Munster v Exeter: Tadhg Beirne frustrated as endgame proves costly for Munster

Graham Rowntree’s Munster men left with plenty of work to do to reach the knockout stages following defeat to Exeter

Tadhg Beirne could not conceal his disappointment at the manner in which Munster let slip a game they had largely controlled for an hour, as well as the decision by Mathieu Raynal to award Exeter a debatable try in the game’s final play which sealed a damaging 32-24 defeat.

Munster led 24-13 entering the final quarter having secured an offensive bonus point by the 50th minute with one of four fine tries. But their captain for the day, and perhaps for the season, admitted they lacked a little composure after the match turned against them with two quick-fire Exeter tries in the 62nd and 64th minutes.

“Maybe we lacked a little bit of composure at times but you’ve got to give credit to Exeter. They know their home ground better than anyone and I think they played with the wind very cleverly in the second half. They pinned us into the corner a few times and we were still in it, and then a bounce of a ball goes against us, and then at the very end there, a decision that you can probably tell I didn’t agree with it.

“But that was the decision made and we were under posts twice there. A tough one to take for sure. We definitely had chances to turn the tide and get back into their half and even grab a score. But we probably just made a few too many errors.”


Beirne engaged in a lengthy conversation with Raynal after he reviewed Slade’s 79th minute intercept try when the English centre picked off Conor Murray’s pass amid the traffic of two lazy runners and the French referee himself, before awarding the score.

“I think there were two or three lazy runners. Even he himself is probably in the way of the pass. If ‘Mur’ decides to throw the ball at one of them it’s a penalty all day. We’re trying to play there and they’re in the way of us hitting the ‘10′, and he tries to throw it to the second man and they intercept it.

“But they’re in the way of the pass in the first place. To me it’s offside but he felt they weren’t in the way and they weren’t offside so that was the decision made.

“We’ve said it a few times. We were already losing the game at that point and we could have put the game to bed a lot earlier, so we’re not going to blame a referee. Whether we agree with him or not that was his decision. We had ample opportunities before that to put ourselves in a better position.

“I was just questioning his decision. He said he [Slade] wasn’t offside and I was like: That’s fine, if Slade wasn’t offside, I was questioning the other three players that were coming back that were in the way of the pass.

“He just said that he’d made his decision and I asked him to have another look at it because it was a big moment in our competition. We felt that we needed to win this if we wanted to have an opportunity of topping or even coming second in the group, and now we’re in a position where we’ll be fighting for the top four.”

This defeat compounds Munster’s draw at home to Bayonne a week ago, leaving them fifth in Pool 3, some six points behind Northampton and Exeter. A home Round of 16 tie now looks a very tall ask, and they still have work to do reach the knockout stages.

“We are the world’s specialists at leaving ourselves a tough job and making things hard for ourselves. Factually, the world leaders in making life tough for ourselves. We’ll deal with that when it comes.

“So much good stuff tonight in our game, both sides of the ball, then it just got away from us in that last quarter. I don’t think it’s a fitness thing, I don’t think it’s a tactical thing or a substitution thing. You just look at the moment we’ve got to be better in. That’s all I’ve got for you.”

Munster head coach Graham Rowntree also accepted his side lacked composure.

“We will look at it when we’ve all calmed down. We’ll look at those moments where we’ve got to be more composed, where we don’t have to pass the ball, where we need to hang on to the ball,” he said.

“As a trait we are normally good in the last quarter of the game. We won a semi-final last year, won a final in the last quarter. This year, the games we have lost, we have been strong in the last quarter. We will just look at what tactically and technically we can do better.

“There is another big game coming around the corner,” he added in reference to the marquee St Stephen’s Day rendezvous with Leinster at a sold-out Thomond Park. “Just another big game coming.”

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Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times