Munster 38 – 17 Glasgow Warriors: Reds win it for Anthony Foley

A minute's silence is observed in memory of Anthony Foley before the European Champions Cup, Pool One match against Glasgow Warriors. Picture: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA Wire
A minute's silence is observed in memory of Anthony Foley before the European Champions Cup, Pool One match against Glasgow Warriors. Picture: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA Wire
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Perhaps it was always going to be an impossible task for Glasgow Warriors and maybe cold analysis of a rugby match might be crass in the circumstances, but this was a day which belonged to Munster and their late head coach Anthony Foley.

An emotionally charged performance was always going to be produced by Munster and Glasgow Warriors faced the almost impossible task of meeting that challenge at a Thomond Park citadel that was raw with passion. In the end Munster delivered a performance which their former captain Foley would have been just so proud of.

The task facing the Scots multiplied as a fired-up Munster side raced into a 14-3 lead after just 13 minutes.

All of the emotion of the week was channelled by Munster into a ferocious start in front of a capacity 26,500 crowd at the Limerick venue.

It’s been a raw time for Munster and their supporters following the death of “Axel” Foley but just a day after he was buried a few miles up the road in Killaloe, the Reds produced a masterful display.

“It was a fitting tribute to Anthony by Munster but we didn’t show up,” said Glasgow coach Gregor Townsend. “We are disappointed in that, whether it was the occasion or not. We prepared well, but we didn’t defend well. We were individuals and Munster were a team.”

Glasgow, in fairness, were left in an invidious position as both sides tried to get themselves into the zone for a Champions Cup match against a backdrop of such tremendous grief.

But Munster, taking a leaf out of their glory days to use circumstances to fire them up, launched an onslaught on the Warriors from the outset and the stadium erupted after just five minutes when Conor Murray and Keith Earls combined to send Tyler Bleyendaal over for a try.

It was some way for the Kiwi to crown his European debut after an injury-ravaged two seasons with Munster and he continued to dictate the flow of the game.

Finn Russell pulled back a penalty for Glasgow after eight minutes but it was Munster who continued to inspire with CJ Stander, wearing No.24 after Foley’s No.8 shirt was retired for the match, leading a superb pack.

It was another Champions Cup debutant, Jaco Taute, who crossed for Munster’s second try when Bleyendaal and Rory Scannell combined to send the South African through for a superb try. Bleyendaal again converted to lead 14-3.

The game didn’t need a flashpoint to crank up the emotion levels any further but just at the end of the opening quarter Munster winger Keith Earls was red-carded for a tip tackle on Glasgow hooker Fraser Brown.

Referee Jerome Garces had the red card out of his pocket as he walked 60 metres back from watching the incident several times on the big screen.

But Russell missed the penalty and Munster, now fired-up even more, extended their lead after 29 minutes when a superb inside step by Rory Scannell created the opening, with Simon Zebo somehow remaining out of touch despite Stuart Hogg’s tackle before touching down his 16th European try.

Bleyendaal turned the screw even more by landing the touchline conversion.

Munster then went for the kill with a penalty to the left corner seven minutes from the break, but Warriors turned it over.

Warriors, despite the extra man, just couldn’t get their hands on the ball but they butchered a good opportunity just before the interval when Rob Harley was called back after a forward pass from Russell to leave it 24-3 at the break.

Darren Sweetnam acrobatically claimed the restart and that set in train an early second-half onslaught which ended with the bonus point for Munster after 46 minutes with a penalty try after three massive scrums from the dominant home pack.

It was really a damage limitation exercise for the Warriors after that and when they finally managed to exploit the extra space in the final quarter as the Munster momentum finally started to tire, Townsend’s men got over for a brace of tries in a four minute spell to raise hopes of leaving Limerick with at least a point to add the maximum return gleaned in the opening day win over Leicester Tigers.

Pat MacArthur got over for the first of them off a good lineout drive and Mark Bennett eventually finished off a break from deep to cut the gap to 14 points.

But this wasn’t a day Munster were going to give up anything and they took over again in the closing stages and finished in style when impressive centre Rory Scannell finished their fifth try in the left corner.

Ian Keatley landed the touchline conversion to crown a day which belonged to Munster on and off the field.

Glasgow, who had Kenny Dalglish in for a talk in midweek, were applauded by Munster supporters when they arrived at the ground but that was the only measure given to them on a passionate day.