Munster will play Saracens in the semi-final of Europran Champions Cup rugby at the Aviva on Saturday, 22 April Kick-off 3:15pm.
The final score may have flattered Munster, with many of the points coming in the final ten minutes, but despite losing Conor Murray pre-match, as well as key men Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander during the game, the southern province showed both the depth of their squad and the determination of their players in this European Champions Cup quarter-final victory.
Duncan Williams was a late call up to the Munster starting line up as Conor Murray, though named on Friday at No. 9, was unable to start. Williams mettle was tested early on, however, by Toulouse No. 8 Francois Cros, when he came in on the Corkman with a late high tackle. The disgust of the crowd was clear when the replay was shown on the big screen in the stadium. Dublin-born referee JP Doyle took a number of views of the footage, and assisted by the TMO, the man in the middle showed a yellow card to the Toulouse player.
A line-out won by Tommy O’Donnell, who made 15 tackles during the game, lead to the first score of the game. Munster pressurised the French side with carries from front players, before John Ryan, the eventual Man of the Match, went over near the posts. The referee seemed to have initial doubt about the score as he checked with his TMO before awarding the five-pointer. Tyler Bleyendaal duly converted to put the home side 7-0 ahead.
A run across field by Simon Zebo, who had 12 carries and made 97 metres during the afternoon, delivered a pass to Darren Sweetnam who kicked ahead, causing consternation in the Toulouse defence. An excellent maul from the Munstermen lead to a penalty being awarded. New Zealander, Bleyendaal, discussed the issue with captain Peter O’Mahony, and they opted for the penalty. The Munster No. 10 scored, to extend his side’s lead to 10-0.
Toulouse’s first effort to score came from a Florian Fritz penalty kick which went tamely wide, before Jean-Marc Doussain got the visitors on the scoreboard in the 20th minute when kicking a penalty from in front of the Munster posts.
Joe Tekori, a late-named starter on the visitors’ side, made a lazy high tackle on Dave ‘Killer’ Kilcoyne in the 26th minute. Munster were awarded a penalty just outside the 22m line which Bleyendaal yet again struck perfectly to make the score 13-3 to Munster.
When the referee awarded a penalty against Jaco Taute in the 31st minute, Toulouse wisely made the decision to take the three points; Jean-Marc Doussain obliged, and reduced the deficit to seven.
Munster soon created an overlap on the blindside but Tommy O’Donnell seemed to knock the ball on. It was picked up, however, by Bleyendaal who touched down near the posts just before half time. Following consultation with the TMO, referee Doyle decided not to award the score, as the TV pictures deemed that O’Donnell’s hand had knocked the ball forward.
Right on half time Toulouse were awarded a kickable penalty. Jean-Marc Doussain kept his 100% record intact by scoring his third penalty of the first period, leaving the half time score Munster 13 Toulouse 9.
Johann Maestri conceeded an early penalty to Munster, for being offside, a minute into the second period. With a strong wind to his back Bleyendaal opted to kick for the posts from the half way line, the ball creeping over the crossbar to give Munster a perfect start to the second half.
Toulouse were then penalised as Joe Tekori failed to roll away. Bleyendaal went for the touchline to attempt to consolidate the Munster lead. A maul from the home side made progress toward the try-line only for CJ Stander, who had 12 carries on the day, to get over the try line and score. Bleyendaal’s attempted conversion went left and wide of the posts but Munster lead by 21-9 at that stage, with 9 minutes played in the second half.
Dave O’Callaghan came on for the injured Peter O’Mahony, on 50 minutes; the captain seemed to be feeling the effects of a knock to his leg. Tyler Bleyendaal gained his 5th score of the evening, following an illegal tackle on CJ Stander, to put his side 24-9 ahead of the French outfit.
Just as the home side seemed to be in a comfortable position, Toulouse scored an unexpected try through Paul Perez in front of the West Stand. The referee queried whether the pass had gone forward, but when the TMO couldn’t produce an angle which showed it had, the try was awarded. Jean-Marc Doussain continued his good kicking afternoon when nailing the conversion from the touchline, and reduce the deficit to an 8 point game; Munster 24 Toulouse 16.
With the wind in their sails, the visitors seemed to have the momentum until a crucial penalty was awarded to Munster with 7 minutes remaining. From directly in front of the posts Bleyendaal scored again to push Munster 27-16 ahead. More scores soon followed for the hosts with tries from Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway sealing a place in the semi-final.
The ever alert Sweetnam, who made 36 metres during the game, intercepted a careless Toulouse pass. The Corkman kicked the ball forward and chased it down to grab a try. Conway then put the icing on the cake when he scored in front of the East Stand, with Tyler Bleyendaal successfully converting both to leave the final score Munster 41 Toulouse 16.