Munster complete incredible knockout story as they beat Stormers to win URC title

Munster with URC trophy Credit: Alamy
Munster with URC trophy Credit: Alamy

Munster won the United Rugby Championship (URC) title as they saw off the Stormers 19-14 in a pulsating final in Cape Town on Saturday.

Despite finishing the regular season in fifth spot and after a disappointing start to the campaign, Graham Rowntree’s men have grown in the knockouts.

Away victories over Glasgow Warriors and Leinster in the quarter and semi-finals sent them to DHL Stadium where they edged the reigning champions.

Tries from Diarmuid Barron, Calvin Nash and John Hodnett were added to by Jack Crowley’s two conversions as Munster sealed a famous triumph.

Manie Libbok and Deon Fourie claimed the Stormers‘ tries as they led 14-12 with six minutes remaining before Hodnett finished off a great team try.

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The URC success is Munster’s first silverware in 12 years as they end a long drought without a trophy following an epic road trip of knockout victories.

Both sides had their chances in a game where there was so little between the teams, yet ultimately Munster had enough in the tank to deliver silverware for their 2,000 travelling fans and confirm the impact head coach Rowntree has made.

South Africa internationals Fourie and Marvin Orie returned to the Stormers line-up after recovering from injury for a 55,000 sell-out encounter at DHL Stadium.

Rowntree, meanwhile, made three changes from the side that defeated semi-final opponents Leinster, with Nash, centre Malakai Fekitoa and scrum-half Conor Murray all returning after completing return-to-play protocols following the quarter-finals.

The Stormers struck an opening blow after just six minutes and Munster only had themselves to blame.

Early momentum was undone when centre Antoine Frisch’s wildly-speculative pass from just inside his own half went to straight to Libbok, who sprinted clear to claim a try he also converted.

But Munster regrouped impressively and they breached Stormers’ defence just four minutes later when their forwards drove a close-range lineout and Barron burrowed over for the try.

The Munster forwards were relishing the battle and they almost added a second try after Stormers number eight Evan Roos was yellow-carded for deliberate offside but number eight Gavin Coombes’ effort was disallowed.

The Stormers could not get their free-flowing game going, being outsmarted by Murray’s clever and accurate box-kicking as they found themselves penned inside their own half.

Munster’s finishing was the only area where they let themselves down, with a second try being ruled out after captain Peter O’Mahony delivered a forward pass to full-back Mike Haley.

The Irish side made it third time lucky, though, midway through the second quarter after Crowley’s superb cross-kick was gathered by Nash, who finished impressively and Crowley converted for a five-point lead.

But Munster lost O’Mahony just before the interval when he went off for a head injury assessment and was replaced by RG Snyman.

Libbok missed a chance to reduce the deficit when he drifted a penalty wide just two minutes into the second half before Munster saw Haley sin-binned following a late challenge on Stormers wing Angelo Davids.

The Stormers immediately made their temporary one-man advantage count, with Munster powerless to halt a lineout drive that ended through Fourie touching down and Libbok converting.

It was a far more cohesive Stormers display in the second period, despite stamina-sapping conditions, and they retained a two-point advantage entering the final 15 minutes.

But Hodnett and Crowley then struck and Munster had achieved mission improbable despite a late yellow card for Crowley.

READ MORE: Munster player ratings: John Hodnett rises to the occasion in URC title success

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