A PRETTY grim spectacle on a cold and gusty night in south-west Ireland, but Edinburgh won’t be fretting too much about that after picking up a valuable win on the road which lifts them to second in the Guinness PRO14 Conference B table, and leaves them only two points behind the side they have just beaten.
The context of this being a second-string Munster side – with their main men being rested ahead of next weekend’s Champions Cup clash against Saracens – will be of little consequence when we get to the final shakedown at the end of the season. Head coach Richard Cockerill and his team will know that they will need to be an awful lot better than this to have any chance of coming out on top against the leading sides in this competition when they are fully-loaded, but in a dog-eat-dog world they will take any result that comes their way, no matter how disjointed and scrappy the performance.
The visitors got off to a flyer when Matt Scott hit a sharp angle straight from a scrum and despite being brought down just short of the line he somehow managed to wriggle and stretch his way over for the try. Jaco van der Walt added the conversion and then exchanged penalties with opposite number Ben Healy to make it 3-10 with 23 minutes played.
Edinburgh continued to look the likelier of the sides but then found themselves frantically scuttling backwards when Fijian winger Eroni Sau fumbled in the middle of the park and Munster kicked down field. Duhan van der Merwe got back first but was immediately swallowed up by an avalanche of red jerseys and was penalised for holding on. The home team went to the corner, and then launched a 23 phase bombardment on the Edinburgh line, during which time the defending team were called for offside on several occasions, before Tommy O’Donnell eventually got the ball down over the whitewash.
Healy’s conversion squared it with four minutes in the first half remaining and Munster could clearly sense that Edinburgh were rattled. They surged right back upfield from the restart, kicked a penalty to the corner and it took some great work by Ben Toolis to wrap up the ball and defuse the driving maul – leaving it all square at the turnaround.
Munster kept the pressure on at the start of the second half with Healy stroking home a 45-yard penalty within two minutes of the resumption to edge the Irishmen into the lead.
Edinburgh almost bounced back when Stuart McInally burst through midfield then fed Pierre Schoeman on his inside shoulder, but the rampaging South African prop was pulled down just short, and Munster then edged themselves three more points ahead when Schoeman was penalised for a high tackle directly in front of his own posts.
But Edinburgh’s replacement stand-off Simon Hickey promptly cancelled that out when Munster were penalised for coming in from the side, and then the visitors recaptured the lead with an excellently taken try created by Blair Kinghorn who – whilst playing advantage – angled an inch-perfect kick to the right touchline for Sau to gather on the first bounce on his way the line.
Edinburgh were now two points ahead, and the game – which hadn’t ever really threatened to burst into life – became even more of a stalemate, with play stranded between the 22s for the next 15 minutes. Eventually, a scrum penalty allowed Hickey to set up a line-out 10 yards from the Munster line with five minutes to go and although Cockerill’s men couldn’t find the edge to push themselves further ahead, they did a pretty decent job of closing the game out.
Munster: S Daly; C Nash, S Arnold (R Scannell 62), D Goggin, A Wootton; B Healy (J Hanrahan 62), N McCarthy (N Cronin 70); L O’Connor (J Cronin 64), R Marshall (K O’Byrne 68), S Archer (K Knox 64), F Wycherley, D O’Shea (J Holloway 62), J O’Donoghue, T O’Donnell (C Oliver 65), A Botha.
Edinburgh: B Kinghorn; E Sau, M Bennett, M Scott (G Taylor 64), D van der Merwe; J van der Walt (S Hickey 53), H Pyrgos; P Schoeman (R Sutherland 70), S McInally (M Willemse 64), P Ceccarelli (S Berghan 53), B Toolis, G Gilchrist, M Bradbury, H Watson, V Mata.
Referee: Marius Mitrea (FIR)
Munster: Try: O’Donnell; Con: O’Donnell; Pen: Healy 3.
Edinburgh: Try: Scott, Sau; Con: Van Der Walt; Pen: Van Der Walt, Hickey.
Scoring sequence (Munster first): 0-5; 0-7; 0-10; 3-10; 8-10; 10-10 (h-t) 13-10; 16-10; 16-13; 16-18