Munster's Heineken Champions Cup campaign kicked off with a mammoth task of a trip to Gallagher Premiership heavyweight's Exeter Chiefs. In stormy conditions, a turbulent affair unfolded that finished with a 10-10 draw.
Munster arrived amidst predictions that a losing bonus point would be a decent result and leave with genuine cause for frustration at a missed win. A phenomenal amount of good work was repeatedly undone by one of poor execution, discipline or a combination of both. There was plenty of reason for optimism and the large travelling support will know the result could prove invaluable, particularly when you consider their similar opening day draw away to Castres last season.
Good result that for @Munsterrugby but will feel there was more in them with that wind second half.
— Brian O'Driscoll (@BrianODriscoll) October 13, 2018
A draw was a fair result. In the end, it was an unrelenting battle that will leave Munster much the happier team.
Mike Haley - 6
A decent offensive effort with seven runs for 57 metres. Had very little impact defensively.
Andrew Conway - 6
As lively as ever with ball in hand. Conditions proved challenging and he dropped a long kick which put Munster under pressure but that mistake must be taken in context as the wind was immense. Certainly fortunate to avoid any punishment just before half-time when his he collided with kicker Steenson while trying to block down the conversion.
Dan Goggin - 7
The 23-year-old got off to a flyer this season and carried that form into this game. Seven tackles and did not miss one.
Rory Scannell - 7.5
In the continued absence of Jaco Taute, Scannell has stepped up and become Munster's primary back ball-carrier. His form over the past twelve months will no doubt have caught Joe Schmidt's attention.
Darren Sweetnam - 6
Earls pulled out after the warm-up which meant Sweetnam stood in. Very little kick-chasing or ball through the hands meant he was starved of possession.
Joey Carbery - 7
His trip down south was always going to be a learning experience and today emphasised that. A wonderful kick in behind to ping Exeter back was the highlight, a poorly judged kick long that went over the dead ball line and put Munster under extreme late pressure came at the other end of the scale. Overall decent with ball in hand and great in defence.
Duncan Williams - 7.5
A standout moment came with his vital intervention after a big scramble defence and try-saving tackle. It came with 20 minutes left and in a game as close as this a score then would have ended the game.
Duncan Williams man of the match surely?! #EXEvMUN
— Alby Mathewson (@AlbyMathewson) October 13, 2018
Dave Kilcoyne - 6
A real asset with his relentless ball-carrying. Munster were put under serious pressure at the scrum and eventually, management made a bold call and took off both props after just 45 minutes.
Niall Scannell - 6.5
Hit 9 out of 10 line-outs and was a big attacking influence. Lagged in the second half after a big opening 40 and was replaced by Rhys Marshall.
Stephen Archer - 5
Started off poorly after a big early mistake when he spilt ball after some intense Dave Ewers' pressure. Replaced after 45 minutes.
Jean Kleyn - 7
Only two Munster forwards ended the afternoon without missing a single tackle and they were both in the second-row. The start of what could become a beautiful partnership.
Tadhg Beirne - 9
"I was just checking I have the right man, there he is again!" Bellowed a bemused BT Sport commentary team as Beirne appeared at yet another breakdown. His work rate was absolutely magnificent. He racked up 18 turnovers last year in the Champions Cup and looks set to surpass that this year. Technically perfect at the breakdown, a great ball-carrier and intelligent line-out operator. Rightly awarded Man of the Match.
Peter O’Mahony (C) - 8
With kicking opportunities limited and thus an inevitable increase in breakdowns, O'Mahony found himself in turnover heaven and made hay. Big line-out steals early in the game and again on the hour mark. A really interesting moment just before half-time as Exeter opted for a scrum instead of a line-out. With O'Mahony operating like a human pogo stick jumping at the front and forcing the long throw in windy conditions, it was an understandable move but it shows how influential the Cork Con man is.
Chris Cloete - 7
Eight tackles and only missed one. Munster's abundance of riches in the back-row obvious once again. Jérôme Garcès allowed the breakdown develop to a dogfight and Munster edged it.
CJ Stander - 7
Uncharacteristically quiet in defence but typically devastating going forward. It goes without saying he once again finished with the most metres of any Munster forward. He also scored a good try. As Donncha O'Callaghan said on BT Sport, there is no one you would rather have in that kind of position.
Replacements - 7
John Ryan and James Cronin were both terrific when they came on, both in forcing a penalty at scrum-time and also at the breakdown as Cronin made a big steal. Billy Holland was introduced for the final quarter and Rhys Marshall came on and hit his line-out que in difficult conditions. Tommy O'Donnell was crucial in the build-up to Munster's try. Sam Arnold came on and took a knock after a great tackle out wide. He was replaced by J. J. Hanrahan. Neil Cronin also got a run.
When you are building anything, you start from the ground up. All the foundations for a superb Munster unit are there but they will need to refine certain elements of their execution and disciplinary lapses at key moments. Overall, this was an encouraging showing that could be the base for another strong European campaign.