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Dublin: 7 °C Wednesday 19 December, 2018
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Good evening and welcome to what we’re expecting to be a massive evening of Champions Cup rugby in Thomond Park.

Munster and Leicester Tigers certainly need no introduction, and if this Pool 4 clash comes anywhere close to some of the epic clashes these two have served up in the past, it will be must-see Saturday night TV.

Kick-off is in about 10 minutes. Stick another log on the fire and knock the kettle on.

TEAM NEWS: Here’s a reminder of how Munster will line out in this, the first European assignment for new head coach Johann van Graan.

There are three Champions Cup debutants: Chris Cloete in the back row, Sam Arnold in midfield, and Alex Wooton on the wing.

Munster

15. Simon Zebo
14. Andrew Conway
13. Sam Arnold
12. Rory Scannell
11. Alex Wootton
10. Ian Keatley
9. Conor Murray

1. Dave Kilcoyne
2. Rhys Marshall
3. Stephen Archer
4. Jean Kleyn
5. Billy Holland
6. Peter O’Mahony (captain)
7. Chris Cloete
8. CJ Stander

Replacements:

16. Kevin O’Byrne
17. Brian Scott
18. John Ryan
19. Darren O’Shea
20. Jack O’Donoghue
21. Duncan Williams
22. JJ Hanrahan
23. Darren Sweetnam

TEAM NEWS: Matt O’Connor welcomes back England international Jonny May and Scotland’s Luke Hamilton. Human wrecking ball Ellis Genge is, however, out with a shoulder injury that will also see him miss the start of the Six Nations.

You may be familiar with the Leicester half-backs, too…

Leicester Tigers

15. Telusa Veainu
14. Adam Thompstone
13. Matt Smith
12. Mathew Tait
11. Jonny May
10. George Ford
9. Ben Youngs

1. Kyle Traynor
2. Tom Youngs (captain)
3. Dan Cole
4. Mike Fitzgerald
5. Graham Kitchener
6. Valentino Mapapalangi
7. Luke Hamilton
8. Sione Kalamafoni

Replacements:

16. Harry Thacker
17. Logovi’i Mulipola
18. Chris Baumann
19. Dom Barrow
20. Mike Williams
21. Sam Harrison
22. Joe Ford
23. Nick Malouf

Here’s the state of play ahead of kick-off. Win and Munster will hold a very strong hand in Pool 4; defeat would leave them facing into next week’s trip to Welford Road with a mountain to climb.

pool4

Munster are seven-point favourites, for what it’s worth. Needless to say, nobody’s expecting anything like the 38-0 mauling they handed out when Leicester last visited Thomond 12 months ago.

1Mins

KICK OFF: George Ford gets us underway.

2Mins

2 mins – Both sides feeling each other out early on with Murray and Youngs box-kicking back and forth.

4Mins

4 mins – Peach of a pass from Rory Scannell puts Arnold into space and he’s able to make good ground. Keatley tries to open Leicester up with a kick in behind but it’s gathered by a green jersey.

5Mins

5 mins – Super break by Andrew Conway who covers around 50 yards and, despite being totally isolated for a second or two before Zebo arrives, makes sure he retains and recycles the ball legally. Great position for Munster here…

7Mins

7 mins – Munster are within two or three metres of the Leicester line and they’ve a penalty advantage coming to them. Murray tries the crossfield kick to Conway but May wins that aerial battle. It was a free play anyway, and we’ll go back for the penalty virtually under the posts.

8Mins

8 mins — Munster 3-0 Leicester (Keatley pen, 8′)

Never in doubt.

9Mins

9 mins – Super stuff from Andrew Conway who climbs into the air to contest for the ball, and then wraps up Jonny May. He’s started really well. Scrum Munster.

13Mins

13 mins – Worrying scenes for Munster as Ian Keatley is lying on the sideline getting attention on his knee, it seems. The replay shows that May went low as he tried to break Keatley’s tackle and his body carried through the standing leg. It may not be too bad.

14Mins

14 mins – Keatley returns; he’s going to try to run it off anyway.

16Mins

16 mins – Brilliantly judged kick by Simon Zebo which finds touch. Leicester have to take the lineout quickly if they want to avoid being pinned back, and they do.

18Mins

18 mins – The first rendition of the Fields of Athenry rings out around Thomond as they pack down for a scrum. Leicester get clean ball away and Adam Thompstone comes in off the win to attack the midfield channels. Conway and Arnold are first on the scene and do really well to force the turnover penalty.

Flag 20Mins

TRY! Munster 10-0 Leicester (Marshall, 20′)

Brilliant play by Munster and by Murray who orchestrates a series of quick attacks to test the Leicester defence. His pass comes at Rhys Marshall so quickly that he nearly leaves it behind him but he gathers at the second or third attempt and dives over.

Keatley, who has shaken that knock, converts. Munster lead by 10 and full value for it.

Rhys Marshall scores a try despite the efforts of Luke Hamilton Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

23Mins

23 mins – Munster try to ramp up the pressure. Murray makes a clean break to gain good ground and then, a phase or two later, Keatley smashes a kick into the ground to find touch.

25Mins

25 mins – Penalty Munster; Dan Cole pinged for playing the ball after the ruck was formed.

Jerome Garces calls both Murray and Cole together for a chat. “You are friends, no?” he asks. Indeed.

Dan Cole and Conor Murray shake hands during the game Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

27Mins

27 mins — Munster 13-0 Leicester (Keatley pen, 27′)

This one needs plenty of legs, and Keatley makes sure it has them. Fine kick.

Ian Keatley kicks a penalty Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

29Mins

29 mins – Leicester are struggling to put together more than a few phases of meaningful attacking play which, in itself, is a credit to the Munster linespeed and breakdown work. Veainu passes out to May, who decides to kick through, but Zebo sweeps and returns it with interest.

30Mins

30 mins – Peter O’Mahony rips another brilliant turnover out the hands of Dan Cole. This is super stuff from the hosts.

Flag 31Mins

TRY! Munster 20-0 Leicester (Zebo, 31′)

It gets better and better for Munster. Leicester leave an ocean of space in behind, Keatley dinks the ball in, and it sits up nicely for Simon Zebo who touches it down and then celebrates with a Macarena-esque shimmy. Dance like nobody’s watching, Zeebs, even though we all are.

Simon Zebo celebrates scoring a try Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

35Mins

35 mins – Stander gives away a penalty under the posts for not rolling away. On the balance of things, he’ll be happy to do that and save a possible try.

36Mins

36 mins — Munster 20-3 Leicester (Ford pen)

Leicester are finally up and running.

37Mins

37 mins – TMO asks Jerome Garces to stop the play to check an incident that he has missed, and he’s dead right. Clear neck roll by Tom Youngs on Chris Cloete. Penalty Munster.

38Mins

38 mins — Munster 23-3 Leicester (Keatley pen)

Munster’s 20-point margin restored as Keatley splits the posts. Two minutes to the break.

39Mins

39 mins – Another Munster turnover, but again, we’re stopping play to review another incident involving Tom Youngs.

40Mins

40 mins – It’s a charge by Tom Youngs. No yellow card though, and he might well consider himself lucky. Scannell kicks for touch and Munster will have one final attack before the break.

41Mins

SECOND HALF: After an excellent first half, Ian Keatley gets us back underway for the second.

41Mins

41 mins – Lots of strapping on Keatley’s right knee, his kicking leg. He smashes a kick deep into Leicester territory — too deep, and it’s touched down for a 22 dropout.

43Mins

43 mins – Good hands by Munster down the short side, and Arnold and Wooton are up within a few yards of the line. Kleyn takes in the next phase and dives for the line, but knocks it on as he stretches.

Might have been another neck roll there too, if we’re being consistent, but the officials let it go.

46Mins

46 mins – That’s a nasty one for Andrew Conway and he’s in need of immediate medical attention. Chasing a kick to put pressure on, he slipped and his head collided with Telusa Veainu’s mouth / chin area. It looked like Conway was out cold before he hit the ground and he’ll certainly play no further part tonight.

The medics are taking every possible precaution here, as you’d expect. There’ll be a lengthy break in play.

46Mins

46 mins – Conway is able to get back to his feet and walk off the pitch with some assistance from the medical team. Darren Sweetnam is on to replace him.

50 mins – Dave Kilcoyne has been making some huge carries tonight but maybe this was the wrong call. He had two men outside him on the overlap but once he saw the white line, his head was down and there was no stopping him. Dan Cole drags him down and Munster are pinged for not releasing the ball.

53Mins

53 mins – Leicester manage to drive Munster back off their own scrum and Mapapalangi peels out of the back row with the ball and races towards the Munster line. He chooses the wrong pass, switching play back inside when outside might have been the better option, and Cloete stops the attack.

There’s a little bit of afters too, and yep, Tom Youngs is right in the thick of it.

54Mins

54 mins – Murray hangs up a contestable kick and it bounces into the hands of Ben Youngs who grabs it, despite the fact that he’s in an offside position. Penalty Munster.

Flag 56Mins

TRY! Munster 28-3 Leicester (O’Mahony, 56′)

That’s game ball as far the contest is concerned — the only question now is whether Munster can get that fourth try and the bonus point.

It’s a passage of play that’s 90% great play, 10% great fortune. Chris Cloete deputises as scrum-half and gets lovely quick ball out of the back of the ruck, Keatley manages to keep the play alive as the ball bounces of his toe, Darren Sweetnam drives for the line, and Peter O’Mahony is the man on his shoulder to apply the finish.

It’s a tough conversion for Keatley, right on the touchline, so there’s no major shock that he doesn’t make it.

62Mins

62 mins – Leicester’s evening summed up in one phase there as they have a great chance to attack with a lineout inside the 22, but knock it on.

They get a reprieve though, as the assistant referee spotted an infringement by John Ryan who came on a few minutes ago. Leicester kick to the corner

63Mins

63 mins – Unbelievable stuff Rhys Marshall! Leicester secure the lineout and drive Munster back over their line but Marshall somehow gets hands on the ball and rips it clear. Serious defending. Leicester will have another lineout though.

Flag 65Mins

TRY! Munster 28-10 Leicester (Thacker, 65′)

Well now. Leicester feed the ball to the back of the maul, Thacker controls and then manages to get the ball down as it rumbles over the line. Converted and Leicester cut the deficit to 18.

Flag 68Mins

BONUS POINT TRY! Munster 33-10 Leicester (Cloete, 68′)

The perfect response by Munster without missing a beat. Incredible power and determination by the pack and somewhere in the thicket of bodies, Chris Cloete touches the ball down to secure the bonus point for his team and cap a fine individual performance as well.

Keatley’s conversion drops just short, but the damage is done.

74Mins

74 mins – Johann van Graan rings the changes with O’Mahony, Murray and Keatley all making way. The last one is particularly special as he leaves to a standing ovation from the Thomond faithful; the irony of that surely won’t be lost on him.

79Mins

79 mins – Into the last minute here and Leicester will have a penalty.

80Mins

80 mins – Sam Arnold is named man of the match. It could have been any one of a half-dozen Munster players today, to be honest.

Munster repel those final few Leicester attacks to make sure there are no further consolation points for the visitors; Jonny May spills the ball, and Duncan Williams walks it out over the line.

Another great night for Munster at home against the dear rivals – if not quite as emphatic as last year’s 38-0 walloping, maybe even more important.

And the best part of it all? We only have to wait until next Sunday to watch these two do it all again in Welford Road.

We’ll see you then. Thanks for reading and for commenting.

About the author:

Niall Kelly

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