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Exeter player ratings vs Munster | Champions Cup round of 16

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by PA)

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Exeter player ratings live from Thomond Park: This was epic Easter fare every bit as absorbing and exhausting as the tumult the last time Munster hosted Exeter in Limerick in January 2019. Back then, Exeter were very much the coming team that knew it had better days ahead despite that elimination 9-7 pool stage defeat. So it proved, the Chiefs being crowned European champions the following season.

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Now, though, they are a team tumbling down the other side of the mountain following that glorious ascent. All season they had struggled for a cutting edge and while they bullishly fought their corner defending a five-point first-leg advantage and were ahead on aggregate until the hour mark, they had emptied the tank.

Put simply, they had nothing left against the wind to counter the 13-point finishing straight flourish that qualified Munster for the quarter-finals with a 26-10 win on the day and a 34-23 overall triumph on the round of 16 aggregate. Here are the Exeter player ratings:

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15. Stuart Hogg – 6
Branded as greedy four weeks ago in Dublin when last in Ireland, the Scotland skipper had more downs than ups here. For example, it took a Damian de Allende mark to deny some promising early invention but he then needlessly kicked long and dead and also tossed a pass forward. Was more precise in his actions in the second half but it wasn’t enough for an XV that needed a spark of real inspiration from him.

14. Olly Woodburn – 5.5
Finished last week on the receiving end of that dramatic Keith Earls try-saving tackle and started this week getting shunted into touch with the try line not far away in an otherwise quiet, uneventful performance. Replaced by Josh Hodge with eight minutes left.

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13. Henry Slade – 7.5
A constant pick for Eddie Jones’ England, these are the sort of club games where you would expect Slade to showcase his value and exhibit a dominant influence. The going was immensely difficult in Limerick but he flowered in the early part of the second half, his series of pop passes upping the tempo and helping to get his team into an aggregate lead. He gambled, though, when shooting out of the line for an intercept on 73 minutes and couldn’t scramble back quickly enough to prevent de Allende from scoring the win-sealing try.   

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12. Ian Whitten – 7
The hard-as-nails veteran showed his dogged worth last weekend but it was much more difficult here to be positively noticed. Had his heart in his mouth when his pass to Harry Williams was nearly intercepted by Simon Zebo for what would have been a run-in try from halfway if gathered. Upped the ante similar to Slade after the break but was gone on 74 minutes for Tom Hendrickson with the game gone from his team.

11. Tom O’Flaherty – 6
Off to Sale next season, he will go there not looking the potent force he was in the double-winning Exeter season. Bought the dummy that wrong-footed his defence for the 25th-minute Joey Carbery try and was unable to work a decisive edge when invited into the second-half play. His day culminated in a fumble under a garryowen that thrilled the home fans.  

10. Joe Simmonds – 6
Spoke candidly to RugbyPass recently about how he lacked consistency this season in his game and those issues were evident here, particular with his kicking off the tee. Shanked the Sam Maunder try conversion and then made a horrible connection sound when attempting a penalty on the blow of half-time. Next hit the post with a second-half try conversion. A difficult day where he lacked the required spark in many facets of play.

9. Sam Maunder – 7
Started off with real venom. It was his quick tap penalty on the five-metre line that led to an eleventh-minute Exeter try and a yellow card for Conor Murray. A lovely step not long after in the 22 then got him close to another sniff of the line. Played inventively for 58 minutes before giving way to his older brother Jack.

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1. Alec Hepburn – 6
Fronted up for a large part of his 60-minute contribution before getting subbed for Billy Keast but will be annoyed by the concession of a 37th-minute scrum penalty and by the first-half breakdown in general.

2. Jack Yeandle – 6.5
The main man at hooker now that Luke Cowan-Dickie is laid up, he carried often in the opening period but progress was severely restricted by the tigerish Munster defence. Would have been left frustrated by the nuisance of Peter O’Mahony making inroads on the Exeter throw. Left the fray for Jack Innard with Munster leading 16-10. 

3. Harry Williams – 6.5
Very busy in the early exchanges trying to help his team gain a foothold. Went on, though, to look defensively lazy for the Carbery try, but ended his first half with a scrum penalty win. Was then a speed bump to hold up John Hodnett to help win a pressure-relieving penalty with the score at 10-13. Another who exited on 60 minutes, Patrick Schickerling coming on. 

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4. Jonny Gray – 7
As bright as a button with his frequent first-half tackling, he was another who upped the work rate even more after the break to put his team in the winning position they were unable to hold on to.  

5. Sam Skinner – 6.5
Less effective than Gray but that didn’t mean he wasn’t an important part of the fight that Exeter brought to a battle that was immensely intense. Could have done better in the ruck clearance – as could some others – as Munster were at their foraging best in this department.

6. Dave Ewers – 7.5
You have to love the way Ewers plays the sport, all action and a belligerent refusal to buckle. It was no wonder he was his team’s busiest first-half tackler and he continued in that way after the interval, constantly getting stuck in. Was caught for the no-release that edged Munster into a one-point aggregate lead but it was his effort bottling up Conor Murray that got Exeter into the 22 for their unsuccessful last hurrah on 67 minutes. Hung around until the 74th minute when Santiago Grondona was introduced.

7. Jannes Kirsten – 6.5
Brought into the starting XV with Sam Simmonds out with a hip/groin issue, he fluffed taking a Slade pass early in the second half and was blown for the in-at-the-side penalty that gave Carbery his shot for 19-10. Then couldn’t put Zebo into touch when it came to the clinching try seven minutes from time. 

8. Jacques Vermeulen – 7.5
Switched from flanker into No8, he needed a Simmonds-like carrying impact and he eventually came up to the mark in the second half, scoring his team’s try on 49 minutes and winning a turnover penalty three minutes later. Gave it socks for 70 minutes before Richard Capstick came on.  

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