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21st Apr 2024

Conor Murray and Simon Zebo roll back the years as Jack Crowley leaves with the gold

Patrick McCarry

Conor Murray

Some bark left in these dogs, yet.

Munster head coach Graham Rowntree may soon start lobbying for more of their games to be played in South Africa. Conor Murray grabbed a late try in the right-hand corner to down the Bulls, on Saturday, and give some oomph to Munster’s title retention push.

A virus that swept the Munster camp, ahead of their flagging Champions Cup quarter final loss to Northampton, threatened to put a dampener on the entire season. However, the fixture fates handed the reigning champs a two-game stint in South Africa and allowed them a chance to smash the re-set button.

Munster were being slightly shaded in a full-on URC encounter, on Saturday, when a Johan Goosen red card saw a Bulls try scrubbed and the hosts reduced to 14 men. As costly hits go, this was right up there.

Craig Casey, who had just replaced Murray, was the recipient of the high shot. He could not continue and Murray came back on. It would be a sequence that worked out to Munster’s benefit, in more ways than one.

As it all played out, Munster rallied from a losing position to score tries through John Hodnett – after a sweet Jack Crowley cross-kick – and that clincher from Murray. It was enough to secure another creditable victory on South Africa soil and to see Munster leap-frog Bulls into third in the standings.

Conor Murray and Simon Zebo roll back the years

While Munster outhalf Jack Crowley left with the man-of-the-match medal around his neck, the performances of Conor Murray (35) and Simon Zebo (34) will have pleased Graham Rowntree greatly.

Zebo has endured some bad luck with illness and injuries since he returned to Munster from his spell with Racing 92. This may prove to be his final season with the province but he is showing some signs of life as we head to the run-in. As for Murray, he will have noted that his late decision to kick away possession for field position paid off, as the Munster defence held strong. He had been criticised for a similar move after England scored late to beat Ireland, at Twickenham. On this occasion, his teammates backed him up with stout defence and victory was sealed.

Up next for Munster are a Lions side that have looked electric in patches, this season. They are 11th in the league standings but teams are so bunched up that they are just three points off Benetton, in 5th place.

Connacht are currently 9th but find themselves, like the Lions, just three off 5th place, on 39 points. They ran up a big score on Zebre, and TG4 ran a great post-match piece with referee

More of that insight, please.

In other URC action, the Lions shredded a Leinster XV that was much changed from the Champions Cup win over La Rochelle, while John Cooney kicked a late penalty to win it for Ulster, against Cardiff, on Friday.


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