Search icon


09th Apr 2022

Sam Warburton hails “amazing” Jack O’Donoghue as Keith Earls leaves us stunned

Patrick McCarry

Keith Earls


Munster were not at the races, in an attacking sense, but they defended like demons and fought right until the death. Keith Earls’ late try-saver could yet prove crucial.

Munster trailed 10-0 to Chiefs at half-time – tries from Jacques Vermeulen and Stuart Hogg – and the Sandy Park faithful must have felt the next score would have broken their opponent’s resistance.

Ben Healy made it 10-3, on 56 minutes, but Munster were struggling to put threatening phases together. Jack O’Donoghue, Jeremy Loughman and Conor Murray all stepped up with big defensive plays. Exeter, driven on by Hogg, the Simmonds brothers and Dave Ewers, seemed to have the first leg where they wanted.

As it turned out, though, Exeter copped two yellow cards in the space of two minutes and opened the door to Munster, only for the southern province to gave away two quick penalties in succession.

That marched them right back into their 22 and although they held Exeter up, over their tryline, the drop-out went straight to Stuart Hogg, who pinged it between the sticks from all of 50 metres out.

Stuart Hogg (r) of Exeter celebrates after scoring against Munster, at Sandy Park. (Photo by Harry Trump/Getty Images)

Keith Earls to the rescue

There was some purchase in attack for Munster, though, as they stayed patient and put the ball through multiple hands to set up Shane Daly for a crucial try. They went close to a second, through Craig Casey. This time, though, it was the Exeter defence’s time to show some fight.

Spurred on by their fans, and restored to 15 men, Exeter pressed for a late score to take a bigger lead into the second leg at Thomond Park.

At one stage, they turned down and penalty and went for an attacking lineout, only for sub Thomas Ahern to steal the throw. At another, Olly Woodburn looked nailed on to score in the corner only for Keith Earls to empty himself chasing back.

Earls made a super, try-saving tackle and Chris Farrell, who had a fine game, was there to help out.

There was still time for one more Exeter pop at the Munster line, but Sam Simmonds was held up just short.

Former Wales and Lions captain Sam Warburton, over on BT Sport, gave Exeter’s Dave Ewers his Man of the Match nod, but paid tribute to “amazing” Munster captain Jack O’Donoghue. With Peter O’Mahony out injured, the 28-year-old really embodied that Munster never-say-die spirit.

For Munster, their performance and result could have been a lot better. They will console themselves that the result also could have been a lot, lot worse.

Munster live to fight another day, and fight they will.

Our Man of the Match: Chris Farrell (Munster)

WATCH: Liverpool BOTTLED the title race 🤬 | Who will win the Premier League?