Munster go top in tight pool race
CHAMPIONS CUP REPORT: Munster put in a battling performance against a stubborn Castres Olympique side to win 30-5 at Thomond Park on Sunday.
The result leaves them top of Pool Two with 11 points, just three points ahead of second-placed Gloucester.
A stray Castres kick in the early stages meant Munster had a scrum inside the half of the visitors, and they pushed their way inside the 22 before a penalty was given by referee JP Doyle, who had a busy match. JJ Hanrahan’s first kick at goal went straight between the posts.
It was all Munster and they won another scrum penalty inside the Castres 22 10 minutes later, which Hanrahan smashed over again.
The first half ended 6-0, with Castres not touching the ball in the Munster 22, and the dominance from the home side continued into the second half.
An attacking scrum gave Conor Murray excellent field position and a bit of space, and with that he found Rory Scannell who battled his way over the try line, increasing the lead further.
Hanrahan then slotted over another penalty after a scrappy sequence of play that summed up the match, but Munster finally clicked into gear and got their second try on 67 minutes.
Murray was again the catalyst, beating his man, before giving a delightful offload to Christiaan Stander who powered over the try line.
Munster then managed to put together another delightful sequence of passes with five minutes to play, resulting in Hanrahan – who was awarded Heineken Man of the Match – stretching over for try No.3.
Laveau did score a consolation try for Castres but Urdapilleta could not convert as Doyle blew up on an attritional affair.
The sides will do battle again next week in Stade Pierre Fabre, with all still to play for in Pool Two.
Tries: Scannell, Stander, Hanrahan
Cons: Hanrahan 3
Pens: Hanrahan 3
Yellow card: Andrew Conway (Munster, 78)
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Conor Murray, 8 Christiaan Stander, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Peter O’Mahony (captain), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Tadhg Beirne, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Jeremy Loughman, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Fineen Wycherley, 20 Arno Botha, 21 Alby Mathewson, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Sam Arnold.
Castres: 15 Scott Spedding, 14 Armand Batlle, 13 Thomas Combezou, 12 Florian Vialelle, 11 Taylor Paris, 10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, 9 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Kevin Gimeno, 6 Mathieu Babillot (captain), 5 Thibault Lassalle, 4 Loic Jacquet, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Jody Jenneker, 1 Antoine Tichit.
Replacements: 16 Kevin Firmin, 17 Paea Fa’anunu, 18 Marc Clerc, 19 Christophe Samson, 20 Yannick Caballero, 21 Julien Caminati, 22 Martin Laveau, 23 Rory Kockott.
Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Andrew Jackson (England), Simon McConnell (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)