The brilliant John Hodnett try that pushed Munster to URC glory

ABOVE ALL ELSE, this is a Munster team that never stops playing. A year on from being a team that sometimes never really started playing in the first place, they have total belief in their attack.

And in their time of need in Cape Town yesterday, Graham Rowntree’s side once again came up with the goods to produce John Hodnett’s game-clinching try.

While the 19-14 scoreline was tight in the end, Munster were clearly the better side in this URC final. They played all the rugby. Munster made eight clean linebreaks to the Stormers’ two. Attack coach Mike Prendergast has had a huge impact this season.

It probably should have been more comfortable, but comfortable is not the Munster way.

Instead, there was a typical dose of tension and drama as they produced a 75th-minute winner that started with Munster winning a kick battle.

The Stormers started the exchange of kicks from their own scrum in the middle of the pitch, with out-half Mannie Libbok looking to get his side further upfield.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Libbok’s kick is in behind Munster fullback Mike Haley but he does an excellent job of catching it on the full despite the ball coming over his head. It’s tougher than it looks.

It’s important that Haley catches on the full here so he has time to turn and kick back at the Stormers. A bouncing ball would allow the Stormers to put more pressure on with their chase. Typically, Haley does an excellent job of fielding and countering with a strong kick.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

It’s Libbok who fields it close to the touchline, not wanting to let the ball go out of play for a Stormers lineout in a vulnerable position where Munster could compete in the air.

Haley chases his kick well, with Alex Kendellen working up on his inside, so Libbok’s options are limited. He opts for an up-and-under to put the pressure back on Munster.

Damian Willemse [red below] is the primary chaser for the Stormers, something that Gavin Coombes [yellow] recognises early.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

So Coombes turns downfield and accelerates to take himself into Willemse’s running line towards the landing point of Libbok’s kick.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Coombes is entitled to retreat downfield towards the ball but he’s well aware of where Willemse wants to go and his subtle work means Shane Daly can field the ball uncontested.

Daly passes to Ben Healy, who calmly steps the chasing Willemse and spots space in the Stormers half after Libbok has moved infield.

Healy is predominantly right-footed but has worked hard to ensure he can kick accurately off his left too, with the benefits clear here.

He finds grass in the backfield, meaning the Stormers now have to chase back to recover.

Munster have gained the ascendency and they hammer home the advantage with another excellent chase on an evening full of this hard work. Libbok has to turn after gathering on the bounce and Healy is baring down on him at high speed.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Libbok steps the exposed Healy but then appears to decide he wants to find the safety of touch from inside his 22, hesitating and getting partially blocked by Coombes, who has worked all the way upfield again.

Munster scrum-half Craig Casey reels the ball in and Munster have an attacking ruck near the Stormers’ 22, just 35 seconds after Libbok’s initial kick from the scrum. This is a prime example of how good kicking creates attacking opportunites.

Still, there is hard work ahead for Munster. Their first attacking phase stutters slightly.

Haley plays scrum-half, then loosehead prop Josh Wycherley sweeps a pass back as Healy and Jack Crowley both think it’s intended for them in the same split-second.

Crowley collects it and then cleverly delays his pass, allowing JJ Kotze to shoot up past him before he finds Niall Scannell. The play nearly ends as Scannell briefly loses the ball in Ben-Jason Dixon’s tackle only to just about gather it before it falls forward.


There’s a turnover threat suddenly but as we see below, Crowley does an excellent job of dealing with Stormers prop Ali Vermaak, backed up by Tadhg Beirne.

Casey arrives to push makeshift scrum-half Haley out of the way, the fullback going to ground to allow him a possible pass to the right, but Munster have found some shape back on the left now.

As they recycle, we can see Wycherley at the top left corner of the shot below reloading on the left. He’s communicating on the move here, something Munster’s forwards have done much better this season.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Munster end up with Wycherely at the heart of a pod of three forwards, with Kendellen also arriving in a little later to make it a four-man pod, with Healy set up out the back.

Because Wycherley’s first movement on the ball is to go forward at the line, Stormers centre Ruhan Nel [yellow below] has to respect the possible tip-on pass option to Coombes, all the more so because Kendellen has also narrowed in close to Coombes.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Munster played lots of tip-in passes earlier in this game and while it never looks like an option here for Wycherely to go inside to RG Snyman, the variety of their game was apparent in Cape Town.

Wycherley plays the sweep pass to Healy and though Nel reads the play, he can’t get beyond Coombes.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Nel claims obstruction here but his appeal falls on deaf ears, with the match officials content that Coombes has not made a move to block Nel from getting through at Healy.

The Munster out-half now has time to fire a pass wide to Hodnett, who accelerates forward into the Stormers 22. He’s tackled by Paul de Wet and with Libbok jackaling, Munster once again need a convincing clearout.

First arrival Daly struggles for grip on the slippery surface, but Kendellan lends his power to ensure Libbok doesn’t get directly onto the ball.

The Stormers make another appeal on the next Munster phase as we see one of those tip-in passes.

Snyman pops inside to Wycherley.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

It does look borderline, although the angle isn’t good here and these passes always look worse when the passer is stopped dead after releasing the ball.

Referee Andrea Piardi is right beside the pass and he’s happy with it, so Munster’s attack continues.

They play off Healy again on the next phase, with the Edinburgh-bound playmaker having a three-man pod on his right to choose from. Generally, the third player in this kind of pod off 10 is the least utilised with passes from the out-half simply because they’re the furthest away and there may be an intercept risk.

But in this instance, Healy backs himself to whip a pass beyond Marvin Orie [yellow below], who has turned his shoulders in towards Beirne.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Watch below how Healy takes the ball to the line, ‘double pumping’ as he goes. That means he dummies the pass initially to further draw in the defenders before releasing his actual pass to Scannell.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Healy takes a hefty hit just after releasing the ball but the quality of his pass is clear as it whistles across the face of Orie to send Scannell into space. Scannell breaks the tackle attempt of Dan du Plessis before being grounded by Neethling Fouche working from the inside.

Munster have major momentum now but that’s broken up on the next phase as Willemse knocks on in a tackle on Malakai Fekitoa, giving Munster a scrum advantage.

Keith Earls scoops the ball off the ground and scurries through a tackle attempt before offloading to Scannell. Once again, Munster need a hasty clearout at the breakdown.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Kendellen shifts jackal threat Dixon and Roman Salanoa helps him to finish the job.

Advantage still playing, Fekitoa picks, carries and offloads to Earls. There’s another Stormers jackal as they bid to end the passage.

Vermaak is over the ball, but Fekitoa drags him off his feet.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Casey tries to pass left but is scragged, so Kendellen gathers the loose ball for the carry we see below and this is where Piardi tells them, “Advantage over for the knock on.”

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Munster are around 10 metres from the Stormers tryline and after a quick burst of scrappy play with the ball bobbling around, they have found some attacking shape to the left.

That familiar 3-pod is made up of Coombes, Snyman, and Beirne, with Crowley set up in behind.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

The temptation here for Snyman is to go straight out the back to Crowley, allowing him to move the ball wide.

But Snyman makes a good decision to go to Beirne at the front door for another direct carry that further condenses the Stormers defence, as we can see below.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

It’s clear above that Crowley hasn’t called for the sweep pass either, with Munster all on the same page in wanting another carry before they move the ball wide.

Coombes hits the breakdown to ensure Marcel Theunissen can’t jackal, with Snyman second in.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Now Munster are ready to strike for the kill.

As we can see below, Wycherley runs a front-door option for scrum-half Casey and gets a slight check on Ruben van Heerden in the Stormers defence, accentuating the difficult numbers-down defensive situation outside.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Haley has started stacked directly behind Crowley but swings up outside him as second receiver and then throws a double skip pass beyond Healy and Hodnett to left wing Daly.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Stormers backs Nel and Angelo Davids scramble hard across but Daly calmly passes back inside to Hodnett, who swiftly tucks the ball into his left hand, leaving his right free to help him bump through Davids’ tackle attempt for an excellent finish.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

Hodnett’s try leaves Munster 17-14 in front, so the Stormers could still win the game with an unconverted try or bring it into extra-time by kicking three points.

So there’s lots riding on Crowley’s conversion four metres in from the touchline.

There’s added pressure as Piardi shouts, “10 seconds” just before Crowley begins his run-up, with the shot clock ticking down.

the brilliant john hodnett try that pushed munster to urc glory

But Crowley’s nerveless kick means the Stormers definitely have to score a try.

There’s still plenty of time left for more thrills but that’s how Munster roll. Even with Crowley in the sin bin, they see the game out after Hodnett’s excellent game-clinching score.

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