Sport

Munster give Anthony Foley emotional send off at Thomond Park

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Photo credit: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

An emotional silence fell over Thomond Park on Saturday to honour their fallen son prior to kick off. The camera panned across the players and eventually got to Simon Zebo, for whom the emotion of the moment was too much as tears filled his eyes.

It was tough to watch on a day best described as beautifully tragic. Peter O’Mahony played the captains part and consoled Zebo. It was this grief they used to turn in an incredible performance.

Munster signalled their intention right from the off, they weren’t here just to fulfil the fixture they were going to put every ounce they had into it and they were coming away with nothing less than a win.

With their first meaningful attack Munster struck. Off the back of a maul Keith Earls saw a gap through the centre and a perfectly timed off load found Tyler Bleyendaal.

The New Zealander showed off a brilliant step and turn of pace to finish in the corner. He added the extra two from the sideline and if there were any misconceptions about Munster’s mentality on the day they were well and truly gone now.

Finn Russell hit back with a penalty for Glasgow but soon after super work on the ground from CJ Stander, playing number eight but wearing the number 24 jersey in honour of Anthony Foley, saw Munster regain possession deep in Glasgow territory.

The ball eventually went wide to Jaco Taute who used the overlap on his left to work some space for himself and finish in the corner.

Another excellent conversion from Bleyendaal who was impeccable from the boot throughout left the score at 14-3 to Munster. Glasgow were rattled.

On an emotional day for all Munster players they played with a controlled aggression throughout. Unfortunately for Keith Earls he over stepped the mark in the eighteenth minute.

A dangerous tip tackle earned him a red card and a visibly outraged Earls stormed to the sideline where he was calmed down by teammates.

By the letter of the law Earls had to go but the day that was in it let his emotions get the better of him and no one witnessing could blame him.

A tough task for Munster was just made even more difficult with Earls’s red card. Russell missed the resulting penalty but Munster would now have to play the remaining 60 minutes with 14 men.

It seemed fitting and almost inevitable that Munster would then go on and deliver an emphatic team performance.

Driven by the pack, Dave Kilcoyne in particular carrying a huge amount of ball, Conor Murray’s game management and Bleyendaal’s super kicking and play making it was just like Foley’s Munster of old.

In the twenty-sixth minute Bleyendaal kicked a difficult penalty this was followed by another try for Munster in same corner as the previous two.

This time it was Zebo who somehow managed to keep his legs out of touch and stretch over the line to touch down.  Bleyendaal added the conversion as Zebo pointed to the sky in celebration. That was for Foley.

Munster went in with a 24-3 lead and they started the second half as they ended the first. Three consecutive penalties on Glasgow’s five metre line won by a scrum that dominated throughout forced referee Jérôme Garcès to award Munster a penalty try.

This gave Munster the bonus point and looked to have wrapped things up for the hosts. Two converted tries from Glasgow may have had a few people worried especially after the colossal effort Munster put in with 14 men seemed to be taking its toll.

Fears were quashed however when Rory Scannell went over in the seventy-fourth minute after excellent work from the pack. Ian Keatley added the two and that was that. The final score 34-17 in favour of Munster.

A great send off for a great team mate, coach, friend, brother, father and son.

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