Car­bery leaves Cipriani in the shade in Mun­ster mas­ter­class

The Daily Telegraph - Sport - - Rugby Union - By Daniel Schofield at King­sholm

It was billed as the grand re­turn of Danny Cipriani, but the fly-half was left in the shadow of op­po­site num­ber Joey Car­bery, who de­liv­ered a 26-point mas­ter­class that all but guar­an­teed Mun­ster’s pas­sage to the Cham­pi­ons Cup knock­out phases.

In do­ing so they elim­i­nated Glouces­ter and, in all prob­a­bil­ity, Ex­eter from Pool 2, leav­ing the English chal­lenge rest­ing upon Sara­cens and New­cas­tle, who have just a puncher’s chance.

The por­tents for Eng­land’s trip to Dublin for their open­ing Six Na­tions match on Fe­bru­ary 2 also look de­cid­edly gloomy.

Car­bery – se­cond choice be­hind Johnny Sex­ton, re­mem­ber – was ap­plauded off by Glouces­ter’s sup­port­ers hav­ing con­trib­uted two as­sists and two tries. There were many other Ir­ish per­for­mances that were wor­thy of ac­claim. Scrum-half Conor Mur­ray’s box-kick­ing was a thing of beauty, so too Tadhg Beirne’s dis­rup­tive work at the li­ne­out and break­down.

The only cause for con­cern was the de­par­ture of Peter O’ma­hony with a rib in­jury. Mun­ster coach Jo­hann van Graan con­firmed that his cap­tain was in some pain and would have a scan on Mon­day.

Glouces­ter de­fended res­o­lutely but they were miss­ing 15 play­ers and it showed. “No ex­cuses, we were se­cond best in ev­ery de­part­ment,” said Ben Mor­gan, the Glouces­ter cap­tain. “It wasn’t a good ac­count of our­selves but we have to wear that as a squad.”

Cipriani, who was re­turn­ing from a month out with a chest in­jury, had few chances to stamp his in­flu­ence on pro­ceed­ings, play­ing be­hind a pack who were out­played at the break­down and the set piece.

Henry Walker, start­ing his first Cham­pi­ons Cup match in front of the Shed, had his line-out throws picked apart and Glouces­ter’s back three treated Mur­ray’s high balls like they were coated in lava. It was an­other chas­ten­ing night for Jo­han Ack­er­mann’s team, who have lost three straight games.

“For me the big­gest con­cern is that we speak a lot off the field and we know where things are go­ing wrong, but it is time to fix it on the field,” Ack­er­mann said. “The an­swers are on the field. We all can catch ball, we just have to do it.”

Mun­ster’s open­ing try was a per­fect il­lus­tra­tion of their strengths, as a Mur­ray box-kick was spilt by full-back Tom Hud­son. The vis­i­tors won a scrum penalty and kicked to the cor­ner, from where they launched CJ Stander into the gut of the Glouces­ter de­fence. Even­tu­ally the hole opened for Mur­ray to pick out Car­bery, who dived over.

Car­bery con­verted and added a se­cond kick after Beirne won a penalty. Glouces­ter were just about hold­ing their heads above wa­ter, but their mo­ments of respite were rare, as er­rors, typ­i­cally from Mur­ray high balls, kept pil­ing up.

In the last play of the half, Mun­ster ef­fec­tively put the game to bed as they went through 26 phases be­fore Car­bery found cen­tre Rory Scan­nell, who bumped Char­lie Sharples be­fore cut­ting in­side and un­der the posts.

Car­bery’s mag­i­cal touch mo­men­tar­ily de­serted him when his se­cond-half kick-off failed to travel 10 me­tres and Glouces­ter won a scrum penalty on half­way. That al­lowed Cipriani to es­tab­lish field po­si­tion deep within Mun­ster ter­ri­tory, which is where Glouces­ter would re­main camped for the next 10 min­utes.

In the end, it took 35 phases for the dam to burst, with Cipriani’s pass find­ing Ol­lie Thor­ley in space on the right, with Twel­ve­trees’ con­ver­sion hit­ting the post.

Yet no sooner had the door been opened, than Mun­ster slammed it shut, thanks to a piece of op­por­tunism from Mur­ray, who scragged Cal­lum Bra­ley at a ruck. From the scrum, Stander made a bee­line for Cipriani. Mun­ster then switched play left, where Billy Hol­land’s fab­u­lous off­load put Keith Earls over.

After An­drew Con­way had a tremen­dous in­di­vid­ual ef­fort ruled out for a for­ward pass, Glouces­ter again ma­noeu­vred them­selves into the Mun­ster 22, where they started their short-range pick-and-go game, which yielded a try for prop Fraser Bal­main. Again, Mun­ster’s re­ply was in­stant and this time Con­way would not be de­nied as he latched on to Car­bery’s ex­quis­ite grub­ber.

Fit­tingly, it was Car­bery who had the fi­nal word, pick­ing off Mark Atkin­son’s pass and go­ing the dis­tance.

Lunge for the line: Rory Scan­nell forces his way past Glouces­ter’s Ed Slater and Cal­lum Bra­ley to score Mun­ster’s se­cond try

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