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.
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).