MUNSTER’S successful rearguard action which saw Anthony Foley’s side secure a losing bonus point late on away to Clermont Auvergne in the European Champions Cup was the main talking point from an action-packed weekend of rugby.
The province’s A side booked their place in the quarter-finals of the British and Irish Cup with a bonus point win away to Moseley.
On the domestic club front, Garryowen set up a Munster Senior Cup final meeting with Cork Constitution for the second successive year.
1. Munster hanging on
The losing bonus point Munster managed to secure with the final kick of the game away to Clermont Auvergne keeps the province’s hopes of making the quarter-finals of the inaugural European Champions Cup alive into the New Year.
Munster currently sit in third place in Pool 1 on 10 points, four point leaders Clermont Auvergne and three adrift of second-placed Saracens.
Munster’s remaining two fixtures are away to Saracens on the weekend of January 16-18 and at home to Sale Sharks a week later. Munster will be targeting two wins - and realistically a bonus point at home to Sale - in order to keep their hopes of securing qualification, most likely as one of three best runners-up alive.
2. JJ Hanrahan shines
MUCH of the pre-match talk centred around centre JJ Hanrahan and the possibility of the 22-year-old moving to Northampton Saints next season. Forty eight hours after newspaper stories linking Hanrahan with a move to the Aviva Premiership broke, he is named in Munster’s starting line-up to face Clermont at Marcel Michelin. And Hanrahan repaid coach Anthony Foley’s faith in him by turning in an exciting display in Munster’s midfield. The UL-Bohs clubman formed a solid midfielder partnership with Andrew Smith, despite being up against seasoned internationals in Aurelien Rougerie and Wesley Fofana.
3. O’Donnell to the fore
MUNSTER’S back-row forwards produced a much improved showing on their showing against a formidable Clermont Auvergne unit in their meeting at Thomond Park eight days earlier. While CJ Stander and captain Peter O’Mahony have shone through several games this season, on Sunday it was the turn of Tommy O’Donnell to step up with an eye-catching display.
Munster led the way for Munster, both in terms of carries and tackles, with 11 in each case. Stats show the flanker made 42 metres of ground with ball in hand. It was a timely reminder from O’Donnell ad to the huge talent he possesses. No doubt Irish coach Joe Schmidt will have been watching with great interest.
4. Munster A progress in B&I Cup
It may have slipped under the radar somewhat given all the attention that was on the European Champions Cup game, but Munster ‘A’ side secured their place in the last eight of the British and Irish Cup thanks to an impressive bonus point win against Moseley.
Mick O’Driscoll’s A side recorded a 35-13 success to claim a best runners-up spot behind pool winners Worcester warriors. Munster A’s tries came courtesy of Darren Sweetnam, Shane Buckley, Ned Hodson and David Johnston.
The quarter-final pairings in the B&I Cup are due to be announced this week.
5. Garryowen back in Munster Senior Cup final
On the domestic club front, Garryowen set up a Munster Senior Cup final showdown with Cork Con for the second successive season when easing past a disapointing UL-Bohemian side at Thomond Park on Saturday.
Cork Con, who defeated Garryowen in dramatic circumstances after extra-time last season, saw off Young Munster 28-16 at Temple Hill to book their final place.
Garryowen will be looking to record their 39th Senior Cup win in the final, while Con will be looking to complete a three-in-a-row of successes. The game is pencilled in for December 27 at a Cork venue.