Ireland’s bid to win the Grand Slam and Triple Crown remains intact after a thrilling victory over Wales in a tightly contested game in Dublin on Saturday.
While Joe Schmidt’s men must first overcome a Scotland team buoyed by their first win in ten years over England at the weekend, however, Irish eyes will surely be set on an epic battle on St Patrick’s Day in Twickenham against the old enemy.
A win over Scotland next week will put Ireland in the driver’s seat for another great championship victory. Kick off against England is at 2.45pm on St Patrick’s Day. Expect pubs, sports clubs and hotels to be filled to capacity for this – so take your seats early!
Against Wales, at the Aviva Stadium, Jonathan Sexton couldn’t manage to kick the ball between the posts, fluffing his lines and failing to take 10 points before Munster’s Conor Murray stepped in to show him how it was done.
Ulster’s Jacob Stockdale is proving the find of the seasons with two tries book-ending other scores from Bundee Aki, Dan Leavy and Cian Healy to give Ireland a deserved 37-27 bonus point win.
With just three points between the sides and Wales fighting furiously in the closing stages, Stockdale remained focused to spot a great intercept opportunity which he seized before diving in under the posts to the delight of a packed stadium.
Munster’s Chris Farrell was nominated as man of the match in this, his first appearance in a Six Nations game. His captain, and former Ulster team-mate, Rory Best, was full of praise for Farrell after the game.
Congratulations to Clare’s Edel McMahon who played a role in the final 14 minutes of an impressive Six Nations win by Ireland’s Women’s team against Wales with a 35-12 bonus point victory on Sunday.
With all their best players in the Ireland camp for international duty, Munster Rugby managed to win two out of their last three Pro14 games. The only downside was coming away from Cardiff with just a bonus point after conceding a 25-18 defeat.
At the weekend Munster accounted for table-toppers Glasgow by 21-10 in a hard-fought encounter in Cork’s Irish Independent Park.
The game marked the welcome return of Tyler Bleyendaal for the first time since incurring a neck injury in October. The out-half contributed 10 points to the total from three penalties and a conversion.
This was a significant victory as Scotland have only been defeated once in this season’s Pro14 campaign. A major setback for Munster was when Chris Cloete broke his arm in a tackle and later required surgery.
Munster’s other game was against Italian side Zebre on February 10th when the official statistics recorded a surprising attendance of 13,412 in Thomond Park on a bitterly cold Saturday night.
Now coached by former Munster and Ireland scrum-half Michael Bradley, Zebre limited their hosts in the first half to two tries from Sammy Arnold and Brian Scott.
The Italians reduced the deficit to 12-5 in the 52nd minute when Guglielmo Palazzani scored on his 100th appearance for the club.
Shortly after Munster strengthened the team from the bench with Ian Keatley, Rory Scannell and John Ryan coming on before South African lock Gerbrandt Grobler debuting to wide acclaim from home supporters after enduring a turbulent time in the national media.
Grobler tackled well and made some good carries and will no doubt feature again in future games, although there is some speculation that the player may move to an Aviva Premiership club.
Zebre had the benefit of playing with a strong breeze and had a lot of possession in the early stages although Munster were always in control.
Munster took the lead after 25 minutes when former Ulster centre Sammy Arnold was put through by Conor Oliver for a try in the corner. JJ Hanrahan was wide of the mark with his conversion attempt.
Good pressure from the Munster pack paid off when Brian Scott crossed the whitewash from a rolling maul after 36 minutes. JJ Hanrahan added the conversion this time making it 12-0.
In the second half, Zebre reduced the deficit when scrum-half Palazzani carved a hole in the Munster defence after a 13-phase drive.
From that point on it was all Munster. Robin Copeland crossed for a third try in the 55th minute and Ian Keatley added the extras.
Shortly after Keatley set up Rory Scannell for the bonus point try and completed the conversion to make it 26-5.
With seven minutes remaining, replacement scrum-half John Poland played a lovely back-handed pass to Rory Scannell who spotted Sam Arnold making a great run and set him up for his second try which Keatley also converted.
Late in the game, Simon Zebo had an opportunity for another try but he just couldn’t get his kick ahead in time to stop the ball going over the end-line.
After the game, Munster coach Johann van Graan said he was pleased to see the good welcome for Gerbrandt Grobler’s debut. He added, “The whole team was very chuffed for him and John Poland to get their first caps. This was a 23 man effort and I’m very glad he came on the field and I thought both debutants did very well.”