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14-man Munster hold off second-half Northampton fightback

By PA
(Photo by PA)

Fourteen-man Munster hung on to claim a Heineken Champions Cup double over Northampton, with Gavin Coombes scoring two first-half tries to help set up a 27-23 win at Thomond Park. Munster were leading by 17 points when Jack O’Donoghue was sent off for a high tackle on David Ribbans in the 23rd minute, although Coombes’ second try of the game made it 24-0 at half-time.

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O’Donoghue had also touched down at that stage for Munster, with Joey Carbery booting nine points, but Northampton awoke from their slumber after the interval and will be kicking themselves that they fell short of victory.

Fin Smith converted tries from Tommy Freeman and James Ramm and kicked three penalties, his last strike following Jack Crowley’s 75th-minute penalty which proved enough for Munster.

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Mike Haley’s opening run allowed Carbery to kick the Irish province – 17-6 winners at cinch Stadium before Christmas – into a second-minute lead. Northampton’s early indiscipline then cost them again as the hosts quickly plundered a try. O’Donoghue sniped down the touchline from a lineout move and then, from another penalty, Niall Scannell’s inviting pass sent Coombes crashing over in the ninth minute.

Carbery converted and was then hit by a high tackle from Saints hooker Mikey Haywood, who first made contact with the fly-half’s chest. With 19 minutes on the clock, Haley flung a long pass wide to Coombes who stepped inside, sucked in two defenders and fed O’Donoghue to touch down. Carbery’s conversion made it 17-0 but the fast-starting hosts were soon down to 14 men.

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O’Donoghue’s shoulder caught Ribbans in the head, with referee Tual Trainini reaching for his red card following a TMO review of the tackle. Instead of Saints seizing control, Munster dug in and from Scannell’s tapped penalty, a well-supported Coombes drove over to complete his brace.

A crooked Haywood throw blew a late Northampton chance at the end of the first half, following a Lewis Ludlam break, but their direct play on the resumption was duly rewarded. Smith and Matt Proctor worked the ball wide for winger Freeman to score in the 44th minute, the 20-year-old stand-off adding the conversion and a subsequent penalty to pull it back to 24-10.

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The visitors chalked up another seven points before the hour mark, cutting loose from their own half with Rory Hutchinson launching a kick chase. The centre’s counter-ruck allowed Ramm to power his way over, with Smith converting.

Turnovers led to frustration for both teams, with Northampton also left to rue a neck roll on Antoine Frisch when a try looked very likely. Smith did punish Alex Kendellen for not rolling away, making it 24-20.

Replacement Crowley then cancelled out that kick and despite Smith’s best efforts, Saints ran out of time. Fittingly it was Coombes, the Heineken star of the match, who forced the clinching turnover from Lukhan Salakaia-Loto.

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B.J. Spratt 2 hours ago
Jono Gibbes' reaction to France U20s putting 55 points on New Zealand

N.Z. Under 20'‘s concede 7 tries to France Unfortunately New Zealand Rugby has lost over 25% + of players between 12-18 over the last 3-5 years, possibly more. Poor administration and a Shocking Public Perception about the NZRFU has finally caught up with these dinosaurs. 66% of N.Z. Population lives North of Hamilton and 52% of Auckland population are Asian, who would rather play football. Rugby is dying while other Sports are growing. The rules need to change around the collision/tackle but personally I think the absolute “Arrogance and Stupidity” that the NZRFU has demonstrated over the decades, “with their jobs for the boys attitude” has led to their demise. A Professional Players Union that can somehow “Disassociate itself from the “Old men with bad breath and dandruff” that is the NZRFU, will be a huge challenge. Personally I think it’s far too late to recover and rejuvenate interest in Rugby by young players. Rugby is booming in France and that’s the difference. A booming Professional domestic League. NZRFU are “Not fit for purpose” and have no idea about commercial reality My kids generation would rather their kids don’t play Rugby. Very aware of CTE and the NZRFU arrogance and stupidity, in denying its existence. Finally, the NZRFU have managed to cover up ”Numerous serious crimes over the decades, committed by players, coaches and administrators simply because the tentacles of their “Power and Influence” have reached all sectors of New Zealand Society, including the Judiciary, Politicians, Police and Big business. Denying CTE even exists is a “no brainer for them”

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