Munster’s young guns thrill in wild and wonderful bonus-point win over Wasps

Munster's young guns thrill in wild and wonderful bonus-point win over Wasps thumbnail

Wasps 14

Munster 35

NOBODY, BUT NOBODY, does it like Munster.

At one stage a fortnight ago, there were worries that the southern province might not be able to field a team for this European clash. In the end, they were rampant at times as their supporters took over Coventry.

Player of the match Scott Buckley celebrates a try.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A first-half red card for Wasps captain Brad Shields helped, as did the English club losing four starting players from their starting XV to Covid-19 at a late stage, but Munster had to deal with their own enormous disruption in the build-up to this bonus-point try.

Missing 34 senior players and their entire senior coaching staff, Munster academy boss Ian Costello’s gang of seasoned internationals and thrilling young guns produced another memorable European performance in front of a crowd that seemed to be made up of more visiting fans than home ones.

The fresh-faced debutants had days to remember, whether it was 19-year-old fullback Patrick Campbell scoring a try on debut just two years after he was helping Cork to a minor All-Ireland football title.

There was 19-year-old number eight Daniel Okeke barrelling past defenders, 21-year-old hooker Scott Buckley – who was player of the match – getting in on the try-scoring act, and Waterford man Eoin O’Connor showing his promise in the second row, while James French fought hard at tighthead as Wasps put massive pressure on in the scrum.

There were also debuts off the bench for Mark Donnelly, Declan Moore, Conor Moloney, John Forde, Jonathan Wren, Ethan Coughlan, Tony Butler – who replaced Joey Carbery after what appeared to be a bad shoulder injury suffered in a late tackle.

Munster celebrate 19-year-old Patrick Campbell’s debut try.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

22-year-old openside flanker John Hodnett, making his first Munster start for 13 months after overcoming Achilles and ankle injuries, showed exactly why he is rated as a major prospect in Irish rugby as he contributed to the Irish side’s breakdown dominance.

In truth, though, this was as much about Munster’s senior men delivering. Captain Peter O’Mahony, second row Tadhg Beirne, centre Damian de Allende, scrum-half Conor Murray were all superb.

Experienced wing pair Keith Earls and Andrew Conway notched a try each, while Chris Farrell had some calming moments in midfield, Dave Kilcoyne carried hard from loosehead, and Carbery contributed 15 points from the tee.

This really couldn’t have worked out much better for Munster after all they have gone through over the last two weeks – the uncertainty and the setbacks. 

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They backed the bodies that were left standing and Costello deserves great credit for readying the fresh faces for this win, which nicely tees up Munster’s home clash with Castres at Thomond Park next Saturday.

The six-day turnaround is a new challenge and it remains to be see how many, if any, of the players who have just completed self-isolation back in Ireland will be involved. If this team needs to go again, they have shown their quality and appetite for the fight.

Munster huddle up in Coventry.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

The Fields of Athenry rang out around the Coventry Building Society Arena in the first minute of action as the game started in a frenetic fashion that never left up.

Munster needed a remarkable try-saving tackle from captain O’Mahony in the left corner as early as the third minute after a scything break by Thomas Young nearly produced the opening score.

Instead, Munster notched the first points as Carbery slotted three off the tee when Wasps came offside soon after a big Damian de Allende turnover penalty at the breakdown.

Wasps out-half Jimmy Gopperth struck the post soon after with a penalty of his own, then Munster needed some huge tryline defence to hold out the hosts. Buckley, Murray, O’Mahony, O’Connor, and Beirne combined to stop the Wasps five-metre maul effort and force a knock-on.

Sam Wolstenholme was a lively presence at scrum-half for the English team and he threatened in the 19th minute as the quick-tapped and grubber-kicked behind into the Munster 22 only for the ball to agonisingly roll into touch.

Wasps’ scrum was doing damage, winning two penalties, but Munster openside Hodnett was having a big influence too as he struck twice at the defensive breakdown for vital turnovers.

In between, there was a wild passage of play as Carbery spilled the ball in Wasps’ 22, Zach Kibirige hacked it ahead and Keith Earls had to get on his bike to prevent them from going the distance. But play was brought back as TMO identified Shields’ high tackle on Kilcoyne, for which he was red-carded – a call that felt harsh.

Brad Shields is sent off.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Carbery managed to hit the post with the straightforward penalty but he was on target a minute later after Beirne won a breakdown turnover.

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Munster led 6-0 against the 14 men but they conceded next. It was another wonderfully wild passage of play as O’Mahony and Beirne broke out of Munster’s 22 before Young returned fire for Wasps, dinking the ball in ahead and helping to earn a turnover that Wolstenholme swing wide to the right, where centre Michael Le Bourgeois offloaded back inside for number eight Alfie Barbeary, who stepped past Campbell to score.

Gopperth converted but the lead lasted barely four minutes. Beirne’s turnover penalty gave Munster access into the 22, they battered their way to a penalty advantage and scrum-half Murray dinked a chip into the Wasps’ in-goal area with the outside of his right boot.

The home defence seemingly had it covered and it looked set to go dead before suddenly bouncing back into the gleefully grateful hands of Earls, who dotted down and allowed Carbery to convert for 13-7.

Munster needed Daniel Okeke to be very alert back in their own left corner shortly after as the number eight reacted well to Wolstenholme’s grubber kick to ensure Kibirige’s couldn’t regather and score.

And the visitors nearly had a second try just before the break as lock O’Connor blocked down a Wolstenholme box kick, stooped to grab the ball and offloaded to Beirne, who was stopped a metre short.

Alfie Barbeary scores for Wasps in the first half.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Wasps hooker Dan Frost deliberately killed the ball on the ground to earn himself a yellow card but Munster opted for a tap penalty against the 13-man Wasps and knocked-on as they pressure their tryline.

Munster had a brilliant start to the second half as Beirne broke down the right-hand shortside and into the Wasps half before offloading to Andrew Conway. They spun the ball wide to the left through de Allende and Chris Farrell, allowing fullback Campbell to show his pace by confidently finishing a 3-on-2 on the edge.

Carbery couldn’t convert but the visitors smelled blood against 13 men. Okeke broke out brilliantly from the restart before de Allende continued the momentum and Munster surged into the Wasps 22 again, only for O’Connor’s offload attempt to soar forward.

They had their third try soon after, though, as Wasps looked to counter-attack but spilled the ball for Conway to race onto, scoop up and canter home for a converted try that left Munster 25-7 up as Frost returned from the sin bin. 

His opposite number Buckley was next to get in on the breakdown act for Munster with a steal in their half, while Okeke continued to rampage through Wasps defenders as he thrilled the travelling supporters.

It was Buckley who notched the bonus-point try from a clever back peel play by Munster, Beirne flicking a pass back inside for the hooker to storm over and round underneath the post, with Carbery adding the extras. 

Patrick Campbell and Andrew Conway celebrate.

Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Michael Le Bourgeois responded for Wasps with just over 15 minutes left, picking a lovely line in between O’Connor and Hodnett to finish off Wolstenholme’s short pass, with Gopperth converting for 32-14.

Carbery tacked on another three points for Munster soon after, while O’Mahony delivered his second lineout steal of the evening as the game entered the final 10 minutes.

The bench was emptied to send all seven uncapped players there into action and it all ended as it started – with the Munster fans roaring out The Fields. 

Wasps scorers:

Tries: Alfie Barbeary, Michael Le Bourgeois

Conversions: Jimmy Gopperth [2 from 2]

Penalties: Jimmy Gopperth [0 from 1]

Munster scorers:

Tries: Keith Earls, Patrick Campbell, Andrew Conway, Scott Buckley

Conversions: Joey Carbery [3 from 4]

Penalties: Joey Carbery [3 from 4]

WASPS: Marcus Watson (Cameron Anderson ’70); Zach Kibirige, Josh Bassett  (Tommy Mathews ’73) , Michael Le Bourgeois, Luke Mehson; Jimmy Gopperth, Sam Wolstenholme; Tom West (Robin Hislop ’51), Dan Frost (yellow card ’40), Biyi Alo (Jeffery Toomaga-Allen ‘HT); Brad Shields (captain) (red card ’26), Tim Cardall; Nizaam Carr (Kieran Curran ’58), Thomas Young, Alfie Barbeary (Gabriel Oghre ‘HT) (Michael van Vuuren ‘ 67).

Replacements: (Will Porter ‘ ) 

MUNSTER: Patrick Campbell (Jonathan Wren ’73); Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery  (Tony Butler ’73), Conor Murray (Ethan Coughlan ’77); Dave Kilcoyne (Mark Donnelly ’65), Scott Buckley (Declan Moore ’71), James French (Roman Salanoa ’57); Eoin O’Connor (John Forde ’71), Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (captain), John Hodnett (Conor Moloney ’71), Daniel Okeke.

Referee: Romain Poite [FFR].

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