Munster v Edinburgh: pack power prevails over patchy visitors

Zebo hat-trick helps home side to bonus-point win which sends them above the Scots in the URC table

Henry Pyrgos
Henry Pyrgos's late try was not enough to stop Edinburgh losing to Munster. Image: © Craig Watson. www.craigwatson.co.uk.

Munster 34

Edinburgh 20

SIMON Zebo scored a hat-trick, with his third try minutes from time securing the bonus point that takes Munster above Edinburgh in the URC table. But the real difference between the sides was up front, and early on, as the Irish pack bullied their visitors and raced into a 13-0 lead.

Edinburgh played some inspired rugby at times, both in fighting back to 13-10 shortly before the break and again late in the match as they briefly threatened to pull off an amazing turnaround. But the indiscipline they displayed at times was compounded by some unforced errors, and although they might well have travelled home from Limerick with a losing bonus point, on balance it was another disappointing outcome following their defeat by Leinster a week earlier.

“I’m really frustrated with the first 20 minutes, because we’re playing Munster at Thomond Park and I thought we were too passive,” Edinburgh head coach Mike Blair said. “We let them do what they wanted to do and gave them a little bit of a foothold in the game.

“I’m really proud of the way the guys fought back, because 13 points is a difficult deficit. We got back to 13-10, played some good rugby and started to back what we know we can do well with ball in hand. But then just a little bit of sloppiness gave them a penalty just before half-time and it’s a different story going in at 20-10 than it is going in at 13-10.

“So some frustrations in there – we’ve made things a little bit easy for them at times. I think on the positive side we did create lots of opportunities, but they were promptly followed by little bits of sloppiness as well.”

Munster were on the front foot right from the first minute, establishing good position with a penalty to touch after Glen Young had offended. They failed to score from that position after Dan Goggin was unable to gather Ben Healy’s pass, but when Connor Boyle offended minutes later close to the posts, Healy calmly opened the scoring with the penalty. 

Munster’s physical dominance, already apparent in those opening exchanges, was again in evidence when they stole Edinburgh’s first lineout and won a penalty in the visitors’ first attack. Soon back on the offensive, they added a try through Fineen Wycherley, who finished off from close range after good recycling by scrum-half Craig Casey. Healey converted to make it 10-0 after little more than 10 minutes.

Edinburgh did their best to get their running game going, but when Lee-Roy Atalifo was penalised for holding on at the breakdown, Healy made it 13-0 from around 40 metres.

Then, after Boyle won a penalty, the visitors got a glimmer of hope. After clean lineout ball, a pop pass from Blair Kinghorn put Mark Bennett into a gap, and the captain found Ramiro Moyano, who scored on the right. Emiliano Boffelli converted and suddenly the scoreline looked a lot healthier.

Encouraged by that score, Edinburgh were far more assertive in the last quarter-hour of the first half, and they closed the gap further a couple of minutes before the break when Boffelli knocked over a penalty from the edge of the 22. They would have had no complaints at all had they gone in with just a 13-10 deficit, but they conceded a penalty in the closing seconds of the half, and after a strong lineout maul, Zebo scored in the left corner. Healy’s conversion made it a 10-point game again.  

An inspired break from deep by Henry Immelman gave Edinburgh hope of a riposte early in the second half, but the attack ended when James Lang’s punt towards Boffelli floated out of play. Immelman then denied Healy a try at the other end after a Kinghorn pass had gone badly astray, and the full-back was soon involved in an excellent counter-attack from deep which was stopped illegally by the home team.

Boffelli, who had sparked that move with an excellent high catch, was on target to make it a one-score game again with half an hour to play.

Edinburgh kept pressing in search of the score that could tie things up, but a quick turnaround when a Kinghorn pass bounced off a Munster player’s head ended with Zebo claiming his second try at the other end. Healy added the two points.

Bennett limped off injured as the game entered its final quarter. He had landed awkwardly, Blair explained afterwards, and it is as yet unclear if he will need any time on the sidelines to recover. Some of Edinburgh’s incisiveness left the field along with their captain, but they continued to fight in search of a new foothold in the contest.

They passed up two chances of a kick at goal when awarded penalties, but failed to score from either. In the first they sent a penalty to touch, but Munster stole the lineout, and in the second, a tapped effort, Boan Venter lost the ball forward in a tackle. The aim of getting more than three points made perfect sense, but failure to secure any reward was a further blow to morale.

The next attack ended when substitute Jake Armstrong knocked on, but Edinburgh soldiered on. Ten minutes from time another replacement, Henry Pyrgos, dived over between the posts after fine work by Venter. 

Immelman’s conversion would have been enough to send Edinburgh home with a losing bonus point, but Zebo completed his hat-trick three minutes from time to give Munster the try bonus instead. Healy’s conversion completed the scoring.

Scorers –

Munster: Tries: Wycherley, Zebo 3.  Cons: Healy 4. Pens: Healy 2. 

Edinburgh: Tries: Moyano, Pyrgos. Cons: Boffelli, Immelman. Pens: Boffelli 2. 

Scoring sequence (Munster first): 3-0, 8-0, 10-0, 13-0, 13-5, 13-7, 13-10, 18-10, 20-10 half-time, 20-13, 25-13, 27-13, 27-18, 27-20, 32-20, 34-20.

Munster: M Haley; C Nash (S Daly 73), C Farrell, D Goggin, S Zebo; B Healy (J Crowley 79), C Casey (N Cronin 71); D Kilcoyne (J Loughman 66), D Barron (N Scannell 55), S Archer (J Ryan 55), J Kleyn (A Kendellen 71), F Wycherley, J O’Donoghue (capt), C Cloete (J Hodnett 55), G Coombes. 

Edinburgh: H Immelman; R Moyano (C Savala 79), M Bennett (capt, C Dean 59), J Lang, E Boffelli; B Kinghorn, B Vellacott (H Pyrgos 66); B Venter (S Grahamslaw 76), A McBurney (D Cherry 55), L Atalifo (J Armstrong 59), M Sykes, G Young (P Phillips 67), N Haining, C Boyle, B Muncaster (M Kunavula 54). 

Referee: B Whitehouse (Wales).

About Stuart Bathgate 1131 Articles
Stuart has been the rugby correspondent for both The Scotsman and The Herald, and was also The Scotsman’s chief sports writer for 14 years from 2000.

18 Comments

  1. An immensely frustrating game to watch, littered with silly mistakes. When Edinburgh were good, they were very good, but when they passed to no-one, dropped the ball and didn’t play it soon enough after the ref’s instruction, possession was too easily given away. Have to agree re Kinghorn, that was not an international 10’s performance.
    I don’t recall who the Irish commentator was, but he made a point of calling the ref whistle happy.

    PS Is it really pronounced “clootie”?

  2. Totally brainless kick by Kinghorn with less than a minute to go to half-time.
    Several other brain fades.
    So many Sottish players lack simple rugby nouse- whereas the Irish have it in spades.

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    • You would’ve thought Ben Healey should’ve been given an offer he couldn’t refuse to move to Scotland. The SRUs wage bill lost VDM, Jones, Hastings, Sutherland, J.Gray…..IMO Healey would’ve been smarter £ spent than Weir and one of the Argentines. Healey looks at excellent SQ 10

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      • On Healey, im sure Ireland are able to keep more talent because of their generous tax system. Makes it far less attractive than coming to play in Scotland. I’m sure they can claim up to 40% up to 10 years if they finish up playing in Ireland.

  3. Anyone else notice that the Munster tacklers almost always fall at the 20 past or 20 to position on a clock face and are slow to move away. This prevents one of the attacking supporting players from getting a strong clean bind and allows an easier jackal. Well coached and clever play and is almost never picked up by the ref as they are not obstructing the scrum half and preventing quick ball if he does get his hands on it.

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  4. The butchered overlap followed by zebo cantering in was the turning point. It akso feels like the ref is keen to appease the home fans so they get the first few penalties and some key ones during the match. I’m certain you cant carry a player for 10 yards. We needed a statement win from one of the key away games to show real progress which highlights we’re still playing catch up. On the plus side, in fleeting moments we look razor sharp.

    • Agreed, that carry was obstruction, he was in front of the ball carrier, and that was typical of Whitehouse, very poor.

  5. other comments about taking the ball standing still are spot on. Also slow to back up ball carrier. What has not been mentioned is that Edinburgh had by a long distance the most possession and territory, and made about half as many tackles as Munster. Failure to turn pressure into points killed them.
    Munster OTOH nailed a few chances so ended up with score which flattered them and a bonus pt win

  6. Munster as we have seen with Glasgow (I was at Exeter) are too easily dominated at the breakdown, Edinburgh just could not get hold of the ball in the first half, but by then it was too late, damage was done, and if you want a team to close out a match then Munster are the masters.

    I say with some trepidation, based on our pro teams performances against Leinster & Munster and in European competitions, it does not augur well for Scotland when they play France & Ireland. As was seen last night I just cannot see how we will achieve parity at the breakdown, where Munster dominated giving them time and space to choose there attacking plays as they wished.
    Credit to Edinburgh for hanging in their, but not being able to hold on just for a bonus point, hmm???

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    • George re the breakdown I agree 100%, Haining does get over the gain line and ,for me, starts next Saturday (along with Darge). Munster didn’t do anything fancy last night but did the basics expertly. Their South African 7 had a field day at turnover time.

      Venter made some yards but Edinburgh taking the ball stood still isn’t good for go forward ball.

      Scotland need quick ball and options to change the point of attack v France and Ireland. As I said somewhere else online a back row of Dempsey Ritchie Crosbie is an interesting thing.

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  7. As said on other 2 posts – too many mistakes, we had loads guys out too (Munster likely had several absentees). Couple of ramblings l- We lack a kicker (especially to touch) Boffelli kicked his goals well but poorly to touch. This is a recurring theme. Kinghorn didn’t dispel my feelings that depite being brilliant in broken play or on front foot ball, he is not really to be trusted when under pressure or involved In a tight game.
    Despite the errors Edinburgh played pretty well and we’re within a score for large parts of the game.
    Tremendous try in 1st half, vintage Bennett in the set up. Immelman has a good game as did Chris Dean when he came on.

  8. Only so much the coach and players can do when missing so many of there forward pack in particular.

    Not saying Munster are not missing some players also but surely cannot compare to Schoeman, McInally, Nel, Hodgson, Gilchrist, Ritchie, Watson/Crosbie, Bradbury/Mata.

    That defeat will be a good learning curve for a lot of the young Edinburgh pack on show today.

  9. Blair Kinghorn just doesn’t have a consistently decent rugby skill set. An overlap on the left requiring just a simple pass, he hits the Munster player on the head and 15 seconds later Zebo is lording it in the corner. Other less obvious errors as well. He should be on the wing where he can’t cause trouble and he shouldn’t be anywhere near the national set up. GT needs to bring in Hastings for cover.

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  10. A really frustrating performance from Edinburgh. They will never contend at the top end of the table if they continue to succumb to Leinster and Munster like the last 2 weeks. At times there was some good rugby but at other times there was the needless penalties and the unforced errors that ultimately cost them the game. We gave away some easy tries – one which involved a Kinghorn pass bouncing off a Munster players head and then a few phases later they scored. In attack we must get better at scoring when we get into the last 10m. We huffed and puffed in the 2nd half close to the Munster line but our attack was so passive. I have been saying as long as I can remember that forwards need to take the ball running at pace to break tackles – we still take the ball standing still with the Munster defence moving onto us – only one winner. It was still like the Cockers days. When will we learn. Munster and Leinster always take the ball at pace close to the line and usually score – we must improve in this area if we ever want to beat these teams. Some decent performances with some of the youngsters doing well – Boyle and Muncaster. However a big missed opportunity.

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  11. Frustrating one, too many mistakes, but seemed to be fighting Whitehouse a bit, thought there were some very dodgy decisions, esp the ‘off the head’ … but then off the hand … are they all blind !!!!

    • Munster in Limerick is often a fight against the ref. Early doors last night, Whitehouse gave a pen to Cloete for a jackal. A fair call IMHO. He was the tackler but released showing just enough air between him and the bal carrier to be allowed the jackal. Minute later, identical situation, but Munster carrying and Edin jackalling. Pen against Edin for no clear release by the tackler.
      Either bot were penalties against the jackaler or neither were

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      • Yes, I saw that one too, but was too hacked off to look back and identify it :(.

        I think there were at least a couple of others.

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