URC Semi-finals: A disastrous day for Irish rugby.

Live Blog: Bulls 25 Leinster 20

Leinster live on on the edge in the early stages of this match with the Bulls moving the ball wide quickly with some accurate cross-kicking and with a Bulls try disallowed for Ross Byrne being taken out off the ball. Leinster are then lucky to get a penalty at the breakdown but Ross Byrne misses from distance. Petersen is yellow carded for a deliberate knock on and Lowe scores down the blind side. Byrne makes the touchline conversion 7-0.

Fourteen man Bulls come back and Goosen gets in from close in after some forward pick and goes.  He’s been dominating the play with some good kicking. 7-7. Leinster are dealing with the high balls well, but this is exhausting stuff at altitude. The physicality is fantastic from both sides but the Bulls have the edge at the scrum and get a penalty. Goosen nails it and the Bulls lead 10-7 at h/t.

Shortly after half time Peterson wins a foot race to the line after another probing kick ahead and the game threatens to run away from Leinster 17-7. Leinster went on the offensive and Doris got over the line from close in to make it 17-14. A couple of penalties from Ross Byrne and one from Goosen makes it 20-20 until a moment of genius from Petersen decided the tie. He manages to get above Frawley under a high ball, scooping the ball forward but catching it on the run to score a great try. 25-20.

Leinster attacked for 23 phases but can’t find a way past a very committed defence. The Bulls emerged deserving winners after a match of test match intensity. The worrying thing for Ireland’s tour to South Africa is that the Leinster pack couldn’t impose themselves and were marginally second best in the scrums. Gibson-Park Lowe, Henshaw, and O’Brien did what they could to take the initiative but could find no way past a committed defence.

I thought Leinster were unlucky with some tight refereeing decisions against Toulouse, but here there could be no excuses. The Bulls were the better team on the day. Leinster lacked cutting edge and outright pace in the backs and could do no better than parity up front. Once again their lack of a running threat at 10 cost them, with Goosen the most influential player on the pitch.

For Leinster it’s back to the drawing board. They need to accelerate the development of Prendergast at 10 and find a decent replacement for Ala’alatoa up front. There isn’t much wrong with the team, but on this occasion, they just weren’t good enough.

BULLS: Willie le Roux; Sergeal Petersen, David Kriel, Harold Vorster, Devon Williams; Johan Goosen, Embrose Papier; Gerhard Steenekamp, Johan Grobbelaar, Wilco Louw; Ruan Vermaak, Ruan Nortje (capt); Marco Van Staden, Elrigh Louw, Cameron Hanekom

Replacements: Akker van der Merwe, Simphiwe Matanzima, Francois Klopper, Reinhardt Ludwig, Nizaam Carr, Keagan Johannes, Chris Smith, Cornel Smit.

LEINSTER: Jimmy O’Brien; Jordan Larmour, Garry Ringrose, Robbie Henshaw, James Lowe; Ross Byrne, Jamison Gibson-Park; Andrew Porter, Dan Sheehan, Tadhg Furlong; Joe McCarthy, James Ryan (capt); Ryan Baird, Josh van der Flier, Caelan Doris.

Replacements: Rónan Kelleher, Cian Healy, Michael Ala’alatoa, Ross Molony, Jack Conan, Luke McGrath, Ciarán Frawley, Jamie Osborne.

Referee: Sam Grove-White (Sco).

Munster 10 Glasgow 17

Munster started at one hundred miles an hour and soon had Glasgow on the back foot but Crowley missed a relatively straightforward penalty on 4 minutes. A miss-placed pass and a line-out overthrow had Glasgow attacking the line but Munster managed to poach the ball. Glasgow concede four penalties in a row which allows Munster regain the initiative. Two penalties later and Piardi wields a yellow card for Richie Gray. Surprisingly, Munster take the three despite the Glasgow pack being down a man. 3-0

Then Scannell throws the ball so crooked, it is almost straight to Casey. What is it about his line-out throwing? Every match he has at least one crooked and one over-throw. It’s not as if Munster don’t have good line-out jumpers. Glasgow are making life difficult for themselves with a kick direct to touch and running the ball across their posts. The Munster eight destroy the Glasgow seven in the scrum but Glasgow survive. Crowley has been making some incisive breaks – precisely what Ross Byrne can’t do for Leinster.

A misplaced pass by Frisch gives Kyle Steyn a free run in for a try totally against the run of play. 3-7. Munster start getting a bit frantic and making mistakes – Casey knocks on, Daly runs into his own man, Crowley overcooks a cross-kick. The Munster attack is not as fluid as it has been. Zebo almost gets in but Wycherly is penalised at the maul.

Munster lose another line-out and find it difficult to make head-way against a committed defence. A penalty for an elbow to the neck fend gives Munster another penalty, but again the Glasgow hold out. Another high tackle on O’Mahony gives Fagerson a yellow and Munster another chance just before half-time, but again they manage to dally on the ball at the breakdown and concede a turnover. 3-7 h/t.

This has been an error strewn performance by both teams with defences on top. Munster have had 64% of possession and a number of half chances and will rue not having taken at least one. Glasgow will draw confidence from being still in the game but will be a man down for the first nine minutes of the second half. Are Munster clinical enough to take advantage?

Josh McKay gets a lucky bounce and then wins a penalty, Whycherly concedes another and then the Munster maul concedes a third. Glasgow are running down the clock on the yellow card very effectively. Munster need to settle down just a bit and Beirne does the needful with a poach at the breakdown.

The Munster subs come on early on 45 minutes but a Cancelliere intercepts another pass. Munster concede a penalty but George Horne misses against the wind. Huw Jones creates a try from nothing with a burst of acceleration on the outside and Munster don’t have the pace to catch Cancelliere.  Once again Glasgow score with fourteen men and Horne makes the conversion. 3-14 .

Frisch makes a break, but Darge poaches again. Frisch finally gets in in the corner and Crowley makes the touchline conversion. 10-14.

Both sides continue to make mistakes and the clock winds down. The Fields of Athenry breaks out  but Munster don’t seem to be able to buy a break. Glasgow frustrate them at every turn and win a scrum penalty followed by a not rolling away penalty and side entry clear out resulting in a harsh red card for Nankivell. 10-17. Munster will have to do this the hard way.

An ill-advised off-load by Snyman to Ryan results in a knock-on and Glasgow draw out the proceedings as much as possible with several resets and hold out for the win.

This has been a disastrous day for Irish Rugby. Too winnable matches lost by tight margins. Neither Leinster nor Munster were at their best and both the Bulls and Glasgow deserved their wins. Having three quarterfinalists and two semi-finalists is not a bad haul, but ultimately it means nothing if you can’t at least make the final.

The limitations of Irish rugby were laid bare – a lack of out and out pace out wide in the backs and a failure to gain any significant advantage up front.  The Ireland tour to South Africa could be a painful experience.

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Shane Daly, Antoine Frisch, Alex Nankivell, Simon Zebo; Jack Crowley, Craig Casey; Jeremy Loughman, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Fineen Wycherley, Tadhg Beirne (capt); Peter O’Mahony, John Hodnett, Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, John Ryan, Oli Jager, RG Snyman, Gavin Coombes, Conor Murray, Seán O’Brien, Alex Kendellen.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: Josh McKay; Sebastian Cancelliere, Huw Jones, Sione Tuipulotu, Kyle Steyn (capt); Tom Jordan, George Horne; Jamie Bhatti, Johnny Matthews, Zander Fagerson; Scott Cummings, Richie Gray; Matt Fagerson, Rory Darge, Jack Dempsey.

Replacements: George Turner, Oli Kebble, Murphy Walker, Max Williamson, Euan Ferrie, Henco Venter, Jamie Dobie, Ross Thompson.

Referee: Andrea Piardi (Ita).


Ireland U20 World Cup squad

The Ireland u.20 squad for the World Rugby Championships in South Africa has been announced and there is a better balance between the provinces with Leinster (11), Munster (8), Ulster (6), and Connacht (4) all having substantial representation, although Ulster’s representation is bolstered by 3 players they have just signed from the Leinster sub-academy – Jack Murphy (son of head coach Richie), Wilhelm de Klerk, and Sam Berman.

Five players return from last year’s squad which reached the final – Evan O’Connell, Brian Gleeson, Danny Sheahan, Hugh Gavin, and Sam Berman and they are joined by some stars from this year’s 6 Nations squad which were unbeaten in that tournament – particularly Bryn Ward, Jack Murphy, Ben O’Conner and Wilhelm de Klerk. As with all Irish teams, the critical issue is whether we can win the battle of the tight fives. With a good set of backs, even parity up front would be enough for this squad to do very well again.

Forwards (17):

Alex Usanov (Clontarf FC/Leinster), Stephen Smyth (Old Wesley RFC/Leinster), Patreece Bell (Sale Sharks/IQ Rugby), Alan Spicer (UCD RFC/Leinster), Evan O’Connell (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster)(capt), James McKillop (Queen’s University RFC/Ulster), Max Flynn (Corinthians RFC/Connacht), Brian Gleeson (Garryowen FC/Munster), Emmet Calvey (Shannon RFC/Munster), Danny Sheahan (Cork Constitution FC/Munster), Jacob Boyd (Queen’s University Belfast RFC/Ulster), Billy Corrigan (Old Wesley RFC/Leinster), Sean Edogbo (UCC RFC/Munster), Bryn Ward (Ballynahinch RFC/Ulster), Luke Murphy (Shannon RFC/Munster), Mikey Yarr (Lansdowne FC/Leinster), Andrew Sparrow (UCD RFC/Leinster).

Backs (13):

Oliver Coffey (Blackrock College RFC/Leinster), Jack Murphy (Clontarf FC/Ulster), Hugo McLaughlin (Lansdowne FC/Leinster), Hugh Gavin (Galwegians RFC/Connacht), Wilhelm de Klerk (UCD RFC/Ulster), Finn Treacy (Galwegians RFC/Connacht), Ben O’Connor (UCC RFC/Munster), Tadhg Brophy (Naas RFC/Leinster), Sean Naughton (Galway Corinthians RFC/Connacht), Sam Berman (Terenure RFC/Ulster), Davy Colbert (Dublin University FC/Leinster), Ruben Moloney (UCD RFC/Leinster), Jake O’Riordan (UL Bohemian RFC/Munster).





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