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Van Graan Rues Missed Chances As Munster Held Scoreless By Exeter

Van Graan Rues Missed Chances As Munster Held Scoreless By Exeter

A strong Exeter Chiefs side overcame Munster at Irish Independent Park on Friday night, with first half tries from Olly Woodburn and Harry Williams securing a 12-0 away victory.


MUNSTER 0 EXETER CHIEFS 12, Irish Independent Park
Scorers: Munster: –
Exeter Chiefs: Tries: Olly Woodburn, Harry Williams; Con: Gareth Steenson

HT: Munster 0 Exeter Chiefs 12

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Exeter, whom Munster visit in October’s opening round of the Champions Cup, led 12-0 at half-time thanks to scores from winger Olly Woodburn and prop Harry Williams. The Devon side included 13 members of the squad beaten by Saracens in last May’s Aviva Premiership final.

The second half was scoreless with Munster in the ascendancy but unable to breach the impressive Exeter defence, with head coach Johann van Graan noting afterwards: “We spent the first 40 minutes almost all in our own half and then the second 40 minutes almost all in their half. There wasn’t a lot of flow between attack and ‘D’ from either side.

“Two different styles and the frustrating thing is they scored off lineout turnover, one phase and they scored. They were such easy points but all credit to them for scoring them. We didn’t see any ball in the first half because we made so many mistakes.

“Exeter, they punish you. When I saw the fixtures for our pool I welcomed this fixture because we played a good quality side who keep the ball in play. We kept the ball in the second half but the frustrating thing was one yard out we seemed to cough it up quite a few times.”

Munster fielded 30 players in their final pre-season outing in Cork, with five Greencore Munster Rugby Academy players involved – the 20-year-old Gavin Coombes, who started at number 8, Jack Daly (19), Sean O’Connor (22), Liam Coombes (21) and Shane Daly (21).

After a very strong start from the English outfit, it was no surprise when they took the lead after nine minutes. While they were enjoying dominance in the scrum, it was a snaffled Munster lineout in the right corner that set up the score with the Chiefs swinging the ball left to allow Woodburn score in the left corner.

Exeter kept up the early pressure and Williams dived over from close range in the left corner after a slick attack to double the advantage. In the same spot as his missed conversion moments previously, Gareth Steenson knocked over the extras and Exeter led 12-0 after 21 minutes.

Munster, who lost Tommy O’Donnell to a head injury, fought back with Dave O’Callaghan prominent and good hands from captain Billy Holland nearly set Darren Sweetnam away down the right wing but the Exeter cover defence stood firm. Neither side had much of an opportunity to score for the remainder of the half and the Chiefs deservedly led at the interval.

The Munstermen were much improved in attack after the break and had an extended period of pressure deep inside the Exeter 22 in the early stages. Having forced a number of scrum penalties, the hosts were poised to hit back but Exeter managed to withstand the pressure.

Excellent work from JJ Hanrahan just before the hour nearly led to a Munster try as the replacement out-half sliced through a gap and whipped a pass left to Sam Arnold. The centre’s pass outside to Liam Coombes looked to have set the winger clear to score but the recovering defence raced back to prevent the score.

A clever Hanrahan chip in behind the Exeter defence then looked certain to set up a score but the bouncing ball somehow evaded Sweetnam. That elusive score would not come and their two tries proved enough for Exeter. Munster are back in Limerick next Saturday for their GUINNESS PRO14 opener against the Toyota Cheetahs (kick-off 5.15pm) – buy tickets here.

Van Graan added: “These 30 guys trained together for the last few weeks, so no excuses, the best team won tonight. We gave a lot of guys opportunities and you’ve seen from the substitutions we made a plan and just went with guys (to give them game-time).

“There were debuts tonight (Arno Botha made his debut and Mike Haley made his first start at full-back) and we could have kept more experienced guys on for longer, but we got as many guys out there as possible and I thought a lot of them used the opportunity.”

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Calvin Nash; Bill Johnston, James Hart; Dave Kilcoyne, Mike Sherry, Brian Scott, Jean Kleyn, Billy Holland (capt), Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements used: Jack Daly for O’Donnell (18 mins), Ciaran Parker for Scott (32-70), Arno Botha for G Coombes (32), Neil Cronin for Hart (half-time), Shane Daly for Scannell, JJ Hanrahan for Johnston, Kevin O’Byrne for Sherry, Fineen Wycherley for Kleyn (all 44), Liam Coombes for Nash, Jeremy Loughman for Kilcoyne, Darren O’Shea for Holland (all 57), Stephen Fitzgerald for Haley, Sam Arnold for Goggin (both 60), Sean O’Connor for O’Callaghan (63), G Coombes for J Daly (18), Ian Keatley for Sweetnam (74). Not used: Cronan Gleeson.

EXETER CHIEFS: Phil Dollman; Santiago Cordero, Ian Whitten, Ollie Devoto, Olly Woodburn; Gareth Steenson, Nic White; Alec Hepburn, Jack Yeandle (capt), Harry Williams, Ollie Atkins, Sam Skinner, Don Armand, Matt Kvesic, Sam Simmonds.

Replacements used: Tomas Francis for Williams (26 mins), Henry Slade for Devoto (32), Joe Simmonds for Steenson (46), Toby Salmon for Skinner (53), Stu Townsend for White, Elvis Taione for Yeandle (both 57), Tom Hendrickson for Whitten, Moray Low for Hepburn, Sean Lonsdale for Armand, Tom Lawday for Simmonds (all 66), Tom O’Flaherty for Cordero, Michele Campagnaro for Slade (both 73), Alfie Petch for Francis (78). Not used: Jack Innard, Jack Maunder.

Referee: Sean Gallagher (IRFU)