James Ramm is tackled by Gavin Coombes. Dan Sheridan/INPHO

As it happened: Northampton Saints v Munster, Champions Cup Round of 16

Munster’s European campaign ends after a pulsating clash with Northampton. Catch up on all of the action in our minute-by-minute report.

Northampton Saints 24-14 Munster

Sunday lunchtimes don’t come much bigger than this.

Knockout European rugby, and Munster are behind enemy lines to go toe-to-toe with Premiership leaders Northampton.

Win, and they’re on the road to the Highveld to take on the Bulls in the quarter-finals next weekend.

Yeah, Sunday lunchtimes don’t come much bigger.

Kick-off at Franklin’s Gardens is at 12.30pm.

Murray Kinsella is at Franklin’s Garden’s for The 42 today, and in his pre-match preview, writes how Graham Rowntree’s side are specialists at making life difficult for themselves:

THIS ONE TICKS all the boxes when it comes to Munster in the Champions Cup.

Unfancied away from home? Check. Northampton are five-point favourites for this Round of 16 clash at Franklin’s Gardens [KO 12.30pm, TNT Sports/ITV].

A few injuries thrown in? Yes, absolutely. They’re missing their first-choice right wing Calvin Nash, left wing Shane Daly, tighthead prop Oli Jager, second row Jean Kleyn, hooker Diarmuid Barron, and a couple of others who might have featured.

It looked like their star player, RG Snyman, was going to be fit when they named him in their starting XV on Friday but, lo and behold, the two-time World Cup winner was withdrawn yesterday due to the same illness that kept him out of last weekend’s URC win over Cardiff.

Some off-pitch drama late in the week? Of course. The URC announced on Thursday that tighthead John Ryan was banned for three games. That seemingly ruled him out of this weekend but Ryan was on the bench when Munster named their matchday 23. It turned out Munster had appealed but by Friday evening, it was confirmed that the suspension was upheld. A big blow considering that Jager and Roman Salanoa were already out.

TEAM NEWS: Here’s a reminder of how Munster line out, following yesterday’s double blow of losing both RG Snyman and Shane Daly from the starting XV.

Tom Ahern and Seán O’Brien both start in their stead, with Jack O’Donoghue and  Shay McCarthy coming on to the bench.


  • 15. Mike Haley
  • 14. Seán O’Brien
  • 13. Antoine Frisch
  • 12. Alex Nankivell
  • 11. Simon Zebo
  • 10. Jack Crowley
  • 9. Craig Casey
  • 1. Jeremy Loughman
  • 2. Niall Scannell
  • 3. Stephen Archer
  • 4. Tom Ahern
  • 5. Tadhg Beirne (captain)
  • 6. Peter O’Mahony
  • 7. John Hodnett
  • 8. Gavin Coombes


  • 16. Eoghan Clarke
  • 17. Josh Wycherley
  • 18. Mark Donnelly
  • 19. Jack O’Donoghue
  • 20. Alex Kendellen
  • 21. Conor Murray
  • 22. Joey Carbery
  • 23. Shay McCarthy

TEAM NEWS: And here’s how the hosts line out. They’re missing England fullback George Furbank and Scotland centre Rory Hutchinson to injury, but there are tasty matchups around the park, including Smith v Crowley at out-half, and Lawes v O’Mahony in the back row.


  • 15. James Ramm
  • 14. Tommy Freeman
  • 13. Fraser Dingwall
  • 12. Burger Odendaal
  • 11. Ollie Sleightholme
  • 10. Fin Smith
  • 9. Tom James
  • 1. Emmanuel Iyogun
  • 2. Curtis Langdon
  • 3. Trevor Davison
  • 4. Alex Moon
  • 5. Alex Coles
  • 6. Courtney Lawes
  • 7. Lewis Ludlam (captain)
  • 8. Sam Graham


  • 16. Sam Matavesi
  • 17. Alex Waller
  • 18. Paul Hill 
  • 19. Temo Mayanavanua
  • 20. Angus Scott-Young
  • 21. Juarno Augustus
  • 22. Alex Mitchell
  • 23. George Hendy

There’s a strong crowd of travelling Munster support today, and despite the early start time, they’ve already been bringing plenty of colour to the day.


munster-fans-ahead-of-the-game Ben Brady / INPHO Ben Brady / INPHO / INPHO



Here come the teams.

KICK OFF: Jack Crowley gets us underway.

1 min — Northampton 0-0 Munster: Bright start by the visitors as they gather possession from Crowley’s kick off and are immediately on the front foot, working towards the 22. Northampton’s defence is in sync straight away but the ball comes loose as Nankivell takes it into contact and it’s turned over.

2 mins — Northampton 0-0 Munster: Munster are straight back at it, driving back into the 22. Sleightholme catches Hodnett high in the tackle, and Crowley kicks the penalty to the corner. Big opportunity here for an early strike.

4 mins — Northampton 0-0 Munster: Munster are only a couple of feet short of the line here but Northampton, led by Freeman, drive them back a few inches, and then a few inches more.

5 mins — Northampton 0-0 Munster: A-mile-a-minute start to this game, and Northampton’s magnificent defence wins the opening exchange. Hodnett tries to crash over the line but Saints skipper Ludlam has him wrapped up in the tackle and holds him up over the line. Goalline drop-out, and a fraction of a second for everyone to breathe.

7 mins — Northampton 0-0 Munster: A mistake from Mike Haley lets Northampton finally get their hands on the ball, and when they kick into the empty backfield, it drops over Crowley’s head. He stretches and boot, and knocks it back into his own in-goal area, scooping it up before it rolls dead and firing it as far clear into touch as he can. Northampton will have the lineout and the platform to launch a first attack.

TRY FOR NORTHAMPTON! Northampton 7-0 Munster (Ramm, 9′)

And the hosts have the game’s opening score, as James Ramm runs it in under the post.

The first wave of Northampton’s attack was brilliantly broken up by Haley, who timed his tackle on Ramm to perfection and knocked the ball loose, but Northampton regather to go again. Odendaal slips through a gap between O’Brien and Beirne, and feeds it to Ramm who scores. Smith adds the extras and after weathering the early Munster pressure, Northampton lead 7-0.

13 mins — Northampton 7-0 Munster: Chance for Munster to hit straight back with a lineout in the 22, and Beirne takes it off the top for Coombes who is coming around on the loop. He hits Nankivell but Northampton turn it over in the tackle. Another big defensive moment.

14 mins — Northampton 7-0 Munster: Here come Munster again, another attacking lineout won and another spell of pressure inside the Saints’ 22.

TRY FOR MUNSTER! Northampton 7-7 Munster (O’Brien, 15′)

O’Brien scores! As they drive up to within a metre or two of the Northampton line, they stack up the options — and in the end, Nankivell pops it up O’Brien on his shoulder who bursts through the tackle to score. Crowley converts and we’re all square.

This is frantic.

17 mins — Northampton 7-7 Munster: Quick thinking from Tom James. He takes a tap penalty, bursts free into space, and then tries to weight his kick perfectly for Freeman who is haring up the wing in space. It just beats Freeman into touch and it’ll be a Munster lineout, deep in their own territory.

17 mins — Northampton 7-7 Munster: Scannell’s throw is pinged at the lineout; more pressure incoming. It’s blowing a gale in Franklin’s Gardens, in his defence.

17 mins — Northampton 7-7 Munster: GAV COOMBES! Turnover penalty as Northampton looked to take full advantage.

20 mins — Northampton 7-7 Munster: And another Munster turnover inside their own 22! It’s Tadhg Beirne this time. There’s been some immense defence by both sides in this opening quarter, but Munster will have to be pleased with how they’ve weathered this latest onslaught of Northampton pressure.

23 mins — Northampton 7-7 Munster: Scrum penalty for Munster. Iyogun is pinged for collapsing the scrum. Crowley kicks it up to about 25m.

26 mins — Northampton 7-7 Munster: Really good hands and slick passing as the Munster backs probe to try to find a gap in the Northampton defence. Burger Odendaal is pinged for side entry as he tried to snaffle a loose ball at the breakdown — that’s the sixth penalty against Northampton. Crowley goes back to the corner.

TRY FOR MUNSTER! Northampton 7-14 Munster (Haley, 27′)

Munster’s power forces a way through the Northampton resistance, and after a few promising carries — and few missed Northampton tackles — Munster see the picture they’ve been looking for. O’Brien takes a flat pass and is just stopped by Odendaal, but the momentum is all Munster’s and Haley just needs to pick and take a step to score.

Crowley is unfussed with the extras. Munster lead at Franklin’s Gardens.

31 mins — Northampton 7-14 Munster: Here come Munster again – Zebo is set free off the back of an attacking scrum by Crowley and he glides across the pitch before very nearly putting Frisch in in the corner. It should be a golden opportunity for Munster’s third try, but instead, Northampton turn it over — a huge tackle by Odendaal on Nankivell — and then look like they could potentially run it back the length of the pitch.

33 mins — Northampton 7-14 Munster: This time the scrum penalty goes against Munster; Loughman pinged for collapsing.

34 mins — Northampton 7-14 Munster: Northampton hit Ludlam but Beirne somehow manages to wrestle the ball free — illegally, in the opinion of Mike Adamson. Northampton kick the penalty back to touch, and again, Munster amp up the pressure and disrupt it.

TRY FOR NORTHAMPTON! Northampton 14-14 Munster (Freeman, 36′)

You cannot take your eyes off this for a second — and Northampton are level again as we approach the break.

Full credit here to Sam Graham who picks from the back of a solid Saints scrum and draws in a handful of Munster tacklers with a big carry. That gives Northampton the opening they need to pounce — Lawes is at the heart of it — and Freeman gets his skates on to skip away and score.

Smith converts and we’re level again. Fair reflection of this helter-skelter 36 minutes?

39 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: The end of this half is every bit as electric as the rest of it. Tom Ahern strides down the left wing and tries his own chip and chase, which would come off only for some inspired work by Saints hooker Curtis Langdon who turns defence into attack with a brilliant gather and counter. Loughman brings the Northampton attack to an end with a brilliantly-judged jackal turnover.

HALF TIME: Northampton 14-14 Munster

And breathe…

In the Challenge Cup, it’s Montpellier 17-7 Ulster at the break. The hosts went 14-0 up through tries from Paul Willemse and Aubin Eymeri, but Will Addison hit back quickly for Ulster to get them on the scoreboard.

A big second-half awaits there as well.

SECOND HALF: We’re back underway.

42 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: It’s Northampton who have started this second half on the front, and the early pace as is an unrelenting as before. Munster knock-on, Northampton put-in, just outside the Munster 22…

43 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: That’ll need a reset.

44 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: And another reset…

45 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: Munster’s front row pops up, and there’s a penalty advantage to Northampton. They nearly make the advantage pay — Smith finds Freeman on the wing with a lovely kick, but Frisch turns it over. Back for the penalty, which is kicked to touch.

46 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: Munster pinch it at the lineout! POM gets up in front of Ludlam and knocks it back to Scannell who snaffles it. Haley clears under pressure and Northampton will come again.

48 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: That is top-tier defending from Tadhg Beirne. Curtis Langdon looks to set Northampton free with a big carry but Beirne makes the dominant tackle, releases, and then pounces back on the ball again to force the turnover penalty. Munster can finally relieve this early pressure now.

50 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: And now it’s Northampton’s turn for a timely turnover; Iyogun pinches it from Casey at the breakdown.

51 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: And another one! This time, Burger Odendaal absolutely LEVELS Tadhg Beirne, and as Niall Scannell struggles to make it right at the breakdown, he infringes. Turnover penalty Saints.

52 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: Fortunately for Munster, that momentum is lost on the next play; Odendaal can’t get his hands free from his body quickly enough and it’s knocked on.

53 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: Northampton have Munster under huge pressure at the scrum, but Munster dig in to hold firm — but then the good work is undone by an unforced error: from outside the 22, Casey kicks straight into touch.

54 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: Munster’s breakdown work has been nothing short of breathtaking, and again, that’s what keeps them alive. Hodnett is on the spot to put Northampton under pressure and they’re pinged for coming in from the side.

55 mins — Munster substitutions: Given the injury list, we know that how Graham Rowntree uses his Munster bench today will have a major bearing on the final result. He’s made his first changes — Kendellen on for O’Mahony, and Murray on for Casey.

56 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: An opportunity missed for Munster as Scannell overthrows a lineout inside the Northampton 22.

57 mins — Northampton 14-14 Munster: Fin Smith spot space in behind the Munster defence and kicks into it, but Zebo reads it perfectly to claim the mark. His kick turns out very nicely, bouncing once and into touch – but Northampton take it quickly. Sure why would anyone need a break here?

TRY FOR NORTHAMPTON! Northampton 19-14 Munster (Hendy, 60′)

Oh, that is beautiful from Northampton, and an absolute sickener for Munster. O’Brien is very unlucky to run out of space and put a foot into touch as he tries to fight his way down the right touchline — and that lineout inside their own 22 is as much of an opportunity as Northampton need.

They call a training-ground play and execute to perfection. Smith holds his pass till the death before releasing Sleightholme who has the legs to burst free before finding Ramm who has substitute George Hendy free outside him to score.

Conversion drifts left and wide, but Northampton are five up as we enter the final quarter.

61 mins — Munster substitution: Shay McCarthy is on for Sean O’Brien now.


A brief interlude to update on the Challenge Cup where a try from Scott Wilson, converted by John Cooney, has Ulster 19-17 up with 15 minutes to play.

Montpellier are down to 13 at the moment, having lost Paul Willemse to a red card early in the second half, and with Florian Verhaeghe now in the sin bin.

64 mins — Munster substitutions: Jack O’Donoghue is on for Coombes, and Carbery is on for Nankivell.

68 mins — Northampton 19-14 Munster: “Five and three, never onside,” is the read from referee Mike Adamson as he pings Munster for what could be a crucial penalty — that’s Beirne and Archer for the record.

It’s central and on the 10m line, and here’s Fin Smith…

69 mins — Northampton 19-14 Munster: Smith’s missed it — and not just missed it, shanked it. A huge let-off for Munster. Can they take advantage?

69 mins — Munster substitutions: Some fresh faces for the Munster front row for these last 11 minutes plus change; Clarke on for Scannell, and Wycherley on for Loughman. O’Brien is also back on for McCarthy, as a blood sub reversal.

TRY FOR NORTHAMPTON! Northampton 24-14 Munster (Hendy, 73′)

Absolutely sensational finishing by George Hendy — the Saints sub has his second of the afternoon, and after valiant performance on so many levels, you suspect that is likely to be curtains for Munster.

Munster’s attack breaks down as the ball goes to ground, and Northampton punish them on the counter. Hendy still has a mountain of work to do when he gets the ball wide on the left. Crowley shows him the line, but leaves just enough space for Hendy to skip out of the tackle, round him, stay infield, and then burn the covering Simon Zebo on the way to the line. Devastating.

Smith’s conversion comes back off the post but Northampton now lead by 10 with six minutes to play and it’s a long way back.

75 mins — Northampton 24-14 Munster: Or maybe not… Munster have a chance five metres out but Alex Waller stands up Tadhg Beirne with a big hit and the ball is lost forward. Saints get the scrum spot on, win the penalty, kick to touch, and Munster’s best last chance might just have vanished.

78 mins — Northampton 24-14 Munster: Northampton scrum in Munster territory as we tick into the final 90 seconds…

79 mins — Northampton 24-14 Munster: Northampton spill it forward, Munster have it back, but the final seconds are slipping away…

FULL TIME: Northampton Saints 24-14 Munster

A magnificent game of rugby, played at an electric pace, but in the end, the Premiership leaders had the strength in depth to put the game to bed in the final quarter.

Their reward? A home quarter-final against the Bulls next weekend.

For Graham Rowntree and Munster, the European campaign comes to an end for another season. 


A quite sensational second-half performance from Richie Murphy’s men in the Challenge Cup, who have taken full advantage of their numerical superiority to beat Montpellier 40-17.

That’s all from us for the moment, but stay with us throughout the afternoon where Murray Kinsella will have his match report and all of the reaction from Franklin’s Gardens.

Thanks for reading.

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