DHL Stormers v Munster

Hodnett Ends Munster’s Long Wait For Silverware

Munster’s 12 year long wait for a Trophy has come to an end, John Hodnett crossing late to see them beat the Stormers in the URC Final this evening.

Munster once again showed incredible resilience to grab the late try and put in another solid defence to keep the Stormers out for large spells, despite Manie Libbok grabbing an early try, they remained composed to never let the game slip past them.

Finishing with 14 men as Jack Crowley went to the bin, they held out and a big turnover late on was enough to see them hold out and be crowned URC Champions,

A frantic start to the game in Cape Town, Munster were penalised early at the breakdown, allowing Libbok to kick down field, they mauled well but Mike Haley gathered a kick over the top before Munster had the safety of a lineout.

It was a nice passage of play from the Irish province as they were working the ball around the midfield, but Antonine Frisch played a pass that was poor out of a tackle, allowing Libbok the chance to collect, Munster had no bodies back, allowing the Stormers out-half all the freedom to race home and score the opening try after six minutes, a tap over conversion bringing the full seven.

Jack Crowley punished the Stormers straying offside with a massive penalty that landed just before the flag, from the lineout, Munster mauled their way to the line, getting ever so close, the referee blowing for a penalty as Libbok went offside.

From the penalty, the forwards pumped the legs once again to drive at the South African side, with Diarmuid Barron getting the touchdown for Munster’s opening try after 10 minutes, Crowley unable to level the game, his conversion tailed left and wide.

The possession was all with the Irish side in the early minutes if the opening half, they looked to make a gap but Shane Daly ran out of space and went into touch, they turned on the pressure as the Stormers tried to clear but Tadhg Beirne was penalised at the lineout for obstructing the tacklers after lifting.

Despite winning the penalty, the hosts did little with it and through a tremendous Conor Mrrau box kick, Munster had the ball back almost to half way as Daly had the ball in his grasp, from their Barron and Peter O’Mahony both made ground, before Crowley danced and weaved through the Stormers line getting shy of the try line.

Evan Ross then strayed offside as Munster were five shy, play brought back and the number 8 was sent to the bin, pressure remained from the visitors as they bashed their way to attempt to get over, Gavin Coombes felt he had grounded, the onfield decision was a try, but the referee had to go upstairs.

Following extensive deliberations, the referee disallowed the try, the tackle complete stating Coombes made a second movement, before grounding the ball and Munster would have to go again as the Stormers could breathe with a penalty.

Stormers applied pressure as they forced Munster into clearing from their 22, they then attempted to breach in the short side but Calvin Nash produced a big hit to drive a Stromers man into touch.

Munster would have a second try ruled out after 24 minutes, Frisch getting over to score, but on the replay it showed Shane Daly had knocked the ball on the line before his teammate crossed for the score, two minutes later their third try was ruled out for a forward pass by Peter O’Mahony, as Mike Haley crossed in the corner the replay’s showed O’Mahony’s offload was ahead of his teammate.

The try would come however just on the half hour mark and it was a thing of absolute beauty, Crowley with a big crossfield kick to the right wing destined for Nash, the bounce doing enough to deceive the Stormers tackler as Nash could gather and get over to score. Patience paying off for that try, they had the ball for over a dozen phases and smart decision making from Crowley sent them into a 12-7 lead, following the conversion.

A strong defensive shape from the visitors was limiting the output for Stormers as they were struggling to come back in the tie, O’Mahony was taken off with a HIA, after an incident in the ruck.

Munster started to make mistakes in the dying minutes of the half, Nash kicked out on the full, Coombes went off his feet at the breakdown, allowing Libbok a penalty into the Munster 22.

The Stormers had another solid lineout bringing them 5m form the line, they were putting everything at Munster, but a super turnover by Barron saw Munster regain possession and Conor Murray thumped it to the 22. Murray was offside as Stormers went again but another huge effort in defence saw them turn it over and kick for touch to end the half.

With just three minutes gone in the second half, Stormers had the chance to make it a two point game, as Munster infringed at the breakdown, but Libbok struck to the right of the posts.

Stormers kept the pressure on, squeezing Munster into making mistakes, the bind changing in the maul and Libbok kicked to touch from the penalty, from a big passage of play Haley went to the bin Munster living on a knife edge in defence, Angelo Davids raced from half way but Haley committed a professional foul and Stormers had another penalty to find ground.

Next it was Crowley to commit a misdemeanour as he fell on the wrong side of a tackle, this penalty would be a hammer blow for Munster, Stormers mauled well and barged over with Deon Fourie grounding, Libbok putting them two ahead after 50 minutes.

Now the visitors had to spring a reply, but struggled in attack, they won a penalty in the 22 and opted for the corner, that came to nothing as Jeremey Loughman was penalised for obstruction.

Minutes later Munster ran from their own line but the Stormers did enough to defend, the play halting after RG Snyman offloaded forward, Munster lived dangerously when Ben Healy’s cross field kick attempt landed to Dan du Plessis, he kicked behind on the full.

Then Libbok went for a grubber kick to try to get behind Munster but Nash was calm and composed to touch down for a goal line drop out. 

Munster remained composed however, despite some mistakes, rewarded with a try after 75 minutes, a massive score, one they were running for time as they worked it all over the Stormers half of the field, with the back row getting over in the corner, Crowley converting a five point lead with four minutes remaining.

DHL Stormers v Connacht

Connacht fall short as Stormers book final spot

A commendably courageous Connacht performance fell short against a spellbinding, strong DHL Stormers who saw off the Westerners 43-25 in a ten try epic.

In both sides’ second successive knockout game, Connacht, not renowned for their fast starts, were like lightning from the kick off.

The visitors pack, including URC elite men, Finlay Bealham and Niall Murray, stood strong early, winning the match’s first penalty, converted calmly into the first points by Jack Carty.

With Stormers stumbly from set pieces and handling, Connacht pressure earned them a dream position, attacking scrum in the twenty-two. 

A steady base and charge from Cian Prendergast worked space before Carty crisply whisked the ball wide for Mack Hansen to hare heroically into the left corner.  Carty’s conversion missed but 0-8 fourteen minutes in was a wonderful start.

In Champion fashion, Stormers stormed back, almost immediately cancelling out Hansen’s try, winger Angelo Davids this time the beneficiary of fine fly-half play, gathering Marnie Libbok’s pinpoint crossfield kick and dotting down, Libbok adding the extras to make it a, thrilling, one-point gap.

Connacht, after commencing on the front foot, were now being manipulated by the pace of Stormers’ passing, the South African side edged ahead with a Libbok penalty that Cape Town cheered to the rafters.

Libbok was looking lively and he instigated a crucial second score for the hosts.  

Starting in his own twenty-two, his kick-chase found Dan du Pleiss unattended wide left, from there they had the numbers, Herschel Jantjies found his half-back partner, Libbok lolling in under the posts for a seven-pointer of his creation.

As the hosts pressed, the opening quarter must have felt like a miraculous mirage of water in a desert for Andy Friend’s side as Carty’s missed kick to touch was ruthlessly punished by another long-range, high-speed Stormers advance.

This time Davids was the provider, bursting through Carty’s weak tackle and offloading to Libbok, he cantered over and converted to make it 24-8, already on a nineteen-point haul!

Connacht however were in no mood to collapse and mirroring their start, ended the half on a high.

Tom Farrell’s lung-busting burst from centre made the yards and from quick recycling, Denis Buckley’s cute pop-up pass was pounced upon and propelled into a try by flanker Conor Oliver.

In bizarre circumstances, the wind skewed Carty’s attempt of a conversion to leave it 24-13 and still an uphill task for Friend’s side entering the second half.

And so the visitors rolled up their sleeves, defended resolutely during the third quarter, and Shamus Hurley-Langton stormed over, Carty adding the two to set home nerves jangling.

With fifteen minutes remaining, the Stormers’ squad strength told as replacement scrum half Paul du Wett scored their fourth try.

Yet, entering a simply ridiculous final five minutes of rugby, an away substitute, Bryan Ralston hauled Connacht back within a converted try, echoing Hansen’s precise touchline finish.

Like a boxer on the ropes though, Friend’s men were being pummelled soon enough again and another substitute, Marcel Theunissen finally secured the win, putting eleven points once more between the teams entering the final minute.

Stormers finished with finesse, an audacious around-the-man back pass freeing Ruhan Nel to cap a scintillating game of rugby.

Libbock’s fourth accurate conversion (his tally totalling twenty-three points) put an inaccurate slant to the final score of 43-25.

So, Friend says farewell with a heroic but losing display in Cape Town, for a province, that gutsy until the last, can satisfy themselves with reaching this stage for just the second time in their history.

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DHL Stormers v Munster

Munster Book URC Quarter Final Spot In South Africa

Munster inflicted the Stormers’ first home defeat of the season as they edged the South African side to book their place in the URC play-off quarter-finals.

The reigning champions were unbeaten at Cape Town stadium since December 2021 but Graham Rowntree’s men were good value for their win, with the platform laid up front in a large arm-wrestle with the home pack who were unbeaten in 21 successive games on their own patch.

Rowntree knew the value of a good start after their chastening experience in Durban in the Champions Cup a few weeks ago, but while they raced into a 12-0 lead after 21 minutes but went in all square at the break as the champions came storming back in a very physical encounter.

The good start which Munster craved came when hooker Diarmuid Barron got over inside 70 seconds off a lineout drive after RG Snyman, starting his first league match since he made his Munster debut back in August 2020, had led the way.

Jack Crowley slotted the conversion and while large chunks of the opening half was played between the 22s, Munster extended their lead from another lineout drive.

It came after Stormers winger Seabelo Senatla was binned for a high tackle on Peter O’Mahony – moments after home lock Marvin Orie was lucky to escape for hands in the face of the Munster skipper on the ground – but while Barron got over after another drive after the penalty to the right corner, it was the Cape Town who hit back even though they were down a man.

They stretched the Munster rear-guard as they patiently worked through the phases and the pressure inevitably paid off with tighthead Frans Malherbe scoring in the left corner after a sustained attack.
They struck again in the final play of the half.

Munster were forced to cough up three offside penalties inside their 22 with a yellow card not far away before Stormers centre Ruhan Nel got over. Manie Libbok added the easy conversion to tie them 12-12 at the interval.

Libbok missed an easy penalty two minutes after the restart when he hit the woodwork but Munster had to dig deep to saturate enormous Stormers pressure.

But, unlike their collapse in the Champions Cup to the Sharks after the break, this time Munster held up with O’Mahony and Snyman leading the way up front.

The introduction of Ben Healy for Jack Crowley at outhalf injected penetration to the Munster the game and after a good kick from the Edinburgh-bound player, his superb pass wide for fullback Mike Haley ended with Shane Daly getting around Senatla to score in the left corner with an excellent try.

Healy, having let the shot clock creep down to the final seconds, landed a superb touchline conversion to lead 19-12 after 58 minutes.

Stormers hit back and got a try from captain Steve Kitshoff after going to the left corner with a penalty after 66 minutes but Libbok missed the conversion to level the teams.

Munster pushed on in the closing stages and built several phases after a Healy penalty to touchdown the right and multiple phases later ended with Gavin Coombes scoring under the posts for his 10th try of the season.

Libbok’s dodgy form off the tee continued when he missed two late penalties, the cost of which became all the more apparent when Nel got in for his second try at the death under the posts which secured two bonus points but was not enough to maintain their long unbeaten home run.

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