Champions Cup: Munster v Castres

Pool Four leaders Munster bid to secure a place in the last-eight at Thomond Park

John O'Sullivan Sun, Jan 21
LIVE: Champions Cup: Munster v Castres

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  • Hello and I suppose finally welcome to the Irish Times rugby blog on a huge afternoon for Munster and Ulster rugby, both looking to emulate the achievements of Leinster and Connacht, who have qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup respectively. John O'Sullivan here and I'll be taking you through the Munster match.    

    The match was puts back three hours at Thomond Park because of a waterlogged surface but we will be good to go at 4.0pm in Limerick.    

  • The premise for Munster is simple. Win the match and they top the pool. Win with a bonus point and they could secure a home quarter-final.  
  • Here are the teams for today's game at Thomond Park.


    Munster:  Simon Zebo; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland, Peter O'Mahony (c), Chris Cloete, CJ Stander. Replacements:  Niall Scannell, James Cronin, John Ryan, Darren O'Shea, Jack O'Donoghue, Duncan Williams, JJ Hanrahan, Alex Wootton  

    Castres Olympique:  Geoffrey Palis; Kylian Jaminet, Thomas Combezou, Robert Ebersohn (c), David Smith; Julien Dumora, Rory Kockott; Antoine Tichit, Jody Jenneker, Damien Tussac, Alexandre Bias, Thibault Lassalle, Yannick Caballero, Steve Mafi, Alex Tulou. Replacements:  Kevin Firmin, Tudor Stroe, Daniel Kotze, Victor Moreaux, Baptiste Delaporte, Yohan Domenech, Yohan Le Bourhis, Afusipa Taumoepeau.  

  • I like this response from Munster rugby to Tara's first world problem.    
  • Gerry Thornley doesn't see the result as a foregone conclusion the way the bookmakers do but everyone agrees that Munster will win. You can read his match preview here.  
  • It is 12 minutes to kickoff in Thomond Park. Wasps 7 Ulster 7 just short of the half hour in Coventry but Ireland wing Jacob Stockdale has limped off with a leg injury.  
  • We are awaiting the teams on the pitch. It's stopped raining but the surface looks horrible.  
  • Munster are 25-point favourites.  
  • Munster are waiting for Castres oand now both teams take the pitch.  
  • Just as I said no rain, a few spots appear.  
  • Players getting some sticky solution on their hands. They'll need it. Castres get the game under way.  
  • Castres on a mission to see if they can find any puddles as they explore the full width of the pitch before kicking the ball away. Simon Zeno fields and the French side will have a lineout on the Munster 22.  
  • 3 mins: solid, disciplined defence from Munster keeps Castres on the right side of the home side's 22-metre line.  
  • 4 mins: Castres kick again, Zebo, catch again and the fullback clears to the half way line.  
  • The first penalty of the match goes to Castres, Munster pinged for pulling down maul. I'm going to point the finger at Stephen Archer.  
  • 5 mins: Castres kick penalty to touch in Munster 22 but Peter O'Mahony gets up and nicks the throw. Superb.  
  • 6 mins: Castres at full of hustle and bustle without a cutting edge and this time they're undergone when  Geoffrey Palis spills the ball.    
  • There are eight minutes gone and Munster have yet to cross the half way line in possession.  
  • 9 mins: A bout of kick tennis which Ian Keatley wins and Castres get a lineout six metres inside their half.  
  • 10 mins: Brilliant break from centre  Robert Ebersohn, a 30-metre run but wing Kylian Jaminent drops the pass. Munster scrum just outside their 22.  
  • Castres wheeled the first scrum of the match a few minutes ago and they've adopted that tactic again. Referee Ben Whitehouse re-sets.  
  • Antoine Tichit and Jean Kleyn go head to head after Munster awarded a penalty.  
  • Whitehouse reverses it, rightly so, for the Munster playing starting the whole thing by patting an opponent on the head. No place for it in my opinion and more referees should follow suit.  
  • 13 mins: Castres scrumhalf Rory Kockott kicks the penalty from 26 metres.  

    Munster 0 Castres 3

  • It's started to rain again.  
  • Munster have a penalty advantage in the Castres 22.  
  • A potential sin bin here. No . A warning to Castres that they had conceded two penalty advantages in the one sequence of play. That's so much better from Munster; direct, hard and precise.  
  • PD Could we get an update on the score please, John? Thanks
  • 16 mins: Munster 0 Castres 3
  • Blow for Munster as Dave Kilcoyne limps off. James Cronin is though a very able deputy.  
  • 17 mins: Munster 3 Castres 3

    Ian Keatley kicks the penalty from about 15 metres.  

  • I know this will go down so well but as things stand with the matches the way they are at the moment Munster would play Leinster in a quarter-final. No interest in that one, would there be? Long way to go though.  
  • 19 mins: Munster have a scrum on their 10-metre line. It's the first after the change with James Cronin at loosehead. Rock solid.  

    Munster 3 Castres 3

  • 21 mins: Murray Box-kicks, Kockott box-kicks, Murray box-kicks, Palis under no pressure knocks on.    
  • Ulster are in seriously trouble in Coventry, having just conceded a third try. 19-7 down.  
  • Munster assistant coach Jerry Flannery has just said that Munster put their feet up during the three hour kickoff delay and enjoyed some extra food.  
  • Castres scrum off a turnover but Munster win a scrum penalty. Huge effort.  
  • Munster try a quick penalty Conor Murray chips through but Zebo and Keith Earls were ahead of the kicker and Whitehouse calls them back and tells them to take it again. Keatley points to the posts and nudges the ball through the uprights.

    25 mins: Munster 6 Castres 3

  • Murray with a poor box-kick but Jaminet's is woirse and goes out on the full. Munster win lineout on the Castres 22 and drive.  
  • The home side have a penalty advantage.  
  • As it stands now with the matches ongoing. leinster would be at home to the two-time and defending champions Saracens and Munster would host La Rochelle at Thomond Park.  
  • Castres concede a couple of penalties, the first for in from the side and the second for a high shot. Castres captain Ebersohn gets a warning. Keatley kicks to the corner.  
  • 30 mins: Munster's catch and drive is grounded a metre short.  
  • 31 mins: Cloete has a dart, Murray too, Conway dances inside two tacklers but slips, Murray has another go. It was a penalty advantage. Castres centre Thomas Combezou gets a yellow card for an accumulation of penalties.  
  • Earls takes a bang to the face, may ne a broken nose but he's playing on.  
  • Munster take the scrum under the posts. Whitehouse screams 'use it.' Munster don't, the scrum goes down. And the Welsh whistler gives Munster the put-in.  
  • 33: TRY Earls. Munster get a free-kick from the scrum, Murray taps quickly and the ball is whisked wide to Earls who dives over in the cirner. Great passing from Keatley and Zebo. Keatley adds the touchline conversion. Superb kick.  

    Munster 13 Castres 3

  • Earls has a black eye, a damaged nose and the game's first try. Castres still down to 14 players.  
  • The general standard of putning from both sides in this game has been poor. Plenty of charge-downs.  
  • 37 mins: Brilliant break out from Chris Farrell, he links with Murray but the scrumhalf looks to pass to Conway prematurely and the winger not expecting it spills it. Castres will have a scrum just outside their 22.  

    Munster 13 Castres 3

  • Half-time: Munster 13 Castres 3
  • The aesthetics of the performance don't really matter, so the fact that it's been an error ridden game won't make the slightest difference to Munster. They are doing exactly as they need to win the match and the pool. Ideally they'd like to add three tries in the second half and that's possible if they're a little more patient and precise, especially with the kicking game.

    Murray's are drifting too long for the most part and not giving the chasers must of an opportunity. When the scrumhalf does get it right, Munster are winning the aerial duels.  

  • Unfortunately for Ulster they are not going to make the playoffs, 26-7 behind with their hosts Wasps having scored four ties.  
  • La Rochelle need two tries in the last 10-minutes if they are to pip Munster for a home quarter-final as things stand at half-time at Thomond Park.  

    Quarter-finals: Leinster v Saracens; Clermont v Racing 92; Scarlets v Toulon; Munster v La Rochelle.  

  • If Leinster finish as first seeds and Munster as fourth seeds then the two Irish provinces would meet in a semi-final if both won their quarter-finals.  
  • Right La Rochelle have won 16-7, a great effort from a weakened Harlequins. Munster don't need to score four tries just win and they'll host La Rochelle. If they do score four tries and win by more than five points they'd face Toulon.  

    Leinster will definitely face the two-time defending champions, Saracens.    

  • We're back under way at Thomond Park.  
  • Ulster lost 26-7 and are unfortunately out of the Champions Cup.

    Castres are back to a full complement of players as Combezou returns for the sin bin.

    Munster 13 Castres 3.

  • 42 mins: Munster replacement: John Ryan for Archer.  
  • Castres concede another penalty, that's their eighth.  
  • Munster will kick to the corner.  
  • TRY: Marshall. The Munster hooker collapses over the line after Kleyn wins the lineout and the home side are very compact and powerful in their maul. Keatley kicks the conversion.

    44 mins: Munster 20 Castres 3  

  • 47 mins: Castres replacements Kevin Firmin for Jenneker
  • 47 mins: N Scannell for try scorer Marshall
  • 48 mins: Munster win a scrum penalty, kick to the corner but as the maul goes over the Castres line, CJ Stander is held up.  
  • If Munster score two more tries and in doing so go past the Scarlets aggregate points' difference, they would host Toulon rather than La Rochelle and as third seeds would no longer be in the same half of the draw as Leinster and therefore could not meet their fellow Irish province until the final.  
  • Castres offer up another scrum penalty, Munster elect to go again, front rows stand up, re-set.  
  • 52 mins: Munster 20 (two tries) Castres 3
  • Another penalty against Castres. Munster thought they had scored on an advantage through Earls but called back for a forward pass. Whitehouse again warbs Castres. It's a joke. They should have another player in the bin. Weak, weak, refereeing.  
  • Munster go for another scrum.  
  • NO TRY: Murray. The scrumhalf picks and goes on the blindside and pirouettes out of a couple of tackles to dot down. Whitehouse wants a look on the big screen to see if Murray loses the ball briefly on the way down. The referee and the TMO adjudge that he has. Whitehouse again warns Castres. This is incomprehensible from Whitehouse.    

  • Another scrum penalty and the Castres replacement tighthead Daniel Koetze receives a yellow card. Tussac back on.  
  • 56 mins: Tussac pinged for not driving straight and hooker Firmin for standing up.  

    Munster 27 Castres 3  

  • One more try for Munster will give them a home quarter-final against three-time champions Toulon.

  • TRY: Zebo
  • 60 mins: Wonderful break from Earls, brilliant footwork and a super duper finish from Zebo. Keatley kicks the conversion.

    Munster 34 Castres 3

  • Munster will now face Toulon in the quarter-finals and the winner of that match will play either Clermont Auvergne or Racing 92.

    Leinster will play Saracens and the winner of that match will face the winners of the game between the Scarlets and La Rochelle.  

  • Darren O'Shea is on for Holland and Alex Wootton for the outstanding Earls.  
  • Castres have made several changes, none of which will matter to most of you at this point given the state of play in the game.  
  • Gorgeous kick from Keatley. Castres will have a lineout six metres from their line.  
  • It was his last involvement. JJ Hanrahan replaces him.  
  • 65 mins: Munster 34 Castres 3
  • Jack O'Donoghue on for Munster replacing Cloete.  
  • Munster win another penalty and kick to corner.  
  • TRY: Wootton wriggles past a mass of bodies after the ball shot out of the maul. Great finish.  
  • JJ Hanrahan kicks the conversion.

    68 mins: Munster 41 Castres 3

  • Duncan Williams on for Conor Murray.  
  • It's been pipe and slippers time for most of the second half as far as the Munster supporters are concerned. Castres have wilted under the pressure from Munster, who have been more accurate and precise. The French side's discipline though has been shocking.  
  • Castres have conceded 15 penalties to Munster's four.  
  • Castres going through the phases Munster happy to offer a solid red wall.  
  • 74 mins: Munster 41 Castres 3
  • Man of the match: Keith Earls. No argument here. Honorable mentions to Peter O'Mahony, Jean Kleyn, CJ Stander and Rhys Marshall.  
  • James Cronin made an immediate impact when he came on in the first half for the unfortunate Kilcoyne.  
  • There are two minutes left. Munster have a lineout just outside their 22.    
  • 16 penalties, two yellow cards and a penalty try; you don't have to look too hard to ascertain where Castres lost this match.  
  • 17 penalties and counting...........
  • Last play of the game, Munster lineout six metres out.  
  • TRY: James Cronin.  
  • Munster's sixth try. Hanrahan nails the conversion with the last play of the game.

    Full-time: Munster 48 Castres 3

  • It's a record 17th European quarter-final for Munster. Thoroughly deserved.  

    Leinster (1) v Saracens (8)

    Scarlets (4) v La Rochelle (5)

    Munster (3) v Toulon (6)

    Clermont (2) v Racing 92 (7)  

  • SEMI-FINALS: Leinster/Saracens will meet Scarlets/La Rochelle; Clermont/Racing 92 v Munster/Toulon.  

  • Munster and Leinster are through to the quarter-finals where both will be at home to the teams that have won the last five Champions Cups in Toulon and Saracens. Ulster unfortunately failed to qualify after their 26-7 defeat to Wasps in Coventry.  
  • Gerry Thornley's match report should be in soon. Thank you for our company and input. A great way to finish a pretty good weekend for Irish rugby that included Connacht securing a home quarter-final in the Challenge Cup, where they will face Gloucester.