Weekend Review – December 20-22

Posted: December 23, 2013 in Europe
Tags: , , , ,

Another week, another last-minute win for Munster.

It was back to league competition this weekend, as the Heineken Cup is on hiatus until the second weekend of January. In the Pro 12, Scarlets traveled to Cork to face Munster, and came very close to a rare win at Thomond Park, a notoriously difficult stadium for away teams. Both sides were understrength, as Munster coach Rob Penney and his Scarlets counterpart Simon Easterby opted for squad rotation after consecutive weeks of intense European competition.

Bad conditions prevented the two sides from playing much running rugby, and they went into halftime tied 3-3. Scarlets took the lead a few minutes into the second half thanks to a converted John Barclay try, and Munster responded with two penalties to cut the Scarlets’ lead to 10-9. Scarlets went down to 14 men in the 73rd minute, and then had to play the last four minutes of the match with just 13 men after Michael Poole joined his teammate Rob Evans in the sin bin. As with last week, Munster found themselves in possession after the siren, knowing any mistake would mean defeat.  And once again, it was JJ Hanrahan, (this week playing flyhalf), in the center of the action.  Some good work from the Munster pack got them within a few meters of the Scarlets’ tryline, and then Hanrahan spotted Ronan O’Mahony – in acres of space thanks to Munster’s numerical advantage – and duly found him with a crossfield kick. It appeared that Munster and Ireland prop Dave Kilcoyne had knocked on in the build-up, but after consultation with the Television Match Official (TMO), referee Nigel Owens decided to award the try.

Meanwhile, in the English Premiership, Saracens made a huge statement with a dominant 49-10 victory over perennial contenders Leicester. Much-maligned England wing Chris Ashton scored two tries, while rising star Billy Vunipola also touched down for Saracens.

Finally, in the French Top 14, Toulon were rampant, defeating Montpellier 43-10. The result raised a few eyebrows. Toulon were just two points ahead of Montpellier in the league standings going into the match, but you wouldn’t have guessed it – such was the gulf in class between the two sides. Several of Toulon’s bevy of international stars got themselves on the scoresheet, with South African Juan Smith, Australian Drew Mitchell, and Englishman Steffon Armitage all scoring tries.

Below, O’Mahony’s winning try for Munster.

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