Heineken Cup 2014: Three talking points as Munster beat Toulouse
Heineken Cup 2014: Three talking points as Munster are 47-23 winners against Toulouse on Saturday
Munster maul Toulouse
Rob Penney’s side bounced back from defeat against Leinster last week to secure an 11th semi-final in 15 years in typical Munster style. It was far from a perfect performance, but such was the gulf in class they didn’t need to be and their European dream continues with a clash against Leinster at the Aviva Stadium or trip to Marseille to face reigning champions Toulon. Even the disappointment of losing captain Peter O’Mahony early in the first half could derail the Munster party in Limerick as his replacement CJ Stander produced a stunning man of the match performance which saw him top carries made (10), metres made (37) and tackles made (10). Once again, their driving maul was unstoppable while scrum-half Conor Murray was influential in two tries as he broke off the maul to dive for the line – Kilcoyne and Stander the beneficiaries from the next phases. Toulouse are known for their power pack, but failed to compete at the set piece.
Toulouse need more Gears
The four-time Heineken Cup champions have been a formidable force in the tournament in its history, but only had a brief spell in the second half to show for their efforts. As with the France national side, Toulouse have been woeful on the road this season and are a club on the slide in the Top14, so it was no surprise that they fell well short in their biggest game of the season; Munster infringements doing more to get them in the game than their own attacking efforts. Hosea Gear’s break for Toulouse’s first try was a moment of magic as the game opened up while Centre Gaël Fickou and replacement prof Cyril Baille showed signs of promise going forward and the youngsters will undoubtedly be around for years to come, but Toulouse lacked creativity and could do with a few more of the New Zealander’s ilk, which makes his loss at the end of the season a huge loss to Japanese second division side Honda Heat. There will be big disappointment that they failed to compete against the Munster driving maul, but it would have taken a big ask given their current problems.
The spirit of 2008 lives on
The first quarter-final of the weekend evoked plenty of memories of Munster’s Heineken Cup success in 2008. Veterans Paul O’Connell, Donncha O’Callaghan were in the match-day squad along with a fresh-faced Keith Earls. Nigel Owens the referee. Toulouse and head coach Guy Noves the opposition and the final was held the Millennium Stadium, as it will be next month. The result on this occasion was emphatic and much more comfortable than the titanic encounter when Munster needed the goal kicking of Ronan O’Gara to come from behind to defeat the French side and withstand late pressure.. In Limerick, it was Ian Keatley who kept the scoreboard ticking over from the tee, despite some misses before the forwards led the charge. The likes of O’Gara, John Hayes, Peter Stringer, Marcus Horan, David Wallace and Alan Quinlan may no longer be around but in Keatley, Simon Zebo, Conor Murray, Felix Jones, Peter O’Mahony and CJ Stander Munster have the foundations of another squad capable of landing silverware.