Exeter Chiefs hang on against injury-hit Munster
MATCH REPORT: Exeter Chiefs battled to a 13-8 victory over Munster Rugby in the Champions Cup Round of 16 first leg at Sandy Park on Saturday.
The 2020 champions were in control at half-time through tries from Stuart Hogg and Jacques Vermeulen, but two yellow cards in two minutes in the second half proved costly as Shane Daly crossed for Munster.
Exeter took the lead early on through Hogg’s try, the fullback being set up by wing Tom O’Flaherty who had slipped through the Munster defence with a superb running line.
Captain Jack Yeandle almost got over for a second Exeter try midway through the first half, but Munster were able to dislodge the ball before grounding.
The hosts would eventually grab their second score shortly before the break, flanker Vermeulen forcing his way over from close range to punish Munster for conceding a string of penalties – one of which saw replacement forward Jack O’Sullivan sent to the sin bin.
Munster survived a seven-minute period with 14 men at the start of the second half, and got themselves on the score board with just less than an hour played as fly-half Ben Healy slotted a penalty from in front of the posts.
The visitors would then be handed a golden opportunity to get back into the game as Exeter received two yellow cards in two minutes – first wing Olly Woodburn and then replacement prop Patrick Schickerling.
Against the odds, Exeter managed to extend their lead as Hogg kicked a drop-goal from range, but Munster eventually capitalised on their two-man advantage on 66 minutes as Daly stepped inside to finish superbly.
Both sides were denied tries during the closing stages – the TMO was called in to check an effort from Munster replacement scrumhalf Craig Casey before Woodburn was halted by a superb covering tackle as he looked destined to go over in the corner for Chiefs.
Exeter ended the game in the ascendency but were held up over the line in the final play of the game, leaving them with a five-point lead heading into next week’s second leg at Thomond Park.
For Exeter Chiefs:
Tries: Hogg, Vermeulen
Drop Goal: Hogg
Yellow cards: Olly Woodburn (Exeter Chiefs, 59); Jack O’Sullivan (Munster, 36); Patrick Schickerling (Exeter Chiefs, 60)
Exeter Chiefs: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Olly Woodburn, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Tom O’Flaherty, 10 Joe Simmonds, 9 Sam Maunder, 8 Sam Simmonds, 7 Jacques Vermeulen, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Jonny Gray, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Jack Yeandle (captain), 1 Alec Hepburn
Replacements: 16 Jack Innard, 17 Ben Moon, 18 Patrick Schickerling, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Richard Capstick, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Harvey Skinner, 23 Josh Hodge
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Simon Zebo, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Alex Kendellen, 7 John Hodnett, 6 Jack O’Donoghue (captain), 5 Fineen Wycherley, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Diarmuid Barron, 17 Josh Wycherley, 18 John Ryan, 19 Jason Jenkins, 20 Thomas Ahern, 21 Craig Casey, 22 Rory Scannell, 23 Jack O’Sullivan
Referees: Pierre Brousset (France)
Assistant Referees: Luc Ramos (France) & Flavien Hourquet (France)
TMO: Denis Grenouillet (France)