Exeter and Munster open with stalemate

Date published: October 13 2018

Exeter and Munster opened their respective Champions Cup campaigns playing to a 10-10 stalemate at Sandy Park on Saturday afternoon.

It was a brutal game, with the step up to European rugby leaving the players gasping for breath as fatigue set in. The extremely windy conditions forced plenty of errors with both sides’ finishing poor. But although it was a low-scoring encounter, it was still a thrilling one.

Despite being the team playing in to the wind in the first-half, Munster were setting the tempo in the opening twenty minutes and made eighty metres upfield with a penalty at the scrum and the lineout. But it came to nothing as a simple turnover – the kick and chase aided by the mighty gusts meant all their good work was undone in a single moment.

However, the pressure of the wind began to toll and Munster were beginning to give away too many penalties. Exeter Chiefs captain Gareth Steenson slotted between the posts for a slender lead after Munster skipper Peter O’Mahony was penalised for going off his feet at the breakdown.

Exeter were buoyed by the confidence of the wind behind their backs and were forced in to some heroic defending as Munster took the ball through over 25 phases before winning the penalty. Opting for the scrum, the visitors made further ground before winning another penalty as Joey Carbery restored parity on the scoreboard with a penalty right in front.

But Exeter hit back, winning a penalty at scrum-time. Their forwards kept the ball in hand and drove several times for the line before Luke Cowan-Dickie powered his way over. Steenson added the extras on the stroke of half-time as the hosts headed in to the interval with a 10-3 lead.

Exeter found themselves trapped inside their own half for the majority of the second stanza due to the fact that it was now them playing in to the wind. However, some staunch defending meant they would not concede any points for the opening quarter of the second half.

With so much territory and possession, Munster finally broke the resistance in the 64th minute. The fresh-legged Tommy O’Donnell had made the initial mini-break, before skipper O’Mahony burrowed over from close range. Carbery’s calm conversion levelled matters at 10-10 apiece, with all the momentum with the away side at this stage.

However with less than a minute to go, Carbery would kick the ball over the dead-ball line, gifting Exeter a scrum penalty 22 metres out. The hosts would take the ball through twenty long phases and found themselves bearing down on the Munster try-line only to knock on a couple of inches out.

It may have been cruel ending to the game for Exeter but in a game of two halves, overall the 10-10 draw was a fair reflection of the game.

The scorers:

For Exeter Chiefs:
Try: Cowan-Dickie
Con: Steenson
Pen: Steenson

For Munster:
Try: O’Mahony
Con: Carbery
Pen: Carbery

The teams:

Exeter: 15 Phil Dollman, 14 Jack Nowell, 13 Henry Slade, 12 Ian Whitten, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Gareth Steenson (c), 9 Stuart Townsend, 8 Matt Kvesic, 7 Don Armand, 6 Dave Ewers, 5 Sam Skinner, 4 Dave Dennis, 3 Harry Williams, 2 Luke Cowan-Dickie, 1 Ben Moon
Replacements: 16 Jack Yeandle, 17 Alec Hepburn, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Ollie Atkins, 20 Tom Lawday, 21 Jack Maunder, 22 Joe Simmonds, 23 Sam Hill

Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Dan Goggin, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Keith Earls, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Duncan Williams, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Peter O’Mahony (c), 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Jean Kleyn, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Niall Scannell, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 James Cronin, 18 John Ryan, 19 Billy Holland, 20 Tommy O’Donnell, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Sammy Arnold

Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Ludovic Cayre (France), Jonathan Dufort (France)
Television match official: Éric Briquet-Campin (France)