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DEFEAT BUT NO DISASTER AT THOMOND

Munster: 34 (13) Edinburgh: 17(5)



The Scouting movement has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. Having the adventurer 'Bear' Grylls as Chief Scout has no doubt helped. But so, too, have the values that Scouting stands for, values that are expressed so vividly in Rudyard Kipling's famous poem 'If'. Last weekend's extraordinary win over Racing Metro 92 saw the Edinburgh squad give a performance that was almost a physical expression of the poem.

They kept their heads when all about them were losing theirs; they saw a big lead turn into a massive deficit, yet built their lead again with worn out tools; they forced their heart and nerve and sinew to serve their turn long after they were gone; they filled the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds distance run. I could go on, but you get the picture.

The challenge after such an incredible victory was to meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat those two imposters just the same. Could the Gunners, albeit much-changed from last week, come to that most intimidating of venues, Thomond Park in Limerick, and beat Munster?

That they did not pull it off this time was no disgrace at a ground where few sides come away with a victory. The match was lost during a ten minute period when Edinburgh were two men down and the home side scored two tries. They competed well and rattled Munster at times, notably during the closing minutes. But they were outgunned up front, where Munster's pack were dominant, notably in the set-piece. And it was the set piece that ultimately decided the result.

There was never any danger that wily Munster would allow Edinburgh to win anything like as quick ball as Racing had done. That undoubtedly cramped the Gunners' style somewhat. But they nevertheless showed plenty of ambition on a pretty grim evening.

Munster struck first, with a converted try for Barnes. But the Gunners roared back with a super try from distance. Netani Talei's barnstorming run from halfway did the damage before the Fijian international fed the returning Phil Godman. A little trickery from the mercurial playmaker sowed just enough doubt in the mind of the defence to allow him to cross in the corner for the unconverted touchdown. The score was 7-5 Munster at the end of the first quarter, with Harry Leonard coming on as a replacement for the injured Thompson.

On 25 minutes, Munster pressure in the Embra 22 eventually forced the penalty, converted by Keatley in the regulation spooky silence around Thomond. The pressure came from Munster playing a sound tactical game with the benefit of the wind, keeping the ball in enemy territory. The Gunners were struggling to win quality set piece ball, their scrummage under pressure on the tighthead side.

The home side's determination to get back up to the business end of the league table with a bonus point win saw them knock a kickable penalty deep into the Enemy 22. Ross Rennie robbed the attacking lineout brilliantly, and though Munster were soon on the attack again, the Gunners again won turnover ball at a crucial moment. The Edinburgh defending scrummage was under huge pressure, though, and only a Munster knock on after after McInally had lost the ball saved the visitors. At last, Munster were penalised and Edinburgh had a chance to clear their lines.

The half ended with Munster again pressing and Edinburgh infringing. Referee Paterson rightly had a word with tonight's skipper, Steve 'Stevie' Lawrie about the number of Edinburgh penalties. Keatley knocked over a straightforward goal to put Munster 13-5 ahead at the break and deservedly so.

A bright Edinburgh start to the second period saw Harry Leonard given a long penalty chance on 45 minutes. Although he missed, Edinburgh were pressing again immediately after, with Talei notable in the forward drives on the right wing, threatening the enemy tryline. The ball was then spun across field where Tom 'Schooldays' Brown looked to have little room to work with and was tackled short of the line but reached out to dot down. The TMO adjudged that there had been no double movement and the try was given, to a combination of silence and general local disbelief, which did not seem particularly justified. 13-10 down with 51 minutes on the clock. A rather smaller deficit than this time last week.

Munster forced a penalty on 53 minutes and it was little surprise to see Gilding carded, having infringed with the Irishmen threatening. It took an age for Munster to decide what to do, but they eventually opted for a scrummage, Lewis Niven coming on for Ross Rennie. A penalty was given as Embra collapsed at the loosehead - a penalty try was looking likely if the reds had got some momentum. The visiting scrum was actually coping well at this point and Traynor looked unlucky to be penalised again for seemingly having his tighthead under pressure. Indeed, the Munster front row, despite having more ballast behind them, seemed the ones under pressure now. Stevie Lawrie certainly seemed to have some strong views about what was going on, which he was not shy about sharing with the referee. But the referee carded Traynor as Munster at last get some movement in the scrummage on 57 minutes. It was a strange one - why not just award a penalty try?

But Hislop came on for King and it was scrum time yet again. Stevie was still unhappy. At last, the referee gave the penalty try, as McInally disengaged early to grab the ball. No complaints about the award, but it should surely have been given earlier. Keatley converted for a 20-10 lead with just over a quarter left and Edinburgh two men down.

Munster were starting to up the pace and the lively O'Dea crossed on 65 minutes after they had stretched the Gunners' defence. Former Connacht playmaker Keatley stretched the lead to 27-10 with the conversion and Edinburgh were looking fatigued.

But they roared back and great hands by Lawrie and Talei put Sep Visser over in the corner on 69 minutes with advantage being played. The referee was unsighted and the TMO felt the replay was inconclusive, so the Gunners knocked the penalty into touch. A quick throw in, the ball was spun to the middle where the little general Greig Laidlaw - who else? - left the referee in no doubt. He converted his own try and the Gunner were 27-17 down with ten minutes left.

But that was as close as the Gunners got. Munster wrapped up the bonus point when Zebo crossed and their pack closed the game down.

SCORERS:

Munster: Tries: Barnes, pen try, Zebo, O’Dea. Cons: Keatley 4. Pens: Keatley 4.

Edinburgh: Tries: Godman, Brown, Laidlaw. Cons: Laidlaw.

TEAMS:

Munster: Hurley; O’Dea, Chambers, Barnes, Zebo; Keatley, O’Leary (Williams 68); Horan, Fogarty, Archer (Hayes 68), O’Callaghan, O’Driscoll (capt), Holland, O’Donnell, Butler.

Edinburgh: Paterson (Hunter 77); Visser, Thompson (Leonard 22), King, Brown; Godman (Laidlaw 62 min) Blair; Traynor, Lawrie (Capt), Gilding, Cox, Turnbull, Talei, Rennie, McInally.

Referee: Paterson (SRU)