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Dublin: 1 °C Tuesday 22 January, 2019
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Influential Murray ensures Munster adapt to beat destructive Castres

Tries from Rory Scannell, CJ Stander and JJ Hanrahan helped Munster ride out enforced changes and re-take top spot in their pool.

Munster 30

Castres 5

Sean Farrell reports from Thomond Park

A LOW WINTER sun meant a day of long shadows stretching across Thomond Park and, despite the margin of victory by full-time, a day when Munster needed long fuses and immense patience.

The patience, through flashes of provocation, helped the southern province remain on course and carve out a three-try win.

On top of calm confidence, they had Conor Murray, who was instrumental in creating tries for Rory Scannell and CJ Stander. While JJ Hanrahan’s flawless kicking off the tee in swirling winds kept the scoreboard ticking through tough first-half exchanges.

Conor Murray Conor Murray takes the ball into contact. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Friday’s team announcement brought great excitement with a practically full-strength Munster XV set to take the field. But by kick-off, Munster fans had learned of a double blow in the back-line.

The wait to see Joey Carbery and Murray in tandem would go on, with Hanrahan slotting in to take over at out-half. Chris Farrell then fell foul of the warm-up meaning Sam Arnold was called in to partner Scannell, with Jaco Taute and Tyler Bleyendaal joining the replacements.

A strong swirling wind made creativity difficult, and the visitors were intent on turning tough conditions nigh-on impossible as they took on Munster with the overriding tactic of kicking the leather off the ball.

Through a messy first half the reigning French champions kicked the ball more than they passed and never with much invention or ingenuity.

Munster dominated possession with the sun on their back and the wind in their face. Yet, despite outright scrum dominance, the late enforced changes appeared to take a toll.

Murray and Tadhg Beirne struggled to hit the same wave-length, Niall Scannell overcooked line-out throws to cancel out the success of the other set-piece and Castres’ line-speed made the absence of two important playmakers tell.

The pressure Munster built through the first 40 minutes did earn them a lead, however. Though 6-0 thanks to two close-range Hanrahan penalties felt a paltry return from 65% possession and 73% territory.

Through that first half, Murray had endeavoured to make up for any rust or lack of fluidity with a combative spirit that kept his opposite number Ludovic Radosavljevic from settling into anything approaching a rhythm.

Fittingly enough, Munster’s breakthrough try came thanks to a combination of the scrum and their scrum-half’s tenacity.

Five minutes into the second period, Murray shunned the open side 10 metres from the try-line and instead occupied second row Thibault Lassalle, keeping the lock at arm’s length long enough to offload into the hands of Scannell who dived over in the right corner.

Rory Scannell celebrates scoring his sides first try with JJ Hanrahan, Andrew Conway, Niall Scannell and Billy Holland Munster celebrate Rory Scannell's try. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Castres sent on their replacement front row, but as Hanrahan thumped over a brilliant touchline conversion, there was no mistaking where the control resided and the Kerryman booted a fourth flawless kick between the sticks as the penalty count from JP Doyle’s whistle reached 12-2.

Murray’s final act of the contest was to settle the outcome with one of those trademark gliding runs and a smooth offload into the path of a rampaging Stander.

Alby Mathewson took the Ireland stalwart’s place and the addition of a slew of other replacements helped the contest open up and invited Munster breaks.

The 21,861 inside Thomond Park were treated to a thrilling third try with five minutes to go.

Rory Scannell broke the line and linked with his midfield partner Arnold and then Mathewson switched a tight pass back for Hanrahan to cross for a third try.

A melee ensued after the score with Munster players asking for the TMO to dole out punishment. But the spark ignited in the visitors meant they showed renewed intent for the final five minutes. And so, rather than a home bonus point and clean sheet, Castres forced a sin-bin for Andrew Conway before Martin Laveau grabbed a consolation try with the clock gone dead.

A game where only one team looked interested in constructively finding a way to win and they duly played their way back to the top of Pool 2. But there was enough spice in the exchanges to warn of a hostile reception in Stade Pierre Fabre next Saturday.

Scorers

Munster

Tries: R Scannell, CJ Stander, JJ Hanrahan

Conversions: JJ Hanrahan (3/3)

Penalties: JJ Hanrahan (3/3)

Castres

Tries: M Laveau

Conversions: B Urdapilleta (0/1)

Penalties: B Urdapilleta (0/1)

Munster: Mike Haley (Tyler Bleyendaal ’76), Andrew Conway, Sam Arnold, Rory Scannell (Jaco Taute ’76), Keith Earls: JJ Hanrahan, Conor Murray (Alby Mathewson ’68): Dave Kilcoyne (Jeremy Loughman ’70), Niall Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne ’45), John Ryan; Tadhg Beirne, Billy Holland (Fineen Wycherly ’69); Peter O’Mahony, Chris Cloete (Arno Botha ’65), CJ Stander.

Castres: Scott Spedding, Armand Batlle (Martin Laveau ’60), Thomas Combezou, Florian Vialelle, Taylor Paris, Benjamin Urdapilleta, Ludovic Radosavljevic (Rory Kockott 68). Antoine Tichit (Paea Fa’anunu ’45), Jody Jenneker (Kevin Firmin ’45), Daniel Kotze (Marc Clerc ’45); Loic Jacquet (Christophe Samson ’63), Thibault Lassalle; Mathieu Babillot, Kevin Gimeno (Yannick Caballero ’40), Alex Tulou (Julien Caminati ’69).

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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