Stade Français 27
MUNSTER CRASHED OUT of Europe in depressing fashion in Paris, after they were blitzed by 14-man Stade Français on a 27-7 scoreline.
Indeed, this comprehensive defeat extended into the sphere of humiliation.
Anthony Foley’s men traveled to Stade Jean-Bouin aware that they need a win to keep their hopes of a knock-out place in the Champions Cup alive, but were outclassed by a Stade outfit who played the entire second half a man down.
The French outfit led 10-0 at the break but had wing Josaia Raisuqe red carded just before the interval for an attempted gouge on CJ Stander.
Despite that lifeline, Munster were desperately poor in the second 40, making repeated errors, missing important tackles and getting destroyed in the scrum contest.
It marks a deeply worrying end to the southern province’s European campaign, this the second season in a row that they will not be part of the quarter-finals. Major questions will be asked of the province as an organisation, while the calls for head coach Foley to be replaced will grow and grow.
Out-half Ian Keatley was again guilty of some poor kicking, but there were weak performances all over the pitch from Foley’s men. Stade had the far more dominant individuals, with the brilliant 20-year-old Sekou Macalou deservedly named man of the match.
First-half injuries to Andrew Conway, BJ Botha and Tommy O’Donnell didn’t help the Munster cause, but their performance was inexcusably poor on a massive European night.
Keatley started well, kicking Munster into strong field position as he found space in Stade’s backfield, but the home side looked dangerous in the carry through the likes of the dynamic Sekou Macaulo, while they regularly opted for width and forced Munster’s drift defence to work hard.
Foley’s men suffered injury blows inside the first quarter, as fullback Andrew Conway came off worse in a collision in the air with the magnificent Sergio Parisse, before BJ Botha’s ankle gave in.
Undeterred, Munster nearly had the opening try as Rory Scannell and Keith Earls produced delicate offloads to send Keatley up the right touchline, where he dribbled past Stade wing Josaia Raisuqe and almost beat him to the touchdown beyond the tryline.
O’Donnell started well for Munster, winning a turnover and leading one effective choke tackle, but he would not go the distance. The maul fired up in the 17th minute to win a penalty for Foley’s side, though Keatley was wide from out to the right of the posts.
Some excellent breakdown work by Mike Sherry and a Dave Foley lineout steal helped repel Stade’s next attacks, but then Munster were fortunate not to concede.
An out-of-sorts Simon Zebo attempted to offload near the touchline after fielding Morné Steyn’s bomb, but the ball fell into Waisea Nayacalevu’s hands and he darted away. Only a desperate tap tackle from Francis Saili prevented the score, with replacement Ronan O’Mahony cleverly turning the ball over as he retreated.
A big defensive set from Munster around the halfway line ended with a turnover penalty from CJ Stander, but Munster then lost the lineout ball thrown to Robin Copeland at the tail in a good attacking position.
Their next scoring chance stemmed from another Stander turnover deep in their own half, with Conor Murray’s clearing box kick won in the air by Earls. Stander offloaded to Scannell to maintain the sudden momentum, before the opportunity beckoned out wide.
Keatley scrappily found Zebo, who offloaded to Saili, the centre offloading to O’Mahony in turn. But the wing lost his footing and Munster struggled to resource the ruck, allowing a Stade turnover in the French outfit’s 22.
Stade instantly showed them how to be clinical. Nayacalevu made a half break on the arc outside Scannell, offloading inside to Parisse. The recycled ball was carried by prop Paul Alo Emile, before Julien Dupuy found centre Paul Williams running an excellent line between Foley and Dave Kilcoyne.
In truth, Munster’s pair of defenders should have nailed Williams but he scorched through and beat Zebo too easily, evading the despairing tackle attempt of Stander to score under the posts. Steyn converted for 7-0 with 34 minutes gone.
With O’Donnell having departed injured at this point, a penalty from Steyn added to the sense that this was not going to be Munster’s day. The South African made it 10-0 after Alo Emile got the better of Kilcoyne at scrum time.
There was still time for some late drama after Julien Arias knocked on just inside the Stade half. Munster ran threateningly off the scrum, drawing a penalty but attempting to play advantage.
Zebo’s wide pass to Stander was forward, but Raisuqe bizarrely lost the head and grabbed out at Stander’s eyes. After consulting TMO Derek Bevan, Owens sent the 21-year-old Fijian off.
Amidst a deafening chorus of boos, you felt Keatley had to nail the penalty from around 42m out but it drifted left and wide.
After that missed chance for a psychological blow, Munster needed a perfect start to the second half but had exactly the opposite.
Jack O’Donoghue – O’Donnell’s replacement – knocked on in the Stade 22, the scrum then disintegrated for a penalty, Earls’ poor pass saw O’Donoghue knock on again, Keatley kicked out on the full – all in the space of seven minutes.
Despite their numerical advantage, Munster struggled to contain the Stade attack, as replacement centre Jonathan Danty made his impact. He cleverly released Williams for a scything break, but then Steyn ignored an overlap on the left on the very next phase.
Danty got back on the ball two phases later, busting the line and drawing a penalty as Copeland came in the side of the ruck. Steyn made it 13-0 with little fuss from wide on the right, the same position from where Keatley missed his first penalty.
Keatley sent the restart straight into touch on the full, allowing the now rampant Stade scrum – boosted by the introduction of Rabah Slimani and Heinke van der Merwe – to win another penalty.
Steyn was off target from the tee on this occasion, however, allowing Munster to eventually clear their lines. Foley sent Mario Sagario in to remedy the scrum problems – replacing John Ryan, himself a sub for Botha – and the Uruguayan almost immediately won a penalty against van der Merwe.
Back in the Stade 22, Munster needed to score and thought they had. They carried hard at the French side from the lineout, eventually creating an overlap wide on the left.
The ball passed through the hands of Zebo, O’Donoghue and Saili, who fed Scannell on the edge, allowing the Corkman to dart into the left corner and apparently score.
Owens was unconvinced and asked Bevan to check for a forward pass from Saili to Scannell, ruling the try out as a result. Stade won another scrum penalty to rub salt in the wound.
Munster heads dropped and things got ugly at Stade Jean-Bouin in the closing quarter.
First the frighteningly explosive Macalou, still just 20, strode though the soft tackles of Stander and Keatley, evading O’Donoghue with a burst of pace and then rounding Earls in the backfield for a try from almost 40m out.
With nine minutes left, fullback Bonneval got in on the act, darting past Saili and fending off a high tackle attempt from Zebo to dot down for Stade’s third. Steyn converted both scores, sending the Top 14 side 27-0 to the good and leaving Munster in danger of being nilled for the first time in Europe.
Scrum-half Murray spared them that shame, powering over from a Scannell assist, with the midfielder converting.
It was no consolation for a well beaten Munster.
Tries: Paul Williams, Sekou Macalou, Hugo Bonneval
Conversions: Morné Steyn [3 from 3]
Penalties: Morné Steyn [2 from 3]
Tries: Conor Murray
Conversions: Rory Scannell [1 from 1]
Penalties: Ian Keatley [0 from 2]
STADE FRANÇAIS: Hugo Bonneval (Jules Plisson ’74); Julian Arias (Jonathan Danty ’51), Waisea Nayacelevu, Paul Williams, Josaia Raisuqe (red card ’42); Morné Steyn, Julien Dupuy (Julien Tomas ’71); Sakaria Taulafo (Heinke van der Merwe ’53), Laurent Sempere (Laurent Panis ’48), Paul Alo-Emile (Rabah Slimani ’47); Hugh Pyle, Paul Gabrillagues; Sekou Macalou, Sylvian Nicolas (Jono Ross ’71), Sergio Parisse (capt.).
Replacement not used: Gerhard Mostert.
MUNSTER: Andrew Conway (Ronan O’Mahony ‘9); Keith Earls, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley (Denis Hurley ’69), Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry (Niall Scannell ’68), BJ Botha (John Ryan ’11 (Mario Sagario ’58)); Dave Foley, Mark Chisholm (Billy Holland ’75); Robin Copeland, Tommy O’Donnell (HIA – Jack O’Donoghue ’23 to ’30; permanent ‘36), CJ Stander (capt.).
Replacement not used: Tomás O’Leary.