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Munster’s Second String Impress

Match Report – RaboDirect PRO12 

Munster 34-17 Edinburgh

26th November @ Thomond Park

Keatley impressed at Thomond Park. Photo via MD+D

Munster put in an impressive performance to claim a bonus point win against Edinburgh in an entertaining RaboDirect PRO12 clash. Tony McGahan was rewarded for putting faith in some of younger members of his squad. The more experienced second-string players also gave the Australian coach something to think about with their good showing at Thomond Park. While Edinburgh made a game of it, Munster always looked the more likely winners here.

Indeed, it was a flying start from Munster. After some strong carries from hard-working Mick O’Driscoll and Denis Fogarty, outhalf Ian Keatley switched play to the blindside. Denis Hurley broke a tackle and drew the last defender to put Danny Barnes over for a 3rd minute try. Keatley was on target with the conversion. With Munster retaining possession well for the next few minutes,  it looked as though they could go on to build a strong lead.

However, an attempted Keatley grubber went straight into the hands of Edinburgh’s Jack Gilding. The prop immediately moved the ball to backrow Netani Telai whose offload to Phil Godman allowed the outhalf to scamper over in the corner. The Edinburgh No. 10 was well off target with his conversion attempt in windy conditions. It was Keatley who dealt with the wind better for the remainder of the first half as he converted two penalties. Meanwhile, Godman and replacement centre Harry Leonard were badly off target with their penalty efforts for Edinburgh.

The 13-5 lead at half-time didn’t truly reflect the level of Munster’s dominance in the first half. They enjoyed good territorial advantage but were failing to convert try-scoring opportunities. Will Chambers was guilty on one occasion as he ignored the overlap outside and went himself. No. 8 Paddy Butler was unlucky to knock on as he attempted to gather and dive over after the ball had squeezed out of a scrum just in front of the Edinburgh try line.

Edinburgh were first on the scoreboard in the second-half when they swiftly moved the ball through the hands to winger Tom Brown on the left-hand touchline. It looked like Munster debutant Luke O’Dea had made a fantastic try-saving tackle on Brown, but the Edinburgh wide man stretched out to touch down. Again, Godman was unsuccessful with his effort from the tee. With their lead closed to 3 points at 13-10, Munster were snapped back into action by Brown’s try.

Simon Zebo made a scintillating break out on the left and from the ensuing scrum, it all started to fall apart for Edinburgh. The Munster scrum turned up the heat magnificently and Gilding was sent to the bin. Loosehead Kyle Traynor was hot on his heels as referee Neil Paterson was forced to reach for another yellow card. Munster then left Paterson with no option but to award a well-deserved penalty try as they shunted Edinburgh back once again. Keatley added the extras to leave Munster with a 20-10 lead.

Munster extended the lead soon after as they used their numerical advantage to create a try for Zebo. It was Chambers who was creator this time as his offload allowed Zebo to dive over for a score that his performance had earned. Once again, Keatley was on target with his conversion. It was an admirable kicking performance from the ex-Connacht outhalf as he adapted well to the blustery conditions.

Restored to 15 men, Edinburgh made a valiant attempt to reel Munster in. Replacement outhalf Greig Laidlaw scooted through a gap in the defence as Munster briefly lost focus. The substitute converted his own try to leave Edinburgh trailing by 10 points, 27-17. But it was Munster who had the last say when Keatley put an intelligent grubber through for O’Dea to dot down on his debut. Keatley increased his personal points haul to 14 with the conversion.

The comfortable 34-17 lead allowed McGahan to empty his bench and give the likes of John Ryan, Ian Nagle and Scott Deasy a few minutes of game time. He will have been impressed with the performances of his younger players. Zebo, O’Dea, Tommy O’Donnell and Stephen Archer all showed up well. More experienced players like Tomas O’Leary, Mick O’Driscoll and particularly Donnacha O’Callaghan led the side well. Munster travel to Wales to take on the Ospreys next Saturday, where these players will hope to impress again.

Photo courtesy:  M+MD