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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Heroic Munster break Stormers and Cape Town’s hearts as they claim URC title

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Cape Town – It was a heartbreaking finish for the Stormers as Munster scored a try in the 75th minute to take the lead and win 19-14 in the final of the United Rugby Championship (URC) in Cape Town on Saturday.

While the Stormers kept them scoreless for most of the second half, that crucial score in the dying minutes brought the URC trophy to the visitors after a stellar first-half display where they took control of the game and gave the Stormers nothing to work with.

Munster, who had two players off with yellow cards in the game, defended for all they were worth after a Stormers rolling maul at the death to come away with a first title since 2011.

That winning try had its origin after a blunder from Stormers flyhalf Manie Libbok who had a kick charged down, where he just had to boot the ball to safety in his 22m area.

But the charge down resulted in a Munster attack and they kept probing for a try until the Stormers’ defence could not hold out anymore with flanker John Hodnett going over in the corner.

Flyhalf Jack Crowley kicked the conversion from the touch, and it was again the number 10 that steered his team to victory with a solid display. His all-round performance, coupled with his side’s massive defence, made the victory even sweeter.

They managed to nullify the attacking prowess of the Stormers’ backline, and while the home side’s forwards fought valiantly, it was not enough to keep a determined Munster out.

The first half, after the Libbok try, is what killed the Stormers and their chances of going back-to-back in the competition.

It was all Munster in the first almost 40 minutes as they weathered an early storm, to take control of half.

The vocal home supporters had found their voice early in the game when Libbok intercepted a wayward Munster pass out wide to run half the field for the opening try under the sticks.

The try came after some good pressure early on by the defending champions who took the game and contact to their visitors.

The Stormers looked good in the opening stanza and were spurred on by their supporters who lapped up every move with vociferous approval.

But while that converted Libbok try brought the momentum for his team, he maybe should not have celebrated that much as he ran untouched over the try line.

Munster’s eighth man Gavin Coombes was clearly touched by the Libbok celebration as he walked alongside the Stormers’ flyhalf as he collected the ball for the conversion.

But the early try also kicked Munster into action.

Because for the rest of the first half, they dominated territory and possession while the Stormers could only defend for all they were worth. But the defensive effort did not last long after they scored the opening try.

Penalties brought the Irish club into the 22m area of the home side, and hooker Diarmuid Barron went over after a brilliant rolling maul by the visitors. The defense of the maul was very iffy from the Stormers, while Munster had success repelling the defending champions when they put a maul together.

Although it was only 7-12 at halftime, the Cape side could’ve been more points down.

Two Munster tries were disallowed – one for double movement over the try line, and one for a forward pass in the buildup – that could’ve painted a different picture at halftime.

A little piece of interplay by flyhalf Jack Crowley, who found his wing Calvin Nash out wide with a deft kick over the defense, brought the second try for the visitors.

The Stormers took the lead in the second half thanks to a rolling maul try by flanker Deon Fourie. He was kept very quiet by Munster and didn’t really have an effect on the breakdown.

Credit to Munster, it takes a special team to win a Championship by playing all three knockout games away from home. But they came up with the goods and were full value for their win and the first title in over a decade.

And their about 5 000 Red Army supporters, who were outnumbered in the record crowd of 56 334, kept the faith in their team and were rewarded with a hard-fought but brilliant win in Cape Town.

Points scorers:

Stormers 14 (7): Tries: Manie Libbok, Deon Fourie. Conversions: Libbok (2).

Munster 19 (12): Tries: Diarmuid Barron, Calvin Nash, Josh Hodnett. Conversions: Jack Crowley (2).


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