Munster Rugby grind out draw at Sandy Park

Exeter Chiefs 10

Munster Rugby 10

It was a daunting task for the Munster Rugby men. Traveling to Sandy Park to take on an Exeter Chiefs team, who are yet to lose this season. There was talk among Exeter supporters that this game could provide a bonus point win for the Chiefs but, as ever Munster, were there to spoil the party.

They leave Sandy Park with an impressive two points on the road.

Already without Irish international Conor Murray, Munster lost Keith Earls in the warm-up who had to withdraw due to a hamstring injury. Cork man Darren Sweetnam coming straight into the starting XV.

The Conditions

The weather conditions in the form of Storm Callum, made things difficult for both sides. Munster, opting to play against the wind in the first half.

It was Exeter who drew first blood through a Gareth Steenson penalty after 19 minutes. With Joey Carbery levelling the scores after 29 minutes, the teams were all square heading into the final 10 minutes of the first half. Despite Munster having the majority of possession and territory, their accuracy let them down for the second week in a row. Having been in scoring positions in the Exeter half on numerous occasions, individual errors cost them points. It was Rob Baxter’s men who dealt the final blow of the half, after hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie powered over from close range. Steenson converted, giving the Exeter Chiefs a 10-3 lead heading into the second half.

A Second Half Arm-Wrestle

It took Munster 24 minutes to eventually puncture the seemingly unbreakable Chiefs defence. CJ Stander powering over the line after some great work from Tommy O’Donnell in the build-up. Moments earlier, Exeter were attacking on the Munster 5m line, but a timely double-tackle intervention from scrum-half Duncan Williams forced a  Chiefs knock-on. Munster managed to hold out on the resulting scrum and scored that all important try minutes later.

“I said inside, a special mention to him. To put in a shift like that. His kicking game was excellent. He had a game defining moment with that tackle.

“I’m so proud of Duncan and the way he came through today.” said Johann van Graan.

Nervy Final 15′

With Carbery converting the Stander try, the teams were level with 15 minutes remaining. As the clock edged closer to red, it was Exeter who mounted one last attack. Joey Carbery overcooking a kick that trickled over the deadball line. This giving the Chiefs a scrum on the Munster 22m line. Given the dominance the Chiefs enjoyed at scrum-time throughout the game, it was a nervy watch for Munster fans. Despite the scrum collapsing, referee Jerome Garces forced Chiefs to use it. From there, it was all down to Munster grit and determination, with every Exeter attacker met by a red jersey. 22 phases later, Munster celebrated the final whistle after an Exeter knock-on.

A thrilling opening round of European rugby from both sides, who earn two points each to take into Round Two. It was a punishing, physical encounter, with a number of injuries for Johann Van Graan to manage ahead of their home game vs Gloucester next weekend.


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