Wearing No. 24, CJ Stander helped honour Anthony Foley’s Munster legacy with a towering performance in Munster’s inspired 38-17 win over Glasgow Warriors in the European Rugby Champions Cup.
It was a fruitful week for Guinness PRO12 clubs in Europe, but nowhere more so than at an emphatically red Thomond Park – where 26,500 people watched Munster honour the great No. 8 and in Stander’s words, turn from boys to men.
Glasgow, who looked a class apart against Leicester Tigers at Scotstoun in Round 1, were given no chance to draw breath as Rassie Erasmus’ side – led by an emotionally charged Peter O’Mahony – made light work of Keith Earls’ dismissal to rack up four tries and move top of Pool 1.
Tribute was paid across the continent to Munster and Shannon’s 62-cap Ireland international, but in Limerick Foley’s European legacy lived on as the current crop of Men in Red’s clinical, powerful display moved them top of arguably Europe’s most competitive pool.
And Stander, who wore 24 as a mark of respect to ‘Axel’, watched his side produce their best performance of the season when it counted most.
“It was a very, very tough week. I’m very proud of how the boys stood up. A lot of boys turned into men this week,” Stander told the Irish Independent.
“I felt that he (Foley) brought a lot to that jersey, he gave everything in that jersey, I think giving that jersey off for the day was a great touch.
“You can’t do him justice in that jersey so playing at 24 was still a massive honour. As I said, you only get it for a game, you’re just borrowing it from the next guy.
“For me, it’s going to be a massive honour to play in that 8 jersey again. It means I’m going to have to play harder, make him proud.”
Our tribute to Anthony Foley. pic.twitter.com/Y7TvNnOeFk
— Sky Sports Rugby ???? (@SkySportsRugby) October 20, 2016
Jackson leaves it late:
Paddy Jackson dug out a 78th minute drop-goal to ensure Ulster recorded their first Champions Cup win of the season against Exeter Chiefs.
The exceptional Charles Piutau created the game’s only try, ghosting through three Chiefs tackles before sending Sean Reidy over, but Jackson decided the game with his late kick – though Gareth Steenson did still have time to narrowly miss a potential match-winner a minute later.
Guinness PRO12 leaders Ulster face a poignant clash with Munster next Friday and Les Kiss has urged his side to honour the occasion by giving a full-blooded performance.
“I think first and foremost it’s going to be emotional again. That night, we’ll still be paying a lot of our respects to Anthony,” Kiss explained.
“It’s the first interpro since it happened. A lot of us went down at one time or another this week and it hits home.
“We’ve had it ourselves with Nevin [Spence] and we know there is going to be a lot of emotion. We have to accept that and work with it and maybe do something they won’t like by winning to stay top of the league.”
Stacey Ili scored a fine hat-trick as Guinness PRO12 champions Connacht racked up eight tries against Zebre at the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi.
Leinster battled to a 22-16 loss against a Nemani Nadolo-inspired Montpellier, while Scarlets fell to reigning champions Saracens at Allianz Park.
Capital showing from Edinburgh:
Edinburgh turned in their finest performance of the Duncan Hodge era with a 36-35 win against Harlequins at BT Murrayfield that leaves them top of Pool 5 in the Challenge Cup.
It was a topsy–turvy encounter in the Scottish capital. After Charlie Walker ran over for Quins inside two minutes, Allan Dell and Blair Kinghorn sparked a five-try blitz that saw the hosts race to a 31-14 lead.
Quins fought back to lead 35-31, but Tom Brown struck late to clinch a vital win that Hodge could hardly believe.
“To come back and play the way we did for half an hour was unreal,” he said.
“It’s so good in a lot of ways. There was a big crowd here as well so hopefully they’ve not just been entertained but seen what these boys are about.”
— Edinburgh Rugby (@EdinburghRugby) October 22, 2016
Ospreys super teen:
Keelan Giles scored a brilliant hat-trick as the Ospreys dominated Lyon for a 31-7 win and moved five points clear in Pool 2.
The 18-year-old combined well with Sam Davies and Josh Matavesi for his first, finished from 40 metres for his second and snaffled a third from 80 metres just after the break, while Sam Parry sealed the bonus point late on.
Cardiff Blues continued their strong start, beating Pau 27-12 at BT Sport Cardiff Arms Park, but Newport Gwent Dragons struggled against Enisei-STM in Siberia, losing 38-18 and Benetton Treviso had a similarly tough afternoon at Kingsholm, going down 37-8 to Gloucester.