The scrum was set as the clock went past 80. Excellent game management had kept Edinburgh pinned in their own half for the final 10 minutes of the game, so all that was required was to secure possession and kick the ball out to end what had been a match to forget. CJ Stander stormed upfield for one more attacking opportunity which got our hearts racing but when he went to ground and Conor Murray took possession we were all sure he would kick it out.
Our surprise turned to sheer horror when his pass was instead intercepted and Edinburgh had one last chance to snatch victory. The defensive line was broken and credit to the lads for scrambling back. We desperately willed them to win a turnover, force the Edinburgh ball carrier into touch or to knock-on, and for God’s sake not to concede a penalty. Edinburgh went through the phases, but no one stepped up to take the drop goal which would have ensured victory, possibly due to their out-half Tonks being into the sinbin while their goal-kicker Hidalgo-Clyne was also their scrumhalf and was busy working at the ruck to keep the phases going. When he eventually moved into position to take the dropkick my heart was in my mouth until we saw the “Black Arrow” fly straight and true out of the line to block it down. Edinburgh still had a chance to re-secure possession but thankfully they knocked on and the final whistle signalled that Munster had gotten out of jail!
Prior to that unexpected drama “Commentators curse” was the potential blog title in my head as just after Mark Robson had said that Edinburgh had not looked like scoring a try they proved him wrong, six minutes into the second half! Hoyland made the initial break down the opposite wing after a beautiful offload out of the tackle by man of the match Cornell Du Preez. Quick hands got the ball to the far wing where Viliami Helu finished it off. The conversion attempt came off the post but it was enough to put Edinburgh into a one point lead (11-10).
Munster had scored their try just 7 minutes into the first half, John Ryan finished off good pressure arising from a Munster lineout when an excellent kick by Saili was chased by Zebo and Blair Kinghorn had to carry over the tryline. From the 5m scrum Munster won a free kick which Stander took quickly. Two phases later Murray got the pass to John Ryan who charged for the posts with Keith Earls driving him on.
Munster’s only other score of the half was a penalty when Edinburgh pushed too early at a scrum (they protested that Murray had dummied a put-in to the scrum but the referee wasn’t interested) while Edinburgh scored 2 penalties. Gerhard van den Heever was sent to the sinbin in the 11th minute for a dangerous tackle on Tom Browne but Munster conceded no points during that period. In fact Keith Earls nearly controlled an excellent chip over the top by Murray, but just knocked on. It was Munster’s first yellow card of the league season but not their last as Saili was binned in the second half, for not rolling away – which would have been difficult given the Edinburgh player #4 Bresler was lying on top of him – but I suspect the card was more of a team offence for repeated penalties. Munster’s lineout was superior in the first half, they even stole 2 Edinburgh balls through Donnacha Ryan, but their scrum was under pressure.
James Cronin was immense winning turnovers including a penalty against Nel on 62 minutes which Keately converted to make it a one point game again before another opportunity just five minutes later was again converted to regain a slim 2 point lead. We had a laugh at Cronin battering Nel with the ball as they both lay at the bottom of the ruck to encourage him to roll away!
Munster looked like they were executing great game management playing down the clock in the Edinburgh 22. A kick by Keatley was chased by Earls to put the defence under pressure and when they passed the ball back over their own line the receiver Ross Ford was hit by a wall of black jerseys to earn a 5m scrum. The forwards scrummed strongly and were mauling their way back towards the line when the ball was slapped out of Murray’s hands by Greig Tonks who was sent to the sinbin for that offence with four and a half minutes left on the clock. Munster opted to scrum again and keep the pressure on Edinburgh but the referee was not happy with them and gave Edinburgh a free kick! Munster defended well and kept Edinburgh out of the Munster half before winning another scrum when Edinburgh knocked on after nearly 20 phases!
It was from that scrum that CJ Stander had raced downfield only for our premature celebrations to be halted in horror as Hoyland intercepted. He wove his way cross-field past several defenders before linking up with his team mates spurred on by the prospect of any kind of score to win the game. As the play moved to the centre of the pitch the danger of conceding a penalty was clear and you could see the players checking with the referee if the ball was out on a few occasions through the 19 phases before Edinburgh went for the drop-goal attempt, blocked down by Stander.
Munster: Simon Zebo; Gerhard van den Heever, Keith Earls, Francis Saili, Ronan O’Mahony; Ian Keatley, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Duncan Casey, John Ryan; Donnacha Ryan, Dave Foley; Dave O’Callaghan, Jack O’Donoghue, CJ Stander – capt.
Replacements: Niall Scannell, James Cronin, Mario Sagario, Robin Copeland, Jordan Coghlan, Cathal Sheridan, Rory Scannell, Denis Hurley.
Edinburgh – B Kinghorn; D Hoyland, W Helu, M Scott, T Brown; F Tonks, S Hidalgo-Clyne; D Dickinson, R Ford, WP Nel; A Bresler, A Toolis; M Coman (capt), H Watson, C Du Preez.
Replacements: : N Cochrane, R Sutherland, J Andress, R Grant, N Manu, S Kennedy, A Strauss, D Fife.
Mario Sagario made his first appearance for Munster at tight head after 56 minutes and could have a major role to play in the coming weeks and months.
Match stats are available here and the number of defenders beaten by Edinburgh is a scary stat! However Munster are second in the league after 7 rounds. However they have been a bit generous with the losing bonus points conceded to their opponents – of their 6 wins 5 have been won by less than 7 points while Ulster got 2 losing bonus points last week. So there is plenty to work on in terms of conceding fewer penalties and tries but the focus now switches to Europe and we know the team will raise their game. Looking forward to the trip to Thomond next weekend and to Paris the following weekend.
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