The trajectory of a rugby ball can have a significant impact, as Munster learned the hard way in Devon. Just moments ago, the Irish team appeared to have complete control over their crucial Champions Cup match. But suddenly, they were left feeling disappointed and defeated as the young and revitalized Chiefs team staged another impressive comeback to maintain their undefeated record in Pool Three.
In the fourth quarter, Munster had a comfortable 24-13 lead, but Exeter’s substitutes pulled off a miraculous comeback, similar to their previous victory in Toulon. Ross Vintcent, a back-row forward, scored a try from close range to revive the game. Shortly after, Stu Townsend, who came on as a replacement scrum-half, kicked a box kick into empty space near the Munster 22.
Calvin Nash, who scored the first try for his team, let the ball bounce and was then surprised when Jack Dunne, a former Leinster player, came charging in to take it. To Munster’s dismay, Dunne, a tall lock, continued to run all the way to the try-line, giving Exeter the lead for the first time. In the 79th minute, a well-executed interception by Henry Slade added to the Irish team’s frustration and secured Exeter’s fourth try, earning them an extra Christmas bonus.
After the game, Exeter’s director of rugby, Rob Baxter, shared that his team had playfully teased Dunne for finally making a good catch this season. Meanwhile, Graham Rowntree, the opposing team’s coach, called the entire situation “absurd”.
Munster, having lost in three trips to Devon, have yet to secure a victory in their first two pool matches. They still have to face Toulon away and Northampton at home, both of whom are currently undefeated.
“I am extremely frustrated,” expressed Rowntree, dissatisfied with his team’s deteriorating composure in the second half. “We excel at making things difficult for ourselves on a global scale.”
The match was a thrilling and back-and-forth battle, with Exeter initially appearing unlikely to come out as winners. Munster’s strategists had clearly noticed gaps in Exeter’s defense and took advantage by scoring three times in the same corner during the first half. Craig Casey’s long pass found an open Nash for their first score, while a well-placed cross-kick from Jack Crowley allowed blindside flanker Tom Ahern to sprint impressively for almost 50 meters and score.
The visitors saw even greater success when their skilled midfielders paved the path for Antoine Frisch, formerly of Bristol, to make a break down the right touchline. Exeter did score one try in the first half, with Dan Frost capitalizing on a period of pressure at home, but they were consistently vulnerable to attacks from Munster who dominated in both territory and possession.
The competition was intense, as expected. These two teams share common bonds such as regional pride, rural enthusiasm, and a straightforward approach. The game promised to be physical, especially on a mostly cloudy and calm afternoon. Munster’s international player Tadhg Beirne played a crucial role with his long arms and strength, making a significant turnover on his team’s line. This came after Tom Cairns impulsively chose to take a quick tap penalty.
However, Exeter refused to give up after being behind 18-5 during their match by the Mediterranean the week before. Despite Munster scoring once more, Frisch’s clever move down the center opened up enough space for Shane Daly to score for the Chiefs on the left side.
Perhaps the Irish believed that the difficult tasks had already been completed. However, they were mistaken. Baxter’s choice to implement significant alterations proved to be highly successful and Munster now faced a completely transformed opponent. Vintcent and Dunne, taking advantage of opportunities, got the crowd cheering once more before Slade, who totaled 17 points, swooped in for the final blow.
Munster were dissatisfied with the decision to award the last try, leading to Beirne engaging in a lengthy discussion with French referee Matthieu Raynal. However, Baxter focused on Slade’s consistently impressive performances this season. “He’s putting in the effort and performance of a young player,” Baxter stated. “I couldn’t ask for more from him. He’s playing at the level that earned him an international cap. It’s clear that he thrives in big games.”
Vanes scores three goals to help Leicester maintain their lead and defeat Stade.
Archie Vanes recorded three consecutive tries while Leicester held strong against late pressure to secure a hard-fought 27-24 win against Stade Français in the Champions Cup.
The win, which came via a 66th-minute penalty from Jamie Shillcock, helped the Tigers extend their unbeaten record in Pool Four of the competition. Shillcock finished with 12 points with the boot, while the Paris side’s tries came from Mathieu Hirigoyen, Charles Laloi and Léo Barré.
At the halfway point, Leicester had a lead of 14-7 thanks to Vanes scoring two tries that were successfully converted by Shillcock. In the beginning of the second half, the home team gained momentum as Laloi scored a try in the corner within the first minute of play.
On Leicester’s third attempt of the evening, Vanes’ goal allowed them to maintain their composure and regain the lead with 54 minutes remaining. Stade Français retaliated and managed to tie the game with a goal 20 minutes before the end. However, Shillcock’s penalty in the 66th minute put Leicester back on top and they held off intense pressure from the opposing team in the final moments.