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MUNSTER MAUL THE GUNNERS INTO SUBMISSION

Edinburgh Rugby: 3 (3) Munster: 34 (10)



Perhaps mercifully, I was unable to observe yesterday evening's events at Murrayfield in person in real time.  I was, instead, in the Borders, having enjoyed a very pleasant day at the 125th playing of the Melrose Sevens.  It was the usual mix of derring do and attacking rugby, club sides often holding their own against the pros, and another chance to wonder at Jedforest's brilliant Young twins, who were both in fine try-scoring form.  Glasgow Warriors ran out deserved victors, but it was a pleasure - and a pleasant surprise - to see the German national squad play beautifully throughout, and push the Scottish pro side all the way in the final. 

On the second Saturday in April at the Greenyards, the early onset of hypothermia kicking in, I often find myself thinking of days gone by.  It might be Waisale Serevi fulfilling a lifelong dream by ending his career at Melrose in 2009, or David Campese and various Ellas thrilling the crowd for Randwick in 1990, or any of the Kelso sides from their golden era from the mid-80s to mid-90s, Andrew Ker, Eric Paxton, John Jeffrey, Roger Baird and their friends to the fore.  It might be that great whistler, Clive Norling, officiating with characteristic humour and wisdom at one tournament.  Above all, these are always memories of rugby that is fun to watch, played in the right spirit. 

Munster prevailed comfortably over the Embramen in the Pro-12 last night by returning to the old days, Munster-style.  Chasing a bonus point win to move into the home semi-final slot, they scored five tries, four in the second period.  The win came on the back of a dominant mauling game, control of the breakdown and a 'streetwise' approach.  Nothing fancy, just power rugby; power rugby that the stuttering home side were unable to stop.

In fact, the teams had looked pretty evenly matched in the first half.  It was not much fun to watch, but there was an efficiency in which they both went about their business that was admirable in its way.  They went through the phases, the defences defended comfortably.  Heathcote slotted an early penalty, Keatley replied in kind.  It was only just towards the end of the half that Munster scored their first try, Casey flopping down at the tail of a maul.  As ever, though, it was a bad time to concede as it gave the visitors a handy lead at the break and the psychological advantage.  The Gunners' scrummage had looked to have the upper hand, albeit they were not really rewarded for it.

Poor tactical kicking was a feature of the second half from Edinburgh and they were to pay for their failure to secure adequate field position.  Munster's South African import Stander notched another try off a maul ten minutes into the second half to open up a 14 point lead which made things difficult for the Gunners.  Murray's try shortly afterwards killed the game - few sides, let alone one of Munster's quality, give up such a lead in the final quarter.

The bonus point came with a controversial Simon Zebo try.  Even the visiting winger looked stunned that TMO Ramage actually awarded it.  No-one could say the bonus was not earned, though, when Earls then pounced on a Burleigh fumble for number five.

The loss, coupled with a losing bonus point for Connacht to Ulster and a narrow squeak for the Scarlets over Zebre, leaves the Embramen a point off sixth after this round with three more matches left to play - away to the Dragons and home to Zebre and to a Leinster side that has just been embarrassed by those self-same Dragons.  All are eminently winnable.  A good job, as they will likely have to be.

But, for now, all eyes are on next Friday evening's European Challenge Cup match at Murrayfield.  The Dragons are no Munster, but a performance like this will just not be good enough.