Champions Cup: Munster v Castres

Munster can take control of Pool Two with victory over the French at Thomond Park

Patrick Madden Sat, Dec 15
LIVE: Champions Cup: Munster v Castres

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  • Good afternoon!

    Welcome to our coverage of Munster's Champions Cup clash with Castres (kick-off 1.0pm).

    The weather might have relented slightly, but there's another storm brewing in Limerick this afternoon.

    Johann Van Graan's side welcome familar Top 14 foes Castres to Thomond for what promises to be a typically brutal forward battle.

    Gloucester's victory over Exeter yesterday afternoon means whoever wins today will take control of Pool Two at the halfway stage - this is a golden opportunity for the hosts.

    We'll be bringing you all of the action throughout the afternoon - here's to a good one.

    Come on!!!


    This afternoon was supposed to give us a first glimpse of the Joey Carbery-Conor Murray axis in the red of Munster, but the prodigous outhalf has been ruled out this morning with a tight hamstring. JJ Hanrahan starts at 10.

  • MUNSTER: M Haley; A Conway, C Farrell, R Scannell, K Earls; JJ Hanrahan, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; T Beirne, B Holland; P O’Mahony (C), C Cloete, CJ Stander. Replacements: K O’Byrne, J Loughman, C Parker, F Wycherley, A Botha, A Mathewson, T Bleyendaal, S Arnold.

    CASTRES OLYMPIQUE: S Spedding, A Batlle, T Combezou, F Vialelle, T Paris, B Urdapilleta, L Radosavljevic; A Tichit, J Jenneker, D Kotze, L Jacquet, T Lassalle, M Babillot (capt), K Gimeno, A Tulou. Replacements: K Firmin, P Fa’anunu, M Clerc, C Samson, Y Caballero, J Caminati, M Laveau, R Kockott.

    Referee: JP Doyle (England).

  • That's another big blow for Munster, the Ireland centre had only recently returned to fitness. Two big players gone.
  • You can read Gerry Thornley's preview of today's match HERE.

    And he has spoken to Tadhg Beirne, who is flourishing after swapping the red of the Scarlets for the red of Munster.

  • I think I spoke too soon about the weather clearing up in Limerick - it's lashing wind and rain as the players warm up.

    Prepare for war.

  • 15 mins until kick-off!
  • The sun is now shining at Thomond Park. Packed to the rafters.
  • Peter O'Mahony leads his side out.
  • Urdapilleta has the ball in hand.


  • 1 min:  Urdapilleta picks out Earls with the kick-off and he dances into contact. Munster run two phases before Murray sends up a boxkick, fullback Spedding volleys it forward as he times his run poorly. Haley sees space out on the right but sends his kick out on the full.
  • 2 min: Second time round Haley gets the kick spot on and Munster turn the Castres lineout over on the visitor's 22.  
  • 3 min: Both sides probing in these early stages - the ball is spending most of its time in the air.  Urdapilleta launches a long kick and massively overcooks it, the ball bobbling into the Munster ingoal and beyond the deadball line. First scrum of the match for the hosts, just outside the Castres 22 in the shadow of the sticks.
  • 5 min: Stander picks form the base and has his first rumble into the 22. Quick ball for Munster and Arnold is hauled down on the outside shoulder. Slick recycling from the hosts, Beirne bashing his way up to the five-metre.

    Penalty for Munster, Gimeno pinged on the deck. It's under the posts, Hanrahan makes no mistake. Bright start.


  • 9 min: Castres haven't been coping well with Munster's aerial attack and another Murray hanger is knocked forward on halfway. It falls kindly for the hosts and they flash it across the pitch quickly - number eight Tulou penalised for clearing out Murray illegally on the right. Decent touch finder from Hanrahan.
  • 10 min: Good lineout ball for the hosts and they work it inside, again the ball is consistently fluid and Castres are on the back foot. The visitors concede another penalty under the sticks - this time Hanrahan pins it into the corner.


  • 11 min: Chance wasted as Niall Scannell overcooks his throw which is gratefully gathered by Castres skipper Babillot before there's a good clearing kick.
  • 12 min: Great lineout take from Beirne and Cloete makes a burst but is then penalised on the ground.
  • 13 min: Haley fields a kick from Spedding and looks to run it back but clatters into Holland. Castres scrum on the Munster 10.
  • 15 min: The Castres scrum is a bit of a mess and Cloete puts the pressure on at the base but the visitors just about retain possession. Until the next phase, where Beirne forces an excellent turnover.
  • 16 min: Fantastic darting break from Conway and he scythes into the Castres 22. Munster in the ascendancy but the ball is switched to Beirne in space on the shortside and he knocks on.
  • 18 min: Munster are making life very uncomfortable for Castres, who haven't been able to keep the ball. The hosts are varying the point of attack well, Hanrahan darting into the 22, but there's another knock-on from Beirne. Munster need points to show for their dominance.
  • 20 min: Excellent squeeze from the home pack and Munster are awarded a scrum penalty inside the Castres 22.

    Hanrahan to go for goal - good kick.


  • 22 min: Arnold grubbers down the right and Spedding spills it off his boot laces. Munster scrum out on the right just inside the Castres half.
  • 24 min: Another demolition job from the Munster pack, followed by a bit of handbags. The Castres pack are rattled. Rory Scannell finds touch on the 22 with his left.
  • 25 min: Good lineout ball for Munster but they get pinged - Cloete entering the line too early. Sloppy.
  • 26 min: Castres can't find touch with the kick, the ball bounces around and Murray slaps it back on Munster's side. A few moments later the ball is whipped to Earls in space on the left, he kicks ahead and it's deflected into touch off a Castres boot.
  • 28 min: This time the Munster lneout works smoothly and they move it right, Hanrahan's ball to Earls going loose. It's a bit aimless from the hosts and Arnold floats a forward passout to the right.
  • 30 min: Munster looking to play from deep and they have red shirts in acres of space on the left - poor execution though, Rory Scannell can't get the pass away and is tackled by Combezou, the ball spilling forward on the deck.
  • 31 min: Another big Munster turnover, Murray putting the pressure on opposite number  Radosavljevic. Hint of a high tackle, but it's a scrum for the hosts.
  • 32 min: Munster marmalise the Castres scrum again and earn another penalty. Hanrahan finds touch.
  • 33 min: Another poor Munster lineout, Tulou picking off Scannell's throw at the back.
  • 34 min: Decent read and snipe by Earls and he stabs a kick ahead - Castres cover sliding into touch. This time Munster win the lineout, they maul before Murray sends up another kick.
  • 36 min: Brilliant read and take from Hanrahan, leaping to take a high kick in midfield. Moments later he sees space in behind on the left, but his kick bounces the wrong side of the flag and Castres will have a scrum in Munster territory.
  • 38 min: The Castres scrum is slightly better under immense pressure but Murray nearly picks off number eight Tulou's pass from the base! A rueful smile from the Ireland nine.
  • 39 min: Earls covers deep and then finds a fine touch down the left. Castres 10-metre lineout.
  • 40 min: Munster pick off the Castres lineout but there's a loose pass in midfield and Combezou hacks it downfield. Haley covers well and Vialelle is penalised for his tackle on the Munster 15.
  • 41 min: Last play of the half, Munster win their lineout ball and move it left. Conway finding Earls who dances back inside. Penalty advantage for Munster, the play is taken back to the right where Rory Scannell will try and find touch - but he sends the ball dead.
  • Munster six points to the good despite their dominance. It's been very scrappy - worth bearing in mind Castres are the defending Top 14 champions.
  • The teams are back out for what will hopefully be a more intriguing second half.

    Hanrahan gets us back underway!

  • 41 min: Castres return the restart and Haley dances back into contact. Conway stabs a kick down the right and Spedding concedes a lineout on the 22.
  • 42 min: Stander carries deep inside the 22 and Castres slow the ball down. They think they've turned it over but Munster emerge with a scrum. Great platform.
  • TRY MUNSTER!!!!!!
  • Munster's first score, and ironically it stems from a much improved Castres scrum. Stander has to pick the ball out and then Murray darts for the blindside. He holds off Lassalle with a big left arm and offloads inside for Rory Scannell who has an easy finish and makes no mistake.

    Hanrahan takes care of the afters.


  • 46 min: Castres secure the ball on the Munster 10 through Spedding and look to build something - but then the ref's whistle goes and a blue scrum cap emerges from the deck having won another penalty. Beirne baby Beirne.
  • 48 min: Beirne with another clinical turnover but it's wasted as O'Mahony throws a forward pass as they look to use the numbers out left.
  • 49 min: A collector's item - Castres are awarded a scrum penalty! They changed the frontrow at half-time and it's making a difference.

    They're going to try and take the points,  Urdapilleta with the kick from outside the 22 and out to the right - he hooks his left-footed effort wide. He might have got away with it though - Murray knocks the ball forward in the ingoal - Castres five-metre scrum.


  • 52 min: Another solid Castres scrum and they run a few phases before O'Mahony strips the ball and Murray clears. Great Munster defence.
  • 53 min: Another Munster turnover in midfield - Stander tackles Tulou and Cloete locks on over the top. hanrahan finds touch on the 22. Big chance.

  • 55 min: Slick lineout ball for Munster and they move it left. There's a hint of a high tackle on Cloete but they play on. 12 phases for Munster inside the 22.
  • 56 min: Castres finally turn Munster over but Tulou then knocks forward as he looks to break. This is ridiculously scrappy, Castres defending with frantic gusto.  

    Munster are awarded a penalty, and O'Mahony points to the posts. It's outside the Castres 22 and to the left - lovely strike. He's 4/4.


  • 60 min: Castres enjoying a rare foray inside the Munster 22 and Cloete is penalised for coming in at the side.  Urdapilleta sends it into touch inside the 22.
  • 61 min: And Castres waste the opportunity, the ball knocked forward at the lineout.
  • 62 min: Castres put a bit of pressure on the Munster scrum but Stander secures it well and the visitors are penalised for a high tackle.
  • 63 min: The Munster lineout has been disappointing today and they lose another of their own on the 10.
  • 64 min: Hanrahan tries to pin a kick in behind Castres but it's down the throat of Spedding, who calls a mark and then finds touch.
  • 65 min: Cloete is replaced by Botha, he's had a busy afternoon.
  • 66 min: Neat from Conway, receiving the ball on the left and chipping cutely down the line. Castres secure their ball well, but the clearance kick doesn't make the 22.
  • TRY MUNSTER!!!!!!!!!
  • Finally, a bit of genuinely world class play. Munster probing on the left, Murray snipes inside in textbook fashion and finds Stander on his shoulder - he bursts one tackle and then does well to scramble for the line and touch down.

    Hanrahan converts.


  • 71 min: Great vision and execution from Hanrahan - he has little space to work with but finds a kick up to the Castres 22.
  • TRY MUNSTER!!!!!!!!
  • Castres' ball retention has been abysmal this afternoon. They get turned over yet again on halfway and Munster are clinical, Arnold breaks the line and offloads to Rory Scannell. He moves it outside to replacement Mathewson who shifts it back inside to Hanrahan who crosses. More handbags after the score, Castres aren't happy campers.

    Hanrahan converts again. Munster can smell a bonus point.


  • 78 min: A glimpse for Castres who break the Munster line for the first time. Caminati shifts it to Vialelle in the 22 and he is collared by Conway - the ref checks with the TMO and sends Conway to the bin for taking the man early. Munster will see the game out with 14 men.
  • 80 min: Farcical ending.  Urdapilleta's low kick to touch is straight at O'Mahony, who throws a boot at it before Beirne touches down in the ingoal. Five-metre scrum Castres.
  • TRY CASTRES!!!!!!
  • Castres looking for a consolation score, and they get one. They win a lineout in the left corner and move it right, Leveau making the most of space out on the flank with a darting low finish.

    The conversion is missed.


  • JJ Hanrahan is named man of the match.
  • Thanks for joining this afternoon - Gerry Thornley's match report from Thomond Park will be live shortly.