As debuts go, rupturing your ACL in the early stages thereof and missing the rest of the season thereafter fairly stinks. Yet the giant RG Snymann had shown enough in that maiden outing to leave Munster fans in no doubt as to what they’d be missing for the remainder of last season.
Last night, the long road back for the player and the Thomond Park faithful reached the desired conclusion when the big South African made a memorable cameo, crossing for the home side’s final try against those from his native land.
This was no cake walk for those in red however. More like the emotional carnival a Munster match has tended more often than not to be for the better part of three decades. Most surprising was the sense that, with a South African coach, they surely must have known those backed by DHL were likely to deliver. A game plan predicated on keeping ball in hand and operating almost to a 7s script.
Right from the off, it was clear The Stormers were a different animal to the Sharks. Their ball retention in hand and productivity with it initially bamboozled an overly generous Munster defence. Constructing an early 15-0 lead for themselves.
What was bordering on the impugnity with which the Stormers were infiltrating the hometown rearguard eventually poked the bear from its slumber and after somewhat belatedly engineering a means to go back to Thomond Park basics – repeated phases of pick-and-drive, Jack O’Donoghue touched down under the posts. Leaving them trailing by eight at half time.
Now, this corner wouldn’t be the biggest fan of Johann Van Graan’s management, but, all the money in one’s turf accountant holding would be wagered that this was one particular occasion when senior voices in the dressing room did the needful at the break.
Because right from the getgo there was an air of the ‘old’ Munster about things. In short, they completely dominated the contest. O’Donoghue went over again, while other ‘majors’ were tacked on courtesy of Niall Scannell and Jean Kleyn. Scannell’s score coming after an exquisite crossfield kick from his brother, Rory.
For many, including this viewer, though,I suspect the most treasured try of the night will have been the last one. The returning Springbok announcing himself in the best way possible. With two bonus point wins and stars returning from export and injury, the two-time European Champions are entitled to feel fairly good about life.
All the while conscious of the fact that, with other Irish sides having made eye catching beginnings to their owns seasons, the Red Army will have to remain performing at their optimum simply to keep pace with them.