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MAULED AT MUNSTER

Munster: 30 (6) Edinburgh Rugby: 3 (3)



There has been some excitable talk in these parts about raising a few quid by selling the 'naming rights' to Murrayfield Stadium.  If it's good enough for Landsdowne Road to be renamed the Aviva, particularly when, I understand, Aviva no longer actually offer their services in the Republic, then why not?  For Embra matches, surely 'Titanic Towers' would be the most apposite monicker.  The Gunners were holed below the waterline some months ago and their rapid descent towards the seabed continues apace with yet another disaster this evening, this time away from home just for a bit of variety.

A shocking lack of discipline and the absence of a steady hand on the tiller did for the Embra men this evening.  Their problem this season has been a failure to play the game in the right area of the park and an inability to do much with the ball on the rare occasions when they do threaten.  Add in for good measure an alarming tendency for the heads to go down in the second period and you do not have a recipe for success.  I'm afraid it was more of the same this evening in a Munster monsoon.

Edinburgh were first on the board at a sparsely pupulated and atmosphere-free Musgrave Park in Cork this evening. Francis just scuffed a penalty over on 14 minutes after Munster's South African loosehead Botha had been carded at scrum time for a fourth penalty in quick succession.  A brave call by Welsh referee Davies.  But short-handed Munster stuck at it and eventually won a scrum penalty of their own, albeit it looked more like it had been the home front row that had stood up.  Former Connacht man Keatley made no mistake, levelling the score on 21 minutes with a straightforward penalty. Edinburgh had some good phases from the restart, with some excellent offloads, but they were not committing enough men to the breakdown and Yapp was inevitably pinged for holding on in the tackle.

Keatley missed a penalty on 25 minutes after a scrum offence, but had another chance immediately afterwards as Rees was pinged under a Munster highball.  Keatley's successful kick from in front of the posts put the Irish province into a narrow lead, then Francis put the restart straight out, ginving Munster more possession and field position.

Edinburgh then put in a number of quickfire phases, punching big holes into enemy territory off a Rees garryowen. Though Munster tacklers were doing their best to lie on the ball, just that extra Embra man committed to the breakdown this time won much quicker ball and the Gunners looked more dangerous as a result. Yet eventually a McInally knock on gave Munster the chance to clear.

Edinburgh ended the half with a bit of pressure in enemy territory, with Rees keeping the defence honest with some alert half-breaks.  But the home defence was sound and turned over the Gunners' ruck ball in the red zone in injury time and cleared for a 6-3 lead at the break.   It had been a fairly forgettable first period, but both sides were evenly matched and a rare away win was eminently achievable. More Edinburgh field position and some control over the penalty count could pay dividends.

It was Munster who had the early field position after the break, though, and Munster looked like they were going to drive the ball over.  The Embra defence held, though, and after a Francis big hit had put the home side on the back foot, 'Deadly' Dougie Fife was back in time to touch down the kick behind.  The danger was not cleared and WP gave away another scrum penalty on 48 minutes, which Keatley nudged over to put the Irish side 9-3 ahead in the rain.  Territory and penalties are always crucial on a night such as this and the Gunners had to get a grip.

Yet Munster were immediately on the attack after the restart and Edinburgh were again under pressure.  They managed to force a knock on close in, but were still in a tough place, with another defensive scrum ten metres out from their own line - a situation from which they had just given away a penalty.  The game was starting to open up a bit now and Munster were stretching the Embra defence wide out.  A third penalty for a Gunner high tackle, this time by Rees - it really didn't look like a high tackle at all - gave away another penalty chance for Keatley.  Edinburgh had coughed up ten penaltes thus far, Munster only five.  And this was beginning to tell as the lead stretched to 12-3 on 53.

More unforced errors immediately afterwards, the normally reliable Tonks launched a trademark massive clearance, but kicked out on the full, gifting Munster an attacking lineout.  The Gunners then gave away yet another penalty from the maul, which Keatley converted.  The game was now getting away from the visitors and, what was more, it was surely only a matter of time before the referee carded someone in the black and red. 15-3 going into the final quarter and Edinburgh were now throwing this match away.

Once again, Deadly Dougie managed to touch down a kick into the Edinburgh in-goal area to save the danger, but Munster were really turning the screw.  And even when Edinburgh did make it anywhere vaguely close to the Munster 22, they botched the lineout or failed to secure their own breakdown ball.  If they weren't doing that, they were giving away idiotic penalties, like Jacobsen's maul offence that gave Keatley his sixth three pointer on 63 minutes and killed this match as a contest.

On 67 minutes, the inevitable try came, Munster broke out off a poor Edinburgh kick and blindside Stander went over for the converted try. 25-3 going into the last ten minutes and there could be more yet. Indeed, twinkle-toed replacement Sherry went over for a second touchdown on 73 minutes, albeit there seemed to have been a forward pass earlier in the movement.  Keatley missed the difficult kick to leave the lead 30-3 on 75 minutes. 

At least Edinburgh were consistent, once again botching the restart to give Munster a scrummage in decent field position and the match petered out from there.  Yet another hefty defeat with no sign of a light at the end of the tunnel.  This is a talented side, but morale is at rock bottom.