Munster seal semi-final spot

Date published: April 1 2017

Munster booked their place in the Champions Cup semi-finals after they beat Toulouse 41-16 in a deserved victory at Thomond Park.

The Irish province began the encounter on the front foot and went 13-3 ahead through John Ryan's converted try and a pair Tyler Bleyendaal penalties.

Jean-Marc Doussain, who had earlier kicked a three-pointer, added two more as the French side kept themselves in contention at the interval.

CJ Stander’s score and successive Bleyendaal efforts off the tee maintained the hosts’ control on the encounter, but Toulouse refused to go away and Paul Perez’s touchdown reduced the deficit.

Munster, however, had done enough and, after their fly-half kicked a fifth penalty, Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway finished off an excellent day for Irish rugby.

Toulouse, once the giants of French rugby, are struggling in the lower reaches of the Top 14 and are now out of Europe. They reside in 10th position in the table and, despite making it to the quarter-final stage, were not at all convincing in the Champions Cup.

That lack of form was duly exposed by an high-tempo home side early on, who took advantage of Francois Cros’ rash attempt at a charge down to build a 10-0 lead.

The number eight was yellow carded after just one minute for elbowing replacement scrum-half Duncan Williams, an act of recklessness which allowed Munster to kick deep into the opposition’s 22.

Williams, starting in place of the injured Conor Murray, dusted himself off and set about inching the hosts towards the line. The forwards battered away before the dam eventually burst when Ryan crossed the whitewash next to the left upright.

Bleyendaal kicked the conversion and then added a penalty, but the visitors gradually grew into the contest and reduced the arrears via Doussain’s effort off the tee.

Munster’s fly-half restored the 10-point buffer before the French outfit’s gargantuan forwards exerted their influence and forced Rassie Erasmus’ men to infringe.

Successive penalties by Toulouse’s stand-off in the final eight minutes of the half duly enabled them to go into the break with a genuine chance of upsetting the odds.

However, another blitz by the Irishmen kept the visitors on the back foot. Bleyendaal was on target from the tee before Stander, a man that typifies the province’s spirit this season, touched down from close range.

Following another penalty from the home side’s fly-half, Munster’s pathway to the last four appeared set, but Perez’s controversial try – where Yoann Maestri’s forward-looking pass to the wing was deemed flat – set up a nervous final quarter.

Munster responded well to that setback, though, and Bleyendaal took them 11 points in front. With Toulouse now overplaying, Sweetnam and Conway took advantage of some loose play by the visitors to complete a fine win.

The scorers:

For Munster:
Tries: Ryan, Stander, Sweetnam, Conway
Cons: Bleyendaal 3
Pens: Bleyendaal 5

For Toulouse:
Try: Perez
Con: Doussain
Pens: Doussain 3
Yellow Card: Cros

Munster: 15 Simon Zebo, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Jaco Taute, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Tyler Bleyendaal, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Billy Holland, 4 Donnacha Ryan, 3 John Ryan, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 James Cronin, 18 Stephen Archer, 19 Dave O’Callaghan, 20 Jack O’Donoghue, 21 Angus Lloyd, 22 Francis Saili, 23 Andrew Conway

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Medard, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Florian Fritz, 12 Gael Fickou, 11 Paul Perez, 10 Jean-Marc Doussain, 9 Sebastien Bezy, 8 Francois Cros, 7 Yacouba Camara, 6 Thierry Dusautoir, 5 Yoann Maestri, 4 Joe Tekori, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1 Cyril Baille
Replacements: 16 Julien Marchand, 17 Gurthro Steenkamp, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Tala Gray, 20 Piula Faasalele, 21 Samuel Marques, 22 Luke McAlister, 23 Arthur Bonneval

Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant Referees: Greg Garner (England), Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)

COMMENTS