Wasps 14 Munster 35
Another unlikely win and yet another chapter in Munster’s storied history with the Champions Cup. Granted the odds receded when an injury-hit Wasps were hit by four positive Covid cases and further reshuffling, and all the more so when Wasps captain Brad Shields was sent off in the 25th minute.
Nevertheless, this was vintage Munster, standing up and fighting defiantly after the most adverse build-up they’ve ever had to a game.
The unlikely, never to be repeated amalgam of nine Test match animals and a dozen debutants, of whom eight are members of the Munster academy, were immense. The focus will understandably go on the young guns.
The 19-year-old Young Munster fullback Patrick Campbell scored a try, as did 21-year-old hooker and official man of the match Scott Buckley. The Waterpark lock Eoin O'Connor had his moments, as most definitely did the 19-year-old Irish Under-20s number eight Daniel Okeke with some barnstorming charges.
But the leaders were immense, not least Peter O'Mahony. Immense in the air, he gave a sensational all-court performance, Tadhg Beirne was every bit as good, with Conor Murray assured in all he did and Andrew Conway as sharp as a razor out wide as Munster used their numerical advantage to good effect in a madcap match.
The scrum creaked but, helpfully, there weren’t too many of them.
The miracle was that the match went ahead at all, and in light of Wasps’ Covid outbreak, the odds on a Munster win went from 10-3 to 7-5. Needless to say, the Red Army rallied to the cause, appearing to provide around half of the attendance and a sparsely populated Coventry Building Society Arena on a moderately chilly but perfect day for rugby in the midlands.
Critically, O’Mahony tracked the quicker Thomas Young to the corner flag and tackled him over the touchline in a try-saving piece of defending early on.
Munster had a couple of other reprieves, and a huge defensive set, O’Mahony, Murray and Beirne putting their shoulders to the wheel when Wasps went to the corner.
After Carbery opened the scoring, Jimmy Gopperth hit the upright with a 45-metre penalty before the Wasps captain Brad Shields was red carded by Romain Poite when his shoulder caught David Kilcoyne’s chin in the tackle.
Carbery contrived to hit the upright from in front of the posts but with Poite favouring defending players over the ball, where John Hodnett and Beirne were a constant threat, the latter's presence led to Dan Frost crawling on the deck for Carbery to immediately atone.
One exhausting exchange, more akin to a basketball match, saw Munster respond to a Wasps break out with a daring counter-attack by Patrick Campbell, O’Mahony, Beirne and Earls, whereupon Alfie Barbeary released Wolstenholme for another kick and chase.
Carbery countered, Wasps won the turnver and Wolstenholme moved it wide where Michael Le Bourgeois stepped an exhausted O’Mahony and put Barbeary over.
Munster were then rewarded for going to the corner, before keeping it tight and resourcing the rucks. With an advantage, Murray chipped deftly into the endgoal with the outside of his right boot, the ball wickedly bouncing away from both Chris Farrell and two defenders for Earls to keep his cool and touchdown.
After Eoin O’Connor charged down Wolstenholme’s box kick and offloaded to a charging Beirne, Frost killed the ball from the Munster side for as clear a yellow card as you’ll see.
Munster missed a trick when opting for a tap penalty rather than a scrum against 13 men, Poite detecting a knock-on in the ensuing close-range siege.
But on the resumption they made their two-man advantage tell decisively. Beirne did the initial damage with a sharp pick off the base and break before offloading to Conway. Keeping their width, they worked the ball to create a three on two, and Campbell backed himself to skate between two defenders and round the posts.
Wasps looked to have numbers a plenty off a turnover inside their 10-metre line, but Tim Cardall could only flap at Nizaam Carr’s no-look pass behind him, Conway picking up to saunter in untouched.
The young Munster tyros were enjoying themselves no end, Okeke making another couple of mighty charges before they went to the corner again after Youngs’ deliberate knock-on.
Buckley found the fully extended and elastic O’Mahony at the tail, and O’Connor transferred the ball to Beirne for his inside pass to give Buckley a free run to the line. Straight off the training ground. Take a bow Graham Rowntree/Ian Costello.
Michael Le Bourgeois did crash over, eluding Hodnett when he was blocked by Poite’s positioning before Carbery’s penalty made it 35-14. Carbery was really starting to enjoy himself before being helped off after what seemed like a totally unnecessary and cheap shot by Bomber Hislop which somehow the TMO overlooked.
The bench having been emptied to accommodate seven more debutants, they saw off one final attack by Wasps with a thunderous hit by Mark Donnelly, whereupon O’Mahony, Beirne and the kids went into a tight, prolonged circle.
By then The Fields had been echoing around the stadium, as it had done at the start, but now only louder.
When it’s your day, it’s your day.
Scoring sequence: 7 mins Carbery pen 0-3; 28 mins Carbery pen 0-6; 31 mins Barbeary try, Gopperth con 7-6; 35 Earls try, Carbery con 7-13; (half-time 7-13); 43 mins Campbell try 7-18; 48 mins Conway try, Carbery con 7-25; 57 mins Buckley try, Carbery con 7-32; 64 mins le Bourgeois try, Gopperth con 14-32; 67 mins Carbery pen 14-35.
Wasps: Marcus Watson; Zach Kibirige, Josh Bassett, Michael Le Bourgeois, Luke Mehson; Jimmy Gopperth, Sam Wolstenholme; Tom West, Dan Frost, Bi Alo; Brad Shields (capt), Tim Cardall; Nizaam Carr, Thomas Young, Alfie Barbeary. Replacements: Jeffery Toomaga-Allen for Alo, Gabriel Oghre for Barbeary (both half-time), Bomber Hislop for West (51 mins), Kieran Curran for Carr (58 mins), Michael van Vuuren for Frost (66 mins), Cameron Anderson for Watson (71 mins), Tommy Mathews for Bassett (73 mins). Not used - Will Porter. Sent off: Shields (25 mins). Sinbinned - (Frost (40-50 mins)
Munster: Patrick Campbell; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Damian de Allende, Keith Earls; Joey Carbery, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Scott Buckley, James French; Eoin O'Connor, Tadhg Beirne; Peter O'Mahony (capt), John Hodnett, Daniel Okeke. Replacements: Roman Salanoa for French (56 mins), Mark Donnelly for Kilcoyne (65 mins), Declan Moore for Buckley, John Forde for O'Connor, Conor Moloney for Hodnett (all 71 mins), Jonathan Wren for Campbell, Tony Butler for Carbery (both 73 mins), Ethan Coughlan for Murray (77 mins).
Referee: Romain Poite (France)