Callous hits on Peter O'Mahony and Andrew Conway need to be punished
The punishment may be retrospective and will do Munster no good, but this can't be allowed to stand.
Castres and Munster was an ugly affair in Thomond Park, last week, and atrocious weather conditions did not help.
It was just as grim in France last night but the rainfall had little to do with it. There was a real bite in the air and the bad blood from Limerick spilled over.
Munster are not squeaky clean, nor would they ever claim to be, but there was some nasty and premeditated stuff from Castres that went far beyond what is acceptable. Niggle aside, here were the three incidents that must be looked at the by the EPCR:
- Rory Kockott raking the eyes of Chris Cloete
- Sliding tackle and late hit on Andrew Conway after he had dotted the ball down
- Dangerous lift tackle on Peter O'Mahony without the ball anywhere in sight
This was like the old days of going to France and getting a shoeing for 80 minutes and leaving with a loss and the sound of cat-calls and heckles in your ears. The only difference, now, is that there is decent TV footage to properly review the misdemeanors.
"All I can say is the values of rugby are pretty important. I thought we stayed within the values of rugby tonight and hope that due process will be followed."
Referee Wayne Barnes flashed three yellow cards but, first off, let Kockott away with clearly making contact with the eyes of Cloete during a ruck. If you believe this was innocent enough, look again at Kockott reaching out for Cloete's head before going at his face with another rake.
— Evan Healy (@HealyEvan) December 15, 2018
Barnes told Munster captain Peter O'Mahony, moments after, that it would get referred to a citing commissioner but that would do the visitors a fat lot of good. Expect to hear more about that incident.
Later in the game, it was O'Mahony feeling the pain as replacement hooker Marc-Antoine Rallier pulled off a WWE-style move. Keith Earls threw a pass to Conway and O'Mahony ran the decoy line right at Rallier.
The hooker gambled on the wrong man to tackle but, as the ball whizzed past, went gung-ho at the Munster blindside. O'Mahony was flipped and landed on his shoulder first, then back.
It should have been a red card but Barnes opted for yellow. It had the same net result for Munster as they were up against 14-men for the final 10 minutes.
Could Castres have been down to 13 or even 12 men? Barnes would have been within his rights to punish more foul play from Castres as Conway sought to get a game-changing try.
First up, not even wishing to play the ball was Castres No.10 Benjamin Urdapilleta, who slid into Conway with both feet as the Munster winger went to pick up his own kick through. That action led to Conway knocking forward and thus ruled out the try.
Urdapilleta make no real effort to legally win that ball and prevented Conway from making a clear pick-up just metres from the tryline so Barnes should have considered awarding a penalty try.
Secondly, replacement lock Christophe Samson came in with a cheap hit on Conway after he had grounded the ball.
Such a clusterbomb of ill deeds but Barnes opted to send Rallier to the sin-bin, award Munster a penalty and wave away all other complaints. Joey Carbery missed that penalty kick so Munster came away from an ugly few minutes with nothing to show for it.
Following the match, van Graan sought to focus on the scoring chances his team squandered and look ahead to huge pool games against Gloucester and Exeter.
Munster can not allow themselves to linger on the calls that went against them, but one hopes the authorities come down harder than Barnes and his officials.
One, two, three that got away.