In one of the most surprising results on the opening weekend of the 2023/24 Investec Champions Cup, Top 14 mid-table side Bayonne secured a late draw away at Munster.
Regarded as one of the toughest places in Europe to get a result, Munster’s home ground, Thomond Park, has reached an iconic status in professional rugby.
The Limerick-based Stadium has played host to some remarkable Munster victories over the years, with the Irish side rarely losing there in the Champions Cup.
Yet, heading into the fixture, the URC Champions were struck with several key injuries to front-line players.
Thus, their disjointed performance came as little surprise, yet even still blowing a 14 – 3 halftime lead will frustrate head coach Graham Rowntree and his squad.
Even with their attacking failing to fire a shot in the second half, Munster looked set to squeak out a result, only to see Bayonne’s Remy Baget go over in the corner.
From here, Thomas Dolhagaray landed a touchline conversion to bring the scores level.
Saving Munster’s blushes was the once again World Class Tadhg Beirne, who, in his first Champions Cup match as Captain, stripped the ball from a Bayonne ball carrier just as the French side looked set to close out a remarkable victory.
With the action on the pitch hitting an intense level, at times frustrations boiled over as the two sides got into a few scuffles.
One such incident saw Munster’s 6’7″ backrow sensation Thomas Ahern and Bayonne’s Georgian powerhouse Lock Konstantin Mikautadze have words on the sideline.
In what would then be a rather mind-blowing development, a fan in the stands felt it suitable to grab Mikautadze’s jersey.
The Georgian understandably didn’t take kindly to the fan’s involvement, who was fortunate to have Ahern there to calm down the situation.
Clearly, there is no place in the game for fans to touch players, let alone grab their shirts. All we can say is that fan is one lucky man, as Mikautadze does not look like someone you want to mess with….