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SMALL MARGINS SEE MUNSTER HOME

Edinburgh Rugby:14 (6) Munster:16 (10)



After four straight wins to start the term, the Embramen have rather lost momentum in recent weeks.  Two disappointing away losses, first to Zebre and then to Connacht, have seen the capital side sink into mid-table mediocrity.  Early days and all that, but nothing less than top six, if not top four, will do this time.  This is not the way to go about that. 

Wearing their camo alternative strip, would Edinburgh show up this evening?  Young Blair Kinghorn certainly did early on, a big hit and some crucial fielding a feature of the early exchanges.  But Munster were first on the board.  Off an attacking scrummage they won a free kick and Ryan boshed over under the posts on seven minutes, Keatley's conversion giving the visitors an early 7-0 lead.

Edinburgh forced two enemy penalties immediately after the restart as they enjoyed their first decent field position of the match. SHC slotted the simple kick to narrow the deficit to 7-3. At the restart, Tom Brown was taken out in the air by Van Den Heever.  The South African was unsurprised to be carded on 12 minutes and it should have been advantage Gunners in the power play.  But Munster had the advantage early on, Irish referee Wilkinson pinging WP at a scrummage to give Munster relieving field position and the chance to keep the ball tight to play out time.  They almost did better, with Kinghorn having to look sharp to foil Keith Earls chasing a devilishly clever kick to the corner. 

Normal service resumed up front, though, with Europe's form front row smacking the Munster scrum to earn a relieving penalty.  Edinburgh showed adventure in defence, running ball from deep at the empty right wing. But Keatley's intelligent tactical kicking was keeping them in their own territory.

Munster won a penalty after much Munster gesticulating at the breakdown as the power play ended.  What a joy it was, though, to see referee Wilkinson telling prop Kilcoyne to cut that out.  Rugby is a sport with overly complicated laws where refereeing interpretations are critical.  But officials are not helped by gamesmanship of this nature and there is too much of it about these days. 

While the Gunners' scrummage was markedly the stronger, poor execution gave away a penalty for an early shove on Munster ball.  It is a formidable weapon, but only when used with accuracy. Keatley had a pot from halfway and landed a fine goal to push the Irish province 10-3 ahead on the half hour. They had controlled ball and territory and were good value for the lead.  There had been flashes of adventure from the Embramen, but they had not really built pressure and had rarely got into the Munster half.

Once again, though, the Munster pack were absolutely smashed in the scrummage, the referee having told Murray to get the ball in promptly.  At the succeeding Edinburgh put-in, WP put the squeeze on Kilcoyne to win a penalty.  One felt that this set piece dominance might end up being crucial later on.  As the clock wound down, the Gunners started to build some phases, probing down the wings.  Eventually, they drew the penalty on 39 minutes and a team warning to Munster's South African skipper Stander.  SHC knocked over the three pointer for a 10-6 Munster lead at the break.  All to play for in the second half, but the Gunners would need to create more to prevail over Munster's kicking game.

On 46 minutes, Edinburgh scored a superb try through Helu.  First, Du Preez took a great catch of a clearance, offloaded brilliantly to Damian Hoyland who took the ball up in mazy fashion on the right wing.  The ball was shipped wide to space on the left, where one felt that slight slackness in passing might have allowed the defence to catch up.  But Tom Brown injected directness and found Helu, who smashed over in the corner.  SHC hit the post with the wide conversion, but Edinburgh were now 11-10 up.

Keatley had another penalty effort after Murray had executed a spectacularly squint feed at scrum time in the build up.  Munster had made tactical replacements in the front row at the break but remained under pressure.  Keatley botched the kick, though and the narrow lead remained.  And SHC was so very nearly away off a Du Preez offload, but the ball went forward.  The Gunners had markedly upped the pace.  Once again, Munster's scrum disintegrated under pressure, despite the squint feed, and the Gunners kicked the resulting penalty to touch.

And Edinburgh were building more field position.  Munster infringed at the breakdown again at a dangerous position in their 22 and New Zealand import Saili was carded.  Referee Wilkinson had not forgotten the team warning in the first half.  Sammy scored the ensuing penalty to edge the Gunners further up 14-10 on 56 minutes and time to kick on.

On the hour, WP was warned for his scrummaging on enemy ball.  Munster kicked to touch.  Their close in phases went nowhere, but Ross Ford was pinged for killing the ball.  He had put his body in that position and could not get out, but I felt that the referee was again correct.  It's something that referees tend not to penalise, but is every bit as deliberate as flopping over ball after the tackle.  14-13 following Keatley's simple kick going into the final quarter.

Edinburgh were right back into the Munster 22, multiple phases going closer and closer, but eventually Murray grabbed an SHC grubber and cleared the pressure well.  15 minutes to go and this one was on a knife edge. Andress was then penalised at scrum time and the referee warned Coman for repeated scrum infringements.  Keatley's pop from half way squeaked over to put the Irish side back in front, 16-14, with 12 minutes left to run.

With nine minutes left, Munster went for the jugular, knocking a penalty into the Edinburgh 22.  Sound Edinburgh defence kept them out, though, but they were playing at the wrong end of the park. On 75 minutes, Tonks scragged Connor from an offiside position at a defensive breakdown and could not complain about being carded. Munster went for the scrummage and were again beasted, allowing Edinburgh to clear.   

The Gunners kept ball in hand for phase after phase but Munster's defensive line held firm on halfway and eventually the home error came on 79 minutes.   

Stander broke off a collapsing scrum and made it close but Hoyland's brilliant intercept saw him slice deep into enemy territory.  This boy is some talent and tehre was a time when it looked like he might make it himself.  The Gunners came so close on the left wing but nevertheless slammed the phases in deep in the Munster 22 in front of the posts,.  Still the phases came and the visitors were riding their luck on the offside line. Eventually, Edinburgh whipped the ball back for the DG, but SHC was blocked by that man Stander and knocked the rebound on. In hindsight, it might have been wiser to keep the pick and drives to draw the simple winning penalty, but slightly crisper execution would still have seen the ball sail between the uprights.. 

Small, small margins.  Edinburgh came so agonisingly close to a win this evening, but ultimately it was those small errors, the marginally off executions that cost them the win.   The losing bonus was one consolation.  Possibly more encouraging was the ambition of some of their play.  This was not a box kick dominated effort and one can see a more complete gameplan starting to coalesce here.  The forthcoming Euro campaign, where everyone is starting from scratch, will be very interesting.  If the Embramen can execute crisply, play with ambition and get off to a flyer, there is no reasdon why they cannot make progress in the competition.