Munster 9 Exeter Chiefs 7
So there was to be no miracle for Exeter Chiefs at Thomond Park but the Premiership club contributed to a compelling contest that culminated with Munster ensuring that all three Irish provinces progressed to the quarter-final of the Heineken Champions Cup but only by the narrowest of margins.
Exeter had required a win by four clear match points to complete what would have been a Houdini-like escape from Pool Two having failed to win any of their first three match, having drawn with Munster and losing to Castres away and Gloucester at home.
Yet despite leading 7-6 at half-time and dominating much of the second half of this ferocious contest, it is Munster who progress to the quarter-finals for the 18thtime, after a third penalty by Joey Carbery clinched victory to set up a trip to Edinburgh.
Exeter scored the only try of the game through a first-half effort by Don Armand and were left to rue a number of missed opportunities in a tense second half.
Exeter had gone into the contest with a simple yet daunting brief. Having looked dead and buried in this competition after the first three rounds, Baxter’s side resurgence had keep their qualification hope alive yet it required a victory here while also denying Munster a match point, or win with a try bonus-point.
Exeter would find little comfort either in Munster’s home record in Europe, with the Irish province seeking their 12th successive victory in this tournament in Limerick.
Munster attempted to reinforce their aura of invincibility in the early exchanges, attempting to stifle any Exeter momentum with a ferocious defensive line-speed while Conor Murray exerted pressure on the Chiefs back three with his aerial game.
Munster’s commitment was such that at one point CJ Stander ripped the shirt of Exeter lock Jonny Hill during a maul that culminated in an opening penalty for Carbery.
Joe Simmonds reflected Exeter’s hesitancy when he could not hold a high ball to give Munster another scrum to attack and yet critically Baxter’s side regrouped to snatch a foothold in the game when Armand drove over from close range following a line-out to score the opening try of the contest.
Nowell’s influence on the contest was growing from his club position of full-back, not flanker where he may yet be switched to for England and his ability to beat the first-up tackler gave Exeter stability in the face of Munster’s renewed pressure.
Yet a huge scrum by Munster snatched the momentum again, and Carbery was able to reduce the deficit with his second penalty.
Back came Exeter, stringing together a series of phases on the Munster 22 only for a Tadhg Beirne to win a brilliant turnover penalty from Armand to lift the pressure.
Exeter, despite having to absorb huge pressure on the scrum, continued to frustrate Munster by attacking from deep and varying the point of contact and earned a late attacking platform after Keith Earls was penalised in added-on time. It came to nothing but it was Munster who left the field at half-time relieved to have not conceded more points and it felt like the English side had gone into the interval with a slight psychological edge.
With so much at stake, it was Exeter who made the more impressive start to the second half, with Matt Kvesic securing a superb turn-over after a brilliant box-kick by Nic White, who match his opposite number Murray in the aerial battle.
With Nowell and the likes of Jonny Hill making hard yards, it took a brilliant intervention by Stander to win a penalty to disrupt Exeter’s attacking flow.
Undeterred, Exeter’s ability to retain possession allowed Henry Slade to ask serious questions of the Munster defensive line, with the Irish province guilty of some loose kicks which invited further pressure.
There were uncharacteristic errors from Munster too, with a knock-on gifting a scrum to Exeter after a strong drive by Niall Scannell and it only added to the frantic nature of the contest.
A one-point defeat was still enough for Munster to progress yet it did nothing to ease the frustration of the Thomond Park faithful. And a wonderfully-placed kick by White pushed Munster back deep into their 22.
Inevitably the pressure lead to a penalty for Exeter but after kicking to the corner Billy Holland landed a huge psychological blow by stealing the line-out with his first touch as a replacement for Tadhg Beirne.
Yet the rollercoaster nature of the contest continued as Exeter won back possession by wrapping up Munster in a maul only for Ian Whitten to concede a breakdown penalty under huge pressure by Jean Kleyn.
It would open the door for Munster to finally regain the lead, with a penalty at a line-out allowing Carbery to slot his third penalty to dramatically alter the qualification picture on the smallest of margins.
Munster: M Haley; A Conway, C Farrell, R Scannell (D Goggin 57), K Earls; J Carbery, C Murray (A Mathewson 64); D Kilcoyne (J Loughman 66), N Scannell (R Marshall 72), J Ryan (S Archer 55), K Kleyn, T Beirne, P O’Mahony, T O’Donnell (A Botha 41), CJ Stander
Exeter Chiefs: J Nowell; S Cordero, H Slade, O Devoto (I Whitten 57), T O’Flaherty; J Simmonds, N White; A Hepburn (B Moon 53), J Yeandle (L Cowan-Dickie 57), H Williams (G Holmes 67), D Dennis, J Hill, S Skinner (M Lees 50), D Armand, M Kvesic.
Scoring sequence: 3-0, Carbery pen; 3-5, Armand try, 3-7 Simmonds con; 6-7 Carbery pen; 9-7 Carbery pen.
Referee: J Garces (FFR)
Joey Carbery’s thoughts
“It was a bit of a battle out there. A lot on the line and we’re delighted to get through.”
“Exeter really put it up to this. They’re a brick wall, we couldn’t break them down at all. A super team.”
FULL-TIME: Munster 9-7 Exeter
That’s it! Exeter forced into touch and Munster get the win, and with it the pool. What a game – gritty, mistake-ridden, but a superb contest. Exeter are out of Europe but held their heads high and pushed the Irish province all the way. Munster however go through, with Beirne so crucial at the breakdown once again.
80 mins – Munster 9-7 Exeter
Just no way through for Exeter, Munster’s defence giving them nothing. Even Cordero, the Argentine magician, can’t find any space.
Exeter up to 20 phases but they’ve barely gone anywhere. You can’t fault Exeter’s effort, but the door seems shut and the damage was done earlier in the pool stages. They’ve given everything in Limerick.
78 mins – Munster 9-7 Exeter
Earls with a key tackle but then he goes offside. But Slade misses touch! Went big and was nowhere near.
Back come Munster but it’s turned over again, Nowell, who’s been relentless, carrying over halfway. Munster’s defence holding firm for now.
76 mins – Munster 9-7 Exeter
Munster controlling the ball, and the clock. Kick by Mathewson and Nowell runs it back well in fairness, sending Conway backwards. Cowan-Dickie knocks on! Killer for Exeter. Carbery with a kick right into the corner. Nowell goes quick to Slade. Territory against Exeter in their own 22.
74 mins – Munster 9-7 Exeter
Ferocious linespeed by Munster, Farrell and Holland sprinting up and forcing a knock-on. Desperate times now for Exeter. O’Mahony down for treatment.
PENALTY CARBERY! Munster 9-7 Exeter
He’s got it! Curling left to right. Munster back in the lead as Scannell heads off. Exeter running out of time here.
72 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Penalty coming for Munster, O’Mahony interfered with at the lineout. Carbery will… go for the posts.
70 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Exeter scrum then 40 metres out. Slade crashes back on the angle. Armand makes ground. Munster’s rush defence shutting anything down out wide. Munster penalty! Put the men into the ruck and Kleyn steps up. They can clear out of their half.
68 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Holmes into the game for Williams.
Munster catch and drive, looks as though Exeter have the turnover… they do! Scrum for the Chiefs.
68 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Beirne now goes, Kilcoyne too. Exeter with the five-metre lineout… stolen by Holland! Huge moment. How did that happen. Munster get the penalty and can clear.
67 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Penalty Exeter, O’Mahony for pulling down Armand at the lineout. Looked harsh. Exeter into the corner…
66 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Beirne, despite just being down, climbs high to take the lineout. Munster still right on their line, cleared by Mathewson into touch. Exeter still in Munster’s 22 though.
65 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Munster wide off the lineout but Botha this time knocks on. Defence from both teams has been outstanding.
A win alone is not enough for Exeter, even though it would be the only fourth time Munster have lost on home soil in Europe.
Super nudge from White right into the corner. He’s pumping up his pack. Quality game from the Wallaby today.
Murray’s off, and Beirne looks in trouble too with his knee. He’ll carry on though.
63 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Munster trying to go up a gear, although the mall loses speed. Murray down the short side, Conway chips over the top… into touch! Exeter with a lineout five metres from their line. Won by Skinner, they’ll maul for a little bit before White kicks clear. Great exit.
62 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Another Munster maul, Carbery looping. Wide to Conway whose grubber stays infield. Ripped back Munster’s way!
Five metres out, what a chance for Munster… no Exeter have it! How! Pinned on their own line, turning the ball over and then White clears. That was mad. Cowan-Dickie it looks like with the steal.
60 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Yeandle off, Cowan-Dickie on. Whitten also on for Devoto. Munster bring Goggin on for Scannell.
Big run by Kvesic, good momentum. Slade hammers up. Williams running up and Beirne’s there for another turnover. He’s something else.
58 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Archer on for Ryan. A reminder that as thing stand, with Munster on track for a losing bonus point, they will win the group.
Munster in possession outside Exeter’s 22. Great counter-ruck though by Exeter and Munster are penalised. Cleared by Exeter.
55 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Moon on for Hepburn.
Munster catch and drive, box kick by Murray. Conway there to take it. Another kick and somehow Earls has taken that one out of the sky.
Sloppy pass, Farrell back to mop up. Slade close to a turnover but Munster fend him off. Another box kick. Exhausting, long passages in this game. This time Murray’s kick bounces into touch.
52 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Charge down by Beirne but he’s offside. Exeter clear to touch. Long lineout by Yeandle – was that straight? – but we play on.
Exeter going wide, Devoto and O’Flaherty involved, but Botha is there to force Slade into touch.
50 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Another maul by Munster, doesn’t gain too much ground. Knocked on by Conway! Exeter’s defence holds.
Lees on for Dennis.
Munster v Exeter resembling an international, such is its bone-shuddering intensity. Gripping
— Dan Roan (@danroan) 19 January 2019
48 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Loose from Munster again, Murray spilling the ball and White kicks clear. Cordero chasing but Carbery does so well, stepping and booting the ball back Exeter’s way.
Lots of kicks but Nowell again proves to be the difference maker. Exeter 40 metres out, Slade well tackled by Farrell. Munster’s defence settles, big tackles stopping Exeter from getting anywhere. O’Flaherty and Cordero working very hard for little ground. Slade knocks on, then Skinner plays the ball offside. Munster penalty.
47 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Beirne and Stander come up with another turnover, Munster’s fourth at the breakdown. Excellent again. Penalty for Munster and that’s a good kick to touch by Carbery, well inside Munster’s half.
44 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Good scrum by Munster. Beirne and Stander with a couple of carries to try and get the hosts going. Murray with the box kick, Nowell rock solid underneath it. White replies with a box kick, very high and knocked on by Murray. Hacked on by Exeter, Haley covers. Nowell with another catch and run, ghosts past Scannell. Exeter in Munster’s half.
Armand was down for treatment but now back up.
42 mins - Munster 6-7 Exeter
The combination of Slade’s boot and Cordero’s chasing has worked really well for Exeter. Good net gain in terms of territory, but then Yeandle’s throw at the lineout is not straight.
Second half underway
One change for Munster, Botha on for O’Donnell. Carbery kicks deep, safely collected by Exeter before White clears.
HALF-TIME – Munster 6-7 Exeter
A few phases for Exeter, the forwards working hard, before the ball is lost. Stander runs it into touch and that’s the break, with the clock four minutes in the red.
An exhausting, niggly, tight first half in Limerick. Bring on the second.
40 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Clock in the red after a couple of reset scrums. Free kick to Munster, Scannell crashing up but knocks on. Chance for Exeter? They’re 45 metres out. Slade with a nice step. O’Mahony rips the ball back! Munster trying to go wide but it’s scrappy.
Penalty Exeter! Armand over the ball at the ruck. Posts or corner? Slade goes to touch, about 20 metres out.
39 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Creeping to the end of this first half. It’s tight, a Test match feel. White’s box kick and after the catch by Conway, Exeter rip it away. Great turnover.
Flung wide but Munster rally well in defence, forcing a knock on. Haley slips two tackles but then loses the ball forward. This is punishing stuff. Munster scrum coming up.
37 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Big shove from the Munster scrum, but Kvesic mops up. White with a good box kick, hung in the air for ages, before Conway knocks on. White with a chip over the top but it bounces over the try line. Exeter recovered well there.
35 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Bit of pushing and shoving after Exeter go wide to the left and are dragged into touch. Munster win the lineout but then Murray uncharacteristically drops the ball, leading to an Exeter scrum.
32 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Exeter scrum, but both sides could have had penalties there – Stander for offside, Williams for entering the ruck from the side. Brutal few minutes.
30 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Nothing for the Exeter maul there so the Chiefs go wide. Quick service from White, Devoto on an arcing run. Munster turn it over! Top work by Beirne (who else?) and Munster can clear.
I think the description for this Munster v Exeter game is full-blooded.
— Brian Moore (@brianmoore666) 19 January 2019
28 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Exeter get clever at the lineout but the throw isn’t straight. Carbery kicks to touch but Exeter go quick, Nowell countering to halfway.
Box kick from White, Haley covering though and clears. More possession for Exeter, not the best pass by Hepburn but it bounces kindly. Not a lot of space so White box kicks again.
Murray takes that easily but then the ball slips into the hands of Dennis. Another penalty against Munster! Offside. Slade kicks to the corner.
26 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Safe exit for Munster, first with the maul and then the boot. Yeandle throws to Hill at the tale. Munster pinged for offside, ball not out of the ruck. Soft from Munster. Simmonds kicks to touch about 20 metres out.
24 mins – Munster 6-7 Exeter
Lots of height under the restarts from Simmonds, allowing Exeter to chase. Earls clears as far as Nowell. Fine nudge by Slade, pinning Munster back into the corner. Countering Munster’s kicking game well with their own so far.
PENALTY CARBERY! Munster 6-7 Exeter
A one-point game with that second penalty from Carbery. In good form off the tee.
22 mins – Munster 3-7 Exeter
Early shove from Munster, and Exeter opt for the scrum again. Keith Wood on commentary is understandably in heaven right now.
Ball seemed to squirt out of the scrum there and Munster turn it over, off the knee it looked like of Hepburn. Penalty advantage coming for offside. Couple of runs for the big centre Farrell. Munster getting nowhere so we come back for the penalty. Carbery going for the posts.
19 mins – Munster 3-7 Exeter
Exeter knock on, handing Munster a chance down the blindside. Conway stopped, and then a pass is knocked forward by O’Mahony. Chiefs scrum coming up.
17 mins – Munster 3-7 Exeter
Restart secured by Exeter, Nowell running out of his 22. White motions for a box kick before the ball goes wide, Slade sliding forward.
Lots of touches for Nowell – as a back, not a flanker by the way – as Exeter keep possession. Now comes the box kick, taken by Haley despite a good chase.
Murray’s box kick, taken by Simmonds. White dictating the tempo here, another box kick. Carbery under it and hit hard. Tense.
TRY ARMAND – Munster 3-7 Exeter
Yeandle with the throw, hits Skinner. Maul swivels right and is moving well, try? Just short! One metre, no more than that.
Exeter get over! Munster’s defence cracks, Armand driving low around the left edge of the ruck and Exeter take the lead. Simmonds converts.
12 mins – Munster 3-0 Exeter
Couple of resets, Garces not rushing this first scrum. So much power that Scannell cannot get his leg up to hook the ball, leaving it stuck in the middle.
Great contest in the scrum. Murray eventually sends it left but it’s turned over. O’Flaherty with a good run, Exeter 40 metres out. Penalty, Kleyn not rolling away. Simmonds finds touch in the corner.
8 mins – Munster 3-0 Exeter
More high ball troubles for Exeter, Simmonds this time. Knocks on, Munster scrum. Gloucester struggled with Murray’s box kicks last week and it’s the same story here.
4 mins – Munster 0-0 Exeter
Encouraging few phases for Exeter, forward runners involved. Cross-field kick from Simmonds doesn’t work, Conway clearing.
Munster testing Exeter with these high kicks and then White obstructs Conway chasing a Murray kick, Munster penalty. Carbery will go to the corner.
Teams are out – kick-off!
Huge, Thomond roar. Jerome Garces on the whistle. This will be a lot of fun.
Deep kick from Simmonds, gathered by Munster who clear well through a Murray box kick. Exeter with the ball inside Munster’s half.
Rob Baxter’s message to his players
“When we haven’t been ourselves we have waited for other things to happen. We have to throw everything into the game, and be comfortable and with being ourselves.”
So, who needs what?
- Munster must win
- Exeter must win and deny Munster any bonus points, which would mean they qualify with the better head-to-head record between the two teams, or, Exeter can finish top by winning with a try bonus point
That was easy.
- This will be the second meeting between Munster and the Exeter Chiefs, following the 10-10 draw at Sandy Park in Round 1.
- A win for Munster will guarantee them a place in the quarter-finals for the 18the time, however, if Exeter upset the odds and finish the pool level on match points with the 2006 and 2008 champions, then they will advance to the knockout stage on the basis of the head-to-head matches between the clubs.
- Munster have won their last 11 home games in the tournament – Leicester Tigers’ 31-19 success in December 2015 was the last defeat at Thomond Park.
Good afternoon everyone. Exeter, who looked dead and buried after the first three rounds, have to win at Thomond Park of all places against Munster to advance to the knockout stages. Not easy at all.
Munster’s performance at Gloucester last Friday was arguably the best we’ve seen in the competition this season, with Joey Carbery in red hot form.
No late changes for either side as things stand.
In light of Eddie Jones’ recent comments, feel as though I should point out that Jack Nowell is playing at full-back and not flanker…
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