A MUNSTER side that included some of their key internationals proved far too strong for a seriously understrength Edinburgh in this PRO14 cross-conference game. Undefeated at home so far this season, the Irish province were never in the slightest danger of losing that record in Cork against opponents who have yet to win away, and eased to an eight-try victory that keeps up the chase of Conference A leaders Glasgow.
Six of those tries came in the first half, three in the space of eight minutes from Keith Earls. Edinburgh’s two touchdowns were from Duhan van der Merwe, whose dynamism proved a real handful for the Munster defence on the rare occasion he got possession, while Juan Pablo Socino also more than held his own going forward. There was no shortage of effort from the rest of Richard Cockerill’s team, who competed on far more of an even footing in the second 40, but the bald fact is that even at their strongest Edinburgh find beating Munster a very tall order. With all their leading internationals being rested in anticipation of the forthcoming Heineken Cup double-header against Newcastle, this back-up squad was never in with a chance of pulling off what would have been an immense upset.
It was the first time the teams had met since the play-off quarter-final at Thomond Park last May, when Munster squeezed through 20-16, and it quickly became apparent that there was to be nothing resembling a repeat of that close contest. The first try came after five minutes, with Chris Farrell celebrating his first start of the season by crossing after Arno Botha had made good ground off lineout ball and Billy Holland had done the rest of the approach work.
Edinburgh had started assertively enough, but increasingly found it tough to withstand the physical onslaught from the home side, and went further behind after quarter of an hour when right-winger Andrew Conway burst through midfield to score between the posts. The visitors had been down to 14 men at the time, with Nathan Fowles having picked up an injury, and before play restarted following JJ Hanrahan’s conversion Sean Kennedy replaced his fellow-scrum-half.
While Edinburgh were short-handed at that score, when Conway scored again just three minutes later the problem was over-crowding in defence, with three men crowding round Farrell after a lineout had been lost. A swift pass from the centre was all that was required from that point to set up an overlap, and Conway finished off easily, with Hanrahan again adding two points.
It had become obvious by then that Munster had too much strength and experience for their opponents, but Edinburgh did not let their heads go down, and two minutes later Van der Merwe opened their account. Socino and George Taylor made the running, and then the winger slipped inside Mike Haley and handed off Cloete on his way to the line, with Jaco van der Walt converting.
Munster had taken almost the entire 80 minutes to claim the try bonus against Zebre in their last game, but they wrapped it up here in just half an hour. A lineout drive gave them a platform, then Conor Murray put Earls in at the left corner.
It was little more than a training exercise for the Irishmen after that, and in what remained of the first half Earls completed his hat-trick, first after Farrell and Haley had combined in a stylish move, and then after Haley and Conway had set him up.Error, group does not exist! Check your syntax! (ID: 12)
Cockerill had said his team were going to Cork to win, but the second half, which they began 34-7 down, was only going to be about damage limitation. Pietro Ceccarelli was soon introduced at tighthead in a bid to help shore up a retreating scrum, and Edinburgh held their own in a scoreless third quarter. Darryl Marfo came on at the other side of the front row around the hour mark for his first appearance of the season, while Senitiki Nayalo and Jason Baggott also came off the bench to make their competitive debuts.
With Taylor also appearing for the first time outwith friendlies, Edinburgh’s fringe players were at least getting some valuable experience at this level. Munster also rang the changes, and some of the pattern and purpose inevitably went out of their play as a result, but they eventually stretched their lead with quarter of an hour to play when substitute Tyler Bleyendaal forced his way over.
A lineout on the right then produced a fine second try for Duhan van der Merwe, who gathered possession on the deck then powered his way past three defenders. Baggott converted, but Munster had the last word with another try for Farrell, who smashed through Socino on his way to the line.
Munster: M Haley; A Conway, C Farrell, R Scannell, K Earls; J Hanrahan, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan, T Beirne, W Holland, P O’Mahony, C Cloete, A Botha. Subs: K O’Byrne, J Loughman, C Parker, F Wycherley, G Coombes, D Williams, T Bleyendaal, S Arnold.
Edinburgh: D Fife; T Brown, G Taylor, J Socino, D van der Merwe; J van der Walt, N Fowles; R Sutherland, D Cherry, M McCallum, J Hodgson, C Hunter-Hill, A Miller, L Wynne, L Hamilton. Subs: R Ford, D Marfo, P Ceccarelli, C Atkinson, S Nayalo, S Kennedy, J Baggott, C Dean.
Munster: Tries: Farrell 2, Conway 2, Earls 3, Bleyendaal. Cons: Hanrahan 2.
Edinburgh: Tries: Van der Merwe 2. Cons: Van der Walt, Baggott.
Scoring sequence (Munster first): 5-0, 10-0, 12-0, 17-0, 19-0, 19-5, 19-7, 24-7, 29-7, 34-7 half-time, 39-7, 39-12, 39-14, 44-14.
Referee: N Owens (Wales).