Joey Carbery proves the big cheese as Munster roll Gloucester
Outhalf scores 26 points as Johann van Graan’s side make a huge statement
Munster’s Joey Carbery celebrates scoring the opening try with Peter O’Mahony and Rory Scannell during the Heineken Champions Cup match against Gloucester at Kingsholm. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Gloucester 15 Munster 41
So much for another dramatic white-knuckle ride. It might still turn out that way yet, but thanks to Munster’s ruthless efficiency this was more a bloodless coup, and a bonus-point win pushes them well clear atop Pool 2 in the Heineken Champions Cup.
Exeter can still take it down to the wire in Thomond Park next weekend by moving within four points of Munster with a bonus-point win at home to Castres on Sunday, but Munster made a statement here. This was their first-choice team, for the first time this season, and there’s still plenty of room for improvement.
Their physicality was simply too much for Gloucester, who are more geared for a footloose and fancy game. By contrast, Munster’s foot soldiers all put in a shift, with David Kilcoyne, Tadhg Beirne, Jean Kleyn, CJ Stander and Peter O’Mahony having huge games, the only blemish being that the latter departed with an apparent rib injury early in the second half. But the bench added real impact to.
Despite the garish light green against garish pink, Munster’s pack outmuscled Gloucester at scrum time, disrupted their lineout and caused the home back three havoc in the air, where Tom Hudson will have nightmares about Conor Murray’s box kicking.
What will have delighted the Red Army here and at home was some of Munster’s continuity and their new-found clinical edge, which yielded five tries, all by the backs.
A classy Joey Carbery was in cruise control. He landed seven from seven and chipped in with two tries in a haul of 26 points. In three games since his Castres blip, Carbery has kicked 17 from 17 and scored 56 points. Despite the age gap, he already has as many Test caps as Danny Cirpriani, who he thoroughly eclipsed on the patch where the English outhalf is adored, with his smooth distribution, game management, playing to the system, tackling and goal-kicking.
Rory Scannell took a key try and Chris Farrell added oomph with his lines of running, with Keith Earls and Andrew Conway adding a cutting edge and a try apiece. Twice Gloucester hinted at making a match of it, and twice Munster stifled them and the famed Shed.
In truth Munster did not begin especially well in a scrappy start. Mike Haley was beaten in the air to a short restart by Gerbrandt Grobler, albeit Beirne put sufficient pressure on the former Munster man when Gloucester went to the corner to earn a relieving turnover.
Beirne couldn’t bring in Niall Scannell’s first, slightly overdone throw and Murray overcooked his first two bombs, which led to a harsh penalty against Beirne at the breakdown from which Billy Twelvetrees opened the scoring.
But that seemed to focus their minds. Their first passage of continuity, Stander to the fore, yielded a penalty for a glaring case of offside against Lewis Ludlow. Carbery levelled matters.
Gloucester were struggling in the air and on the ground at scrum time, where a third penalty saw Munster go up the line. Stander trucked it up through Gloucester’s guts, Farrell (twice), Murray and Kleyn maintaining the direct approach before Kleyn’s decoy run helped create an inviting gap for Carbery to score off Murray’s pass.
He added the conversion and another penalty, won by Beirne’s presence at the breakdown to make it 13-3. For a spell Munster let Gloucester off the hook. Mark Atkinson cut out Murray’s pass to Beirne, Niall Scannell’s next throw was crooked, but Haley brushed past Cipriani’s weak tackle after Conway gathered the latter’s grubber and Tom Hudson’s third spillage in the air proved crucial.
Munster attacked for 26 phases off another strong scrum, moving well past the 40 metre mark, before Rory Scannell bounced out of Charlie Sharples’s weak tackle and beat the covering Callum Braley on the inside.
Carbery’s conversion closing out the half at 20-3; a fair return for over 70 per cent territory and possession.
It wasn’t quite game over, but the next score would be it.
However, Munster started the second half just as sloppily, literally from Carbery’s kick-off, which didn’t go 10. So he wasn’t perfect. Kilcoyne was pinged at a Gloucester put-in, Farrell for playing the ball on the deck, and Murray for a high tackle, while O’Mahony departed with a rib injury as Billy Holland came in and Beirne switched to the blindside.
Gloucester went through 36 phases, mostly pick and goes save for Keith Earls’s try-saving tackle on Sharples, before eventually breaching Munster’s astonishing defence when Cipriani went wide to Ollie Thorley.
But Twelvetrees’s conversion hit the post and Murray earned an attacking scrum from the restart when realising there was no ruck and therefore no offside line to nab Braley. Stander charged again off a tap penalty from the scrum, Kleyn and Rory Scannell trucked it up before he skipped blind to Holland who literally handed Earls the try. Carbery also nailed the touchline conversion.
Munster seemed to have a bonus-point try on the hour by Conway after superb build-up play but Romain Poite and his French TMO went back to detect that Farrell’s offload to Conway had gone forward.
Instead, Thorley was brought into midfield to beat Farrell’s tackle and after again going to the corner Fraser Balmain rumbled over.
No matter. More fine build-up play, Arno Botha adding ballast off the bench, culminated in Carbery deftly grubbering, left-footed, in the tightest of spaces for Conway to speed onto the ball and finish for the bonus point.
Within a minute, Carbery picked off Ben Morgan’s pass to score his second try, his conversion completing a seven from seven return. Some player. Some performance by him and his team-mates. They still have work to do but they look like contenders again.
SCORING SEQUENCE: 14 mins Twelvetrees pen 3-0; 20 mins Carbery pen 3-3; 24 mins Carbery try and con 3-10; 27 mins Carbery pen 3-13; 40 mins R Scannell try, Caerbery con 3-20; (half-time 3-20); 52 mins Thorley try 8-20; 56 mins Earls try, Carbery con 8-27; 64 mins Balmain try, Twelvetrees con 15-27; 67 mins Conway try, Carbery con 15-34; 68 mins Carbery try and con 15-41.
GLOUCESTER: Tom Hudson; Charlie Sharples, Billy Twelvetrees, Mark Atkinson, Ollie Thorley; Danny Cipriani, Callum Braley; Josh Hohneck, Henry Walker, Fraser Balmain; Ed Slater, Gerbrandt Grobler; Franco Mostert, Lewis Ludlow, Ben Morgan (Capt).
Replacements: Freddie Clarke for Grobler (58 mins), Ben Vellacott for Braley, Owen Williams for Cipriani (both 69), Franco Marais for Walker (75), Alex Seville for Hohneck, Ciaran Knight for Balmain, Gareth Evans for Morgan, Henry Trinder for Twelvetrees (all 71).
MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O’Mahony (Capt), Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Billy Holland for O’Mahony (46 mins), John Ryan for Archer, Arno Botha for O’Donnell (both 58), Jeremy Loughman for Kilcoyne (60), Rhys Marshall for N Scannell, Alby Mathewson for Murray, Dan Goggin for Farrell (all 69), Tyler Bleyendaal for Carbery (71).
Referee: Romain Poite (France).