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Munster player ratings vs Toulouse | Champions Cup quarter-final

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Brian Lawless/PA Images via Getty Images)

Munster player ratings live from Aviva Stadium: Defending champions Toulouse are just two games away from successfully retaining their title after they incredibly edged past Munster 4-2 in a penalty shootout following a tremendous Heineken Cup quarter-final thriller that was drawn 24-all after extra time in a sunny Dublin.

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The sweet quality of the rugby was in keeping with the memorable duel between this same pair at the round of 16 stage last year. Back then, it took place amid a backdrop of silence in LImerick, the pandemic restrictions keeping the Thomond Park doors shut with Toulouse winning 40-33.

This time around, with Ed Sheeran’s rental of the Limerick stadium forcing the brave and the faithful following to go on the road up the M7, the Aviva Stadium was left rocking with the ebb and flow of a breathless classic in which the teams equally shared six tries in normal time before extra time couldn’t separate them, leaving it all to come down to an extraordinary penalty shootout, the first in the tournament since the Leicester-Cardiff semi-final in 2009.

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Level at 14-apiece at the first-half interval after the inspiring combatants shared four converted tries in front of an invigorated 40,476 attendance, the warring duo shared another two tries in a second half that left the match all square after Munster surrendered a ten-point lead in the closing 13 minutes.

Despite their turnover-winning heroics at the breakdown, their scrum was a glaring weakness and it was this shortcoming that enabled Toulouse to pull level on 76 minutes. Even then, they still have a chance to clinch it but sub Ben Healy was unable to strike the winner with the final penalty kick from inside his own half.

That meant a 20-minute extra-time period, ten minutes each way in which the notable was a pair of missed drop goals from Healy on either side of a botched attempt from Thomas Ramos. So on it went with penalty kicks now the requirement to separate the teams.

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Nine kicks were ultimately attempted. Healy missed twice, from the right on the 22 and on the right at the ten-metre line, while Murray was off target from the middle of the ten-metre line. That left Munster’s two-from-five ratio eclipsed by Toulouse’s perfect four-from-four.

This agonising outcome from an Irish perspective couldn’t have been in more contrast to the hoopla and sense of excitement that existed earlier in the day where two vignettes were the sight of a smiling Damian de Allende and a phalanx of Munster teammates chilling with a 10am brew at a riverside coffee shop in Ballsbridge and alive to the possibilities of a special day.

There was also the very good humour on the part of referee Luke Pearce and his assistants when offered Munster face masks as they queued to get their accreditation to enter a stadium where the memorable cup tie that began at 3pm only ended at 5.46pm with Munster finally out of kicks and having found a new and cruel way of losing. Here are the Munster player ratings:

15. Mike Haley – 7
His splendid eleventh-minute tackle on Matthis Lebel deserved better than seeing Toulouse scoring a few phases later. He then bit in to allow the visitors a clear run for their second score but he eventually got his own back, finishing excellently early in the second half and then dumping Maxime Medard into touch. Lasted 72 minutes before Healy’s introduction.

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14. Keith Earls – 7.5
This was a quiet game by his high standards in terms of his involvement but his display was still a lesson of when fleetingly involved, make it count. Was left looking like a cartoon character with a white headband following a knock contesting an aerial ball, but he looked the part when using his experience to patiently hug the touchline and grab his try just before the break.

13. Chris Farrell – 7.5
Rose to the occasion with a number of standout moments encapsulating his determination. First, there was a kick and chase from halfway near the interval, forcing Toulouse to give up a lineout in the 22 that led to a try. Then came an electric step and break where he ghosted Rynhardt Elstadt to create the Haley try. Was then tackled off the ball by Pierre Fouyssac for the penalty that allowed Munster to go 24-14 clear.

12. Damian de Allende – 7
The soon-to-depart Springboks midfielder didn’t have the best of time, his penchant to kick producing mixed results. One punt did force a goal-line dropout, but another went out on the full while he also kicked in the first period of extra time despite support outside him demanding the ball through the hands at the 22.

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11. Simon Zebo – 7
This was the sort of razzamatazz occasion that he came home from Racing to savour. Similar to Earls, his involvements weren’t many but he was clearly a crowd favourite judging by their adoration of him. It was a jolting tackle on him from Rory Arnold that handed Toulouse a second-half yellow card. He carried on but didn’t make it to the finish, his afternoon ending with the need for the extra time HIA that allowed Murray to reenter the fray for the penalty shootout.

10. Joey Carbery – 7
Gave his pack plenty of go forward but given the way the quarter-final ultimately turned out, he will rue two missed penalties during normal time on either side of the interval. Shifted to full-back to accommodate sub Healy, he handed his one kick in the shootout from the left of the 22.

9. Conor Murray – 7.5
His composure in these types of occasions was important in ensuring it didn’t get away on Munster in the opening half when they were 14-7 down. Recovered from a huge eighth-minute dunt from Emmanuel Meafou to give it socks for an hour before Craig Casey appeared. Returned near the end of extra time but could only land one of his two shootout penalty attempts.

1. Josh Wycherley – 6.5
Made up for some scrum insecurity with his interventions elsewhere. One first-half tackle on the scrambling Thomas Ramos sent a whoosh through the crowd, while his back stooped, one-handed take in the build-up to Earls’ try was outstanding. Played 55 minutes before Jeremy Loughman came on. The sub loosehead gave up the scrum penalty that allowed Toulouse to bring it to extra time.

2. Niall Scannell – 6
He is a different style of a hooker from the ball-carrying influence seen at Leinster in that position, but he tries to make up for that in different ways. Toughed it out here for 55 minutes before Diarmuid Barron arrived. The No16 won’t like to be reminded about getting sucked into the tackle that created the gap for the third Toulouse try.

3. Stephen Archer – 5.5
A milestone day in the veteran prop’s career, his 247th appearance putting him joint second on his club’s all-time list of appearances, but it won’t be remembered for his scrum prowess. Popped up like a toast from a toaster on a number of occasions before exiting on 51 minutes for John Ryan who temporarily reversed that set-piece trend with a penalty win ten minutes later.

4. Jean Kleyn – 7
Was inches short of the try line on nine minutes after a piston-like surge. His best moment came at the heart of the maul defence that didn’t yield an inside and turned Toulouse possession over five metres out from their own line in the first half. Played 60 minutes before his fellow South African Jason Jenkins was called on.

5. Fineen Wycherley – 7.5
It said it all about his efforts that he was the lock to stay on when the initial engine room change came on the hour mark. The youngster has grown his game by leaps and bounds judging by what was seen here. Lasted 72 minutes before Thomas Ahern arrived.

6. Peter O’Mahony – 9
The skipper was supreme against Exeter in the last round and he was splendid here once again with some canny decision-making and breakdown defiance. That type of involvement often comes at a price and it was no different on this occasion, the warrior going on his shield with a damaged left shoulder after bravely winning a turnover penalty on 63 minutes with his team protecting a ten-point lead. European rookie Jack Daly took over.

7. Alex Kendellen – 8
The latest taxi off the young Munster rank was quickly involved, helping to win a turnover penalty not far out from his team’s line and then scoring at the other end to ignite the spectacle. Agonising that his tackle couldn’t prevent Ntamack from scoring a try, but he simply dusted himself down and went on to produce a 100-minute performance with so much to savour.

8. Jack O’Donoghue – 8.5
Has ensured that the exit of CJ Stander hasn’t left the club vulnerable in a key position. He was immense the whole way through, his ball carrying and nuisance at the breakdown quite the weapon to have. Took over as skipper after the departure of O’Mahony.

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