Send us your thoughts and comments via e-mail sean@the42.ie, tweet us @the42_iefind us on Facebook, or leave a comment below.

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Good afternoon and welcome along to our big show-stopping Champions Cup pool stage liveblog.

We’re keeping a very close eye on events in Bath and Montpellier before putting all our focus onto Munster’s meeting with Sale Sharks.

Here are the teams for today’s action in Limerick, including a late change on the Munster bench with Paddy Butler coming in in place of Robin Copeland.

Munster

15. Simon Zebo
14. Andrew Conway
13. Keith Earls
12. Denis Hurley
11. Ronan O’Mahony
10. Ian Keatley
9. Duncan Williams

1. James Cronin
2. Duncan Casey
3. BJ Botha
4. Dave Foley
5. Paul O’Connell
6. Dave O’Callaghan
7. Tommy O’Donnell
8. Peter O’Mahony

Replacements

16. Eusebio Guinazu
17. John Ryan
18. Stephen Archer
19. Billy Holland
20. Paddy Butler
21. Ivan Dineen
22. JJ Hanrahan
23. Pat Howard

Sale

15. Luke McClean

14. Tom Brady

13. Andy Forsyth

12. Mark Jennings

11. Tom Arscott

10. Nick Macleod

9. Will Cliff

1. Alberto de Marchi

2. Tommy Taylor

3. Ross Harrison

4. Andrei Ostrikov

5. Josh Beaumont

6. Mark Easter

7. David Seymour Captain

8. Viliami Fihaki

Replacements.

16. Cameron Neild

17. James Flynn

18. Ciaran Parker

19. George Nott

20. Andrew Hughes

21. Nathan Fowles

22. Joe Ford

23. Mike Haley

It’s all over in the pool four fixtures. Leinster have been left holding a home quarter-final after Toulouse failed to beat Montpellier and Bath didn’t manage a bonus point against Glasgow.

This is the view of our man in Thomond Park.
https://vine.co/v/OTATubEQBMY

Right enough of that metropolitan rugby, all eyes are on Limerick now as Munster players finish off their prep in the dressing room and head for the tunnel.

KICK-OFF:

Keatley gets us under way while the commentator on Sky tells us that it’s a “brilliant atmosphere as always at Thomond Park”. Guess he has only been there for training days.

2Mins

TRY! Munster 5 Sale 0 (Zebo)

3Mins

A superb start for Munster with Zebo finishing off in the right hand corner after Ronan O’Mahony made the break on the opposite flank.

A lovely sweeping move followed with Keatley and Earls involved before Zebo got his chance from 10 metres.

4Mins

Munster 7 Sale 0

Did we not mention Keatley added the extras? Course he did. We are firmly in the realm of laying down Six Nations markers now and today is a big chance for both Keatley and Zebo.

6Mins

Penalty! Munster 10 Sale 0 (Keatley)

6Mins

Meanwhile in France, Camille Lopez has given Clermont a 3 – 0 lead over Saracens.

8Mins

That early try aside, you get the sense that both sides are sleepwalking so far in this game. O’Connell gets a talking to for going off his feet before a penalty is awarded.

PENALTY! Munster 10 Sale 3 (Macleod).

10Mins

PENALTY! Munster 13 Sale 3 ( Keatley)

Infuriating for coaches, but easy pickings for Munster as Sale concede a pen off the restart and Keatley brings his personal tally up to eight in 10 minutes.

12Mins

TRY! Munster 13 Sale 8 (Arscott)

13Mins

Just as I was praising Keatley, he comes up a bit soft in defence and lets Arcott fend him off.

Good finish from the winger after cutting into the left channel and throwing a dummy, but Munster have to be more aggressive in D.

Macleod adds the extras too.

Munster 13 Sale 10

16Mins

Sale now camped on the Munster five again after Foley was penalised. Munster not showing the reaction we all hoped they would after last week’s limp defeat.

18Mins

SIN-BIN!

Andrew Conway takes a yellow for the team as Sale continue to amp up the pressure. Line-out coming.

19Mins

There’s the crowd noise. Munster’s maul defence makes a big play and force the penalty.

Zebo takes the responsibility of clearing with his left boot and they take play up to near halfway. Excellent clearance kick.

20Mins

A big gasp from the stands as Zebo takes two attempts to control a pass, but he hangs on and Munster go back to a tighter set of phases, making yards before a penalty comes.

21Mins

Denis Hurley was getting treated in that set of phases and he has now left the game injured. Ivan Dineen is on in his place.

23Mins

As Ian Keatley’s penalty trails wide, half of Thomond Park is looking down to see what’s up with JJ Hanrahan. The Kerry kid is twiddling his thumbs on the bench while Dineen heads into the centre.

25Mins

Oh dear. Keatley misses touch and a chance for Munster to build.

27Mins

Superb work at the breakdown from O’Connell and Munster attempt to inject pace in the game with a quick tap and break from O’Mahony.

O’Connell gets a chance to carry on halfway and delivers a good offload to Dave O’Callaghan, but the ball spills into Sale territory.

29Mins

In Clermont, Nick Abendanon has scored the opening try of the game and the Top 14 side lead Sarries 10 – 0.

32Mins

O’Connell wins a line-out and that sets the platform for Munster to build pressure and phases inside the Sale 22, but just when they move to force the pass, again the move breaks down and Sale get the put in.

33Mins

Very good exit from the Premiership club brings them to halfway, but Munster are relishing any attempt from a line-out.

They go wide quickly, stretching the play laterally a-la the Rob Penney era and then come back and attempt to grubber in behind behind, but an unforgivable offside takes the pressure off the Sharks.

39Mins

Half time in France and Saracens trail Clermont 10 – 3.

39Mins

A penalty on halfway goes Sale’s way and we’re going to end this half with a scuffle.

39Mins

O’Mahony gets talking to for his part in that penalty and the kerfuffle that followed, but no action. Sale kick the play up to the 22.

40Mins

After a few more meaningful glances across the line-out,  Sale make a mess of the set piece and Munster clear.

Both sides badly need a half-time break here. It hasn’t been great.

40Mins

HALF-TIME! Munster 13 Sale 10

There’s a whistle we can all be glad of.

40Mins

Here we go then, the second half us under way. Hopefully we’re in for something special…

41Mins

There it is, a stunning run from Keith Ealrs cutting in and out of defenders before sliding right up to the line and planting on the line.

TRY! Munster 18 Sale 10 (Earls )

41Mins

The TMO took its sweet time to make the decision but it was never really in doubt. Keatley adds the extras.

Munster 20 Sale 10

41Mins

Just seeing a good replay of the Earls try again and a combination of Keatley juggling a pass and Ivan Dineen’s excellent footwork and offload opened the gap for Earls to storm through.

43Mins

He didn’t get long in the second half. Earls’ moment of magic was his final act in the game as Pat Howard has come on in his place.

45Mins

We’re just willing Munster to click into gear here, but time and again Sale are showing an ability to frustrate the home side at the set-piece.

50Mins

Finally it looks like Munster have the blue wall stretched but with a penalty in the offing, Zebo wheels away and decides to attempt a grubber rather than use his primary weapon, pace, to blow holes in Sale.

51Mins

We go back for the penalty and Munster maul their way to the line, possibly over it, but we’re with the TMO to make the try-yes-or-no call.

52Mins

No try. Munster Scrum v

53Mins

TRY! Munster 27 Sale 10 (O’Mahony)

54Mins

Scratch that, O’Mahony denied a score as the referee awards PENALTY TRY.

The scrum was a powerful one as Sale are showing signs of wilting, O’Mahony pounced on the pill over the line, but Mitrea had already decided to run under the posts.

60Mins

I’d say the game has hit a lull in the last few minutes, but in truth there’s only been a few moments that weren’t a lull.

Munster are a score away from a bonus and you would like to think they’d be hell-bent on ending on a high, but they’re coasting with a quarter to go.

62Mins

Munster scrum just outside their own 22 and this time the set play does fire with Conway breaking over halfway, but the winger opts not to pass outside to O’Mahony and he cuts inside and is turned over.

65Mins

TRY! Munster 32 Sale 10 (Howard)

66Mins

There’s the bonus point score and it’s another lovely line that brings it, Howard not having to break stride betwen Keatley’s pop pass and the second he hits the turf under the posts.

66Mins

Now Munster have their tales up. We’re with the TMO to check what Simon Zebo thinks is a try.

67Mins

TRY! Munster 39 Sale 10 (Zebo)

54Mins

That move began with a fine break from Ivan Dineen and Zebo showed his poacher’s instinct to pick the ball off the base of the ruck and roll over the line.

Keatley’s conversion is a difficult one and he just can’t turn it inside the posts from the touchline.

68Mins

TRY! Munster 44 Sale 10 (Conway)

69Mins

Simon Zebo shows his class running from fullback. Having scored two he’s made this one with a big break from deep before drawing the defender and passing right to Conway who just manages to keep his feet on his way to the line.

71Mins

Incidentally, JJ Hanrahan was on the field to miss that last conversion. Munster making hay while Sale tire.

73Mins

TRY! Munster 51 Sale 10 (O’Donnell)

It’s another score in that right hand corner. It comes after Williams attempted to let Zebo in for a hat-trick with a reverse pop pass, but it’s the openside who takes advantage of the weakening wall with a pick and drive over the line.

This time Hanrahan does make the conversion.

75Mins

Hanrahan the latest Munster player trying to play in Zebo, the fullback in familiar position wide on the left screaming for a ball and JJH dinks one in behind, but it bounces unkindly for the Corkman and Sale manage a first stop for ages.

76Mins

TRY! Munster 58 Sale 10 (Williams)

Anyone keeping count of these tries?

79Mins

Oh wow.

TRY! Munster 63 Sale 10 (Conway)

80Mins

Another gorgeous try from Munster as Zebo revels in his role at fullback, he breaks from deep making space for Hanrahan who takes the ball at pace and delivers it on a plate to Andrew Conway to run in the game’s last score.

FULL-TIME Munster 65 Sale 10

In Clermont, the hosts have beaten Saracens 15 – 6 and duly push Leinster into the fourth seed place.

Thanks for joining in that eventual annihilation from Munster. If they were going out, at least it wasn’t with a whimper. They tore apart the Sharks in that final quarter with Simon Zebo in excellent form with plenty of ball in his hand as fullback.

We’re taking a big long Champions Cup break now as we turn our attentions to Ireland’s defence of the Six Nations

About the author:

Sean Farrell

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