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Late long-range penalty brings Munster winning streak to an end in Welford Road

The southern province were within minutes of an eighth consecutive win, but must settle for a losing bonus point.

Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Leicester 18

Munster 16

Rory Keane reports from Welford Road

WHAT A DIFFERENCE a week makes.

Leicester avenged their 38-0 drubbing at Thomond Park with a hard-fought victory at a heaving Welford Road.

This was a furious and brutal encounter. Space was at a premium as both packs hammered into each other over a ferocious 80-minute encounter. Munster looked to have stolen a priceless away victory when Niall Scannell barged over for what looked like the winning try with four minutes remaining but Owen Williams’ last-minute penalty secured a las​t​-gasp victory for Leicester.

Richard Cockerill’s wounded troops were always going to come out firing after last week’s humiliation in Limerick. Only once in their 140-game European history were they held scoreless before last weekend when Ulster battered them at Ravenhill 13 years ago.  It was also their heaviest defeat ever in Europe

There was always going to be an emotional reaction. Their European record at Welford Road rivals even that of Munster: just one loss in 33 matches before today — a 22-19 defeat by Ulster in 2014. This may not be a vintage Leicester outfit but they always prove a different proposition on their home turf. And so it proved.

A fired-up Tigers outfit came roaring out of the blocks with the game-plan very much focusing on getting Manu Tuilagi on the ball as much as possible. The England midfielder time and again tasked with trucking the ball up into heavy Munster traffic.

Leicester threw everything at Munster in the opening 20 minutes but the visitors stood firm. Despite limited possession and territory, a brace of penalties from Tyler Bleyendaal nudged Munster into a 6-0 lead.

Tommy O'Donnell claims the lineout Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Bleyendaal  continued the tactic of landing bombs on top of young Tigers full-back George Worth, who still looked a bit haunted from his showing in Limerick.

The Munster fly-half had a chance to make it 9-0 when an overzealous Tom Youngs was penalised for charging into a ruck with no arms. The Kiwi No 10, however, hooked his effort wide and right.

Leicester, having failed to register a score against Munster for 105 minutes, were growing increasingly frantic in their approach. It finally boiled over in the 29th minute when Tuilagi was sin-binned for a late shoulder charge on opposite number Rory Scannell.  It was more careless than malicious from the Anglo-Samoan wrecking ball as he cooled his heels in the bin for the second successive weekend. He really should know better at this stage.

A rampaging run from Leicester loosehead Ellis Genge sparked the home side into life with six minutes of the half remaining. Peter O’Mahony was pinged for hands in the ruck from the next phase and fly-half Owen Williams finally registered some points for Leicester.

Munster were living off scraps as a 14-man Leicester finished the half like a train with the impressive Genge once again leading the charge. Munster once again strayed offside and Williams fired over a late penalty to level it up at 6-6 just before the break.

There was time for one more Munster attack though as a surging lineout drive yielded another penalty shot but Blyendaal’s effort once again drifted wide of the posts.

Feisty

Worth’s overcooked clearance kick handed Munster a prime attacking platform. Conor Murray and Tommy O’Donnell took the direct route with hard carries around the fringes. Tigers flanker Brendon O’Connor was pinged for hands in the ruck and Blyendaal made it 9-6.

Things were starting to get a bit feisty on the pitch and when Donnacha Ryan charged into the side of a ruck, the Welford Road faithful roared their disapproval. Williams’ booming 40-metre effort levelled the scores up once more.

A searing break from young Tigers centre Jack Roberts had Munster in all kinds of trouble. Peter Betham and Luke Hamilton then stretched the visitors to near breaking point as the southern province infringed at the breakdown. Williams knocked over the penalty as the Tigers took a slender 12-9 lead.

As the darkness and evening dew descended on the stadium, a dogfight of a final quarter was in the offing.

Erasmus sent on James Cronin, Jean Kleyn and Jack O’Donoghue to add some ballast to Munster’s forward effort on the hour mark.

It has the desired effect as a monstrous scrum earned them some much-needed territory and possession. Munster monopolised possession with Stander and Co offering themselves time and again around the corner.

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Then  came the crucial point as Jaco Taute mis-placed pass was scooped up by Tigers winger Adam Thompstone who charged downfield. Zebo did brilliantly to track the runaway winger but timed his covering tackle badly as Thompstone kicked downfield.

After consultation with the TMO, referee Pascal Gauzere had no choice but to send Zebo to the sin-bin. Williams made no mistake with the resulting three-pointer.

Trailing 15-9 and with a man in the bin, it was a huge ask to come back from this.

Munster refused to go quietly into the Leicester night, however, as Peter O’Mahony and his troops set up camp deep in Tigers territory. After an exhausting period of possession,  Niall Scannell powered over from close-range to finally break the Tigers’ resolve with Blyendaal’s touchline conversion wresting back the lead.

Tyler Bleyendaal converts Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

There was still time for more drama as Munster went off their feet ​ at the breakdown.​

A shrill ​blast of Gauzere’s whistle and Leicester were handed the chance to win the game.  Williams lined up the long-range effort and boomed it over from 52 metres to seal the win.

Scorers

Leicester Tigers

​Penalties: Owen Williams [​6 /6​]

Yellow Card: Manu Tuilagi (29-39)

Munster:

Tries: N Scannell

Conversions: Tyler Bleyendaal [​1 / 1]

Penalties: Tyler Bleyendaal [​3 / 5]

​Yellow Card: Simon Zebo [66-76]​

Leicester: George Worth; Peter Betham (Tom Brady 71), Jack Roberts, Manu Tuilagi, Adam Thompstone; Owen Williams, Ben Youngs; Ellis Genge (Logovi’i Mulipola, 60), Tom Youngs (capt), Pat Cilliers (Greg Bateman 50), Ed Slater, Graham Kitchener (Mike Fitzgerald 50), Luke Hamilton, Brendon O’Connor, Lachlan McCaffrey (Mike Williams 60)

Subs not usedHarry Thacker, Will Evans, Sam Harrison

Munster: Simon Zebo; Darren Sweetnam, Jaco Taute, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls (Andrew Conway 69); Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray ( Duncan Williams 72); Dave Kilcoyne (James Cronin 50), Niall Scannell, John Ryan (Stephen Archer, 74), Donnacha Ryan, Billy Holland (Jean Kleyn 50), Peter O’Mahony (capt), Tommy O’Donnell (Jack O’Donoghue, 62), CJ Stander.

Subs not used: Rhys Marshall, Ian Keatley

Referee: Pascal Gauzere (France)

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