Munster channel emotion in stirring win over Glasgow

Emotional Munster pair Ian Keatley and Tommy O'Donnell after the final whistle at Thomond Park. Picture: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA Wire
Emotional Munster pair Ian Keatley and Tommy O'Donnell after the final whistle at Thomond Park. Picture: Lorraine O'Sullivan/PA Wire
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If Gregor Townsend had a regret on one of the most emotionally-charged days that this wonderful competition has seen, it was that his men did not turn up and produce a performance to honour the occasion.

And yet you suspect that, had Warriors managed to surpass the heights of recent years, it would still not be enough to stop the red flow coming at them on a day of raw emotion at Thomond Park as the capacity crowd of 26,500 sang, cried and cheered in memory of their former leader Anthony Foley.

“We talked a lot about what might happen and Munster have been excellent with their communication on what’s happening during the day. We felt we played a part in a really special occasion. I thought it was a tremendous inspiring occasion,” said Townsend.

“The last two days have been really inspiring for obviously terrible reasons but it’s just a pity that we didn’t really get involved in the game.”

The sudden death of Foley, at the age of 42 on the morning of their opening clash with Racing 92 led to Thomond Park being turned into a shrine during the week — his club Shannon RFC is also based there — as tens of thousands turned out during the week to honour a man who typified everything which is good about Munster and Irish rugby.

Glasgow Warriors, too, played a huge part in that. All week they made it clear that they would abide with the wishes of Munster whether this game should go ahead and the appearance of Townsend at the funeral and the comments of former Connacht and Ireland Wolfhounds coach Dan McFarland, were warmly appreciated.

Only in Thomond Park could the opposition be applauded into the stadium by the home support. “I am inspired by what our community has done to come together and done it in such a respectful way, inspired by Anthony’s family, inspired by rugby,” added Townsend.

“The amount of rugby teams from juniors to international players that were at that funeral yesterday. And then the reaction today. We arrived off the bus and the Munster supporters were applauding us coming off the bus.

“It was great to see the whole atmosphere of the game, which had a red card in it as well, was what you wanted to see in the rugby game, a home crowd backing their team. It can affect you both ways. If you are a supporter and rugby fan you think that was a special occasion. But obviously our players missed out today and, in hindsight, maybe the build-up was tougher than we thought for them.”

Munster were frenzied and, with that aggression, they raced into a 14-3 lead after just 13 minutes as the superb Tyler Bleyendaal and Jaco Taute crowned their European debuts with tries.

But a rash Keith Earls tip tackle on Glasgow hooker Fraser Brown left referee Jerome Garces no option but to issue a red card and the French official did not baulk at the decision.

That left Warriors with an extra man for three-quarters of the game but only briefly, in the closing ten minutes, was that advantage apparent as the Munster onslaught finally showed signs of tiring.

The Glasgow pack was in difficulty all day – Foley would have been so proud of his rampaging eight — and they found themselves 24-3 behind at the break after Simon Zebo somehow managed to elude Stuart Hogg’s challenge enough to score in the left corner. A penalty try after a series of scrums six minutes after the restart had the stadium rocking and, while Warriors briefly threatened a late raid in search of a bonus point with tries by Pat MacArthur and Mark Bennett, it was Munster who finished in style with a fifth try from superb centre Rory Scannell making it 38-17 at the end.

“We started the game poorly,” said Bennett, pictured. “Munster rose to the occasion and put us under a lot of pressure, scored a few tries early doors and we were chasing the game from there on in, which is tough to do in any game, never mind on a day like this here.

“We trained really well this week. So I think, as a team, we were in a good place. It just wasn’t good enough at the start. If we had managed to back up last week’s result today we would have been in a great place going into the next two. We are still in this group but we really need to up it when we next come out.”

Next up for Warriors in the competition will be a double December date with French champions Racing 92.