Munster 26 Chiefs 10


Munster Rugby 26

Exeter Chiefs 10

(Aggregate 34-23)

Mark Stevens at Thomond Park

Thomond Park has had some memorable European encounters over the years and they can now add this one to the collection, Munster Rugby sealing a 20th Champions Cup quarter-final appearance with a hard-fought victory over Exeter Chiefs.

Joey Carberry marked his return to club colours with a virtuoso display, the Munster playmaker sticking the boot into the 2020 champions with a hugely impressive 21-point haul.

That he was not named the game’s man of the match was testament to those around him, particularly skipper Peter O’Mahony who, like Carbery, had sat out last week’s first leg encounter at Sandy Park.

Between them, the Irish internationals spearheaded the Munster triumph, which was rounded off late on with a score for centre Damian De Allende.

For the Chiefs, it was a bitter pill to swallow. Tries from Sam Maunder and Jacques Vermeulen were the obvious highlights for Rob Baxter’s side in a battling showing, but the visitors will certainly head away from Limerick thinking ‘if only’.

Renewing acquaintances just a week after doing battle at Sandy Park, it was the Chiefs who held a slender five-point advantage going into this much-anticipated second leg.

Both sides made changes in personnel from the previous week, the Chiefs drafting in Jannes Kirsten for the injured Sam Simmonds, while Munster included the return of Irish internationals Peter O’Mahony, Simon Zebo and Carbery.

It was, however, the visitors who started the brighter, tearing into their rivals with a powerful opening blast. The Devonians worked their way through a plethora of attacking raids, testing Munster defence left, right and even down the middle, but after almost three minutes of pressure, it was the Chiefs who were pulled up for infringing under the shadow of the home posts.

Munster made the most of the let-off and in their first meaningful attack, they were able to win a penalty midway inside the Exeter half. It allowed Carbery his first shot at the target and the Munster marksman made no mistake, dispatching a penalty to break the deadlock.

Home cheers, though, proved short-lived as within minutes the Chiefs were back on the offensive. Stuart Hogg almost released Olly Woodburn down the right, before turnover possession allowed Baxter’s side to go hunting once more. Jack Yeandle led the charge with a tap penalty, then when the visitors were afforded another, Sam Maunder caught the hosts napping to drive his way over from close range.

In the build-up to the score, Conor Murray was picked out by French referee Mathieu Raynal for an indiscretion - and off he trot for a ten-minute stint in the cooler.

Despite their numerical advantage, the Chiefs could not capitalise and it was Munster who countered with a second Carbery penalty, before the playmaker skated his way over following a sustained spell of pressure to send many inside Thomond Park into raptures.

Carbery added the extras to his own score and all of a sudden Munster were in front for the first time in the two legs.

The remainder of the half was a physical slugfest between the respective packs, where only the odd bit of rugby really broke out. The Chiefs, though, were sensing they had the edge in the scrum battle and having been harshly pulled up on one almighty shove, they made no mistake late in the half with another.

It offered Simmonds the chance to not only cut the deficit on the day, but at the same time restore parity on the aggregate scoreline. Sadly, his lengthy kick from just inside the Munster half drifted wide of the right post.


With little to choose between either side in the grand scheme of things, it was the Chiefs who again came out firing on the resumption. Led by their African back-row trio of Dave Ewers, Kirsten and Vermeulen, they ravaged their way through the middle of the Munster defence to get themselves to within sniffing distance of the line.

The hosts were reeling on the ropes, eventually leaking a penalty just five metres out. Sensing they had the momentum, the Chiefs declined the kick at goal, instead going for greater reward from another tap penalty. Yeandle burrowed again, head first at a wall of red, the tactic paying dividends as the visitors rumbled over through Vermeulen.

Simmonds was again unable to convert, this time cannoning his kick back off the near post, much to the joy of the natives. But, crucially, the Chiefs were again up on the aggregate count, albeit by two points.

Munster looked for an instant response, working their way deep behind enemy lines. But, just as they looked set to pounce, Vermeulen produced heroics at the other end, this time winning a crucial turnover penalty just yards from his own try-line.

The tension, the atmosphere, the volume, it was all on the increase. This was European Rugby at its finest. Neither side, though, were willing to give an inch in the furnace of battle.

Munster threw on a whole new front-row in a bid to inject some extra zest into their play. However, the Chiefs were standing firm under mounting pressure, as was referee Raynal who was coming under increasing scrutiny from the masses in the stands.

The hosts were not going quietly and when Ewers was flattened as he looked to pick from the base of a ruck, O’Mahony’s work at the breakdown, won his side a crucial penalty. Up stepped Carbery to land the kick and nose his side back in front by just a solitary point.

Minutes later and he was extending the home side’s lead, the playmaker landing another lengthy penalty after Kirsten had been pulled up for playing the man beyond the ball as the Chiefs looked to attack from deep.

Just as they had done earlier, the Chiefs looked to counter straight away, but this time it would be to no avail. Munster were feeding off the vociferous home support, every action rewarded with a powerful chorus of roars.

Try as they may, the Chiefs bravely battled on, throwing themselves into every collision with the same mind-set they had shown earlier in the contest. It would be Munster, though, who would have the final word, the hosts pressing through the middle initially, before Mike Haley and Zebo combined, the latter slipping a sublime pass back inside for De Allende to finish in the left corner.

Carbery, just as he had done all afternoon, slotted a beautiful touchline conversion to put the final nail in the Exeter’s coffin.

Munster: M Haley; K Earls, C Farrell, D de Allende, S Zebo; J Carbery, C Murray (C Casey 70); J Wycherley (J Loughman 55), N Scannell (D Barron 55), J Ryan (S Archer 55); J Kleyn (T Aherne 61), F Wycherley; P O’Mahony (capt, J Jenkins 75), J Hodnett (A Kendellen 70), J O’Donoghue. Replacement (not used): B Healy.

Tries - Carbery, De Allende; Conversions - Carbery (2); Penalties - Carbery (4)

Yellow Card: Murray

Chiefs: S Hogg; O Woodburn (J Hodge 72), H Slade, I Whitten (T Hendrickson 75, T O’Flaherty; J Simmonds, S Maunder (J Maunder 58); A Hepburn (B Keast 60), J Yeandle (capt, J Innard 60), H Williams (P Schickerling 60); J Gray, S Skinner; D Ewers (S Grononda 75), J Kirsten, J Vermeulen (R Capstick 70).

Tries - S Maunder, Vermeulen

Referee: M Raynal

Attendance: 21,125

Sign up to the Chiefs Newsletter

To receive a copy of the Exeter Chiefs Newsletter, please enter your email address below. You will then receive an email to confirm that you wish to receive it. You can unsubscribe at any time simply by following the link at the bottom of the email.