By Barry Coughlan
Leinster A 17 Munster A 6: Munster A were stripped of their B&I Cup title by Irish rivals Leinster A at Energia Park, Donnybrook today in a tight match that was in doubt for much of the 80 minutes.
Ultimately, Leinster had enough scoring power to see them through and while Munster dominated possession and territory for the last 15 minutes they could not find a way to unlock a brilliantly organised and ruthlessly aggressive home defence.
Munster struck first, taking an early lead came from the boot of Bill Johnston with a simple penalty in front of the posts 20 metres out in six minutes.
But Leinster won valuable territory from a penalty and they used that position to launch a series of strong attacks.
From there and from close quarters, Peadar Timmins eventually wriggled his way over in 12 minutes and Ciaran Frawley added the extra points for a 7-3 lead.
Johnston cut the gap to one immediately with a well struck penalty from distance.
And for long spells afterwards there was little between the sides, each of whom had their moments but very little in the way of scoring opportunity on an afternoon that became increasingly cold and damp.
The best opportunity fell to Frawley after 33 minutes from the tee at a favourable range and distance but he could only watch as his attempt was caught by the wind, hit an upright and out of play.
Despite all the young talent on view, the quality of rugby was only moderate.
A kick and chase from Munster full back Stephen Fitzgerald did cause problems for the Leinster defence until the visitors turned the ball over as they surged forward in search of a try early in the second half.
That period of territorial dominance was all too brief and Leinster hit back with a spell on top; this time Frawley made the most of another penalty opportunity and he kicked the goal to make it 10-6 midway through the second half.
The home side built on that lead with a brilliant try from full back Jack Kelly after 63 minutes.
For virtually the first time, the Munster midfield defence was breached when Gavin Mullin made a clean break.
He made ground and found winger Tommy O’Brien who cut inside to send Kelly over for the try that Frawley converted.
Even at that, Munster didn’t give up; they dominated from there to the finish but lost a scoring opportunity when Ronan O’Mahony failed to hold a pass as he drove for the line.
Leinster A: J Kelly; T O’Brien, G Mullin, C O’Brien, B Daly; C Frawley, C Rock; E Byrne, B Byrne (captain), V Abdaladze; M Kearney, I Nagle; O Dowling, P Timmins, J Murphy.
Replacements: M Bent for Abdaladze (44), P Dooley for E Byrne (60), H O’Sullivan for Dowling (76), R Foley for Rock (78), H Byrne for Frawley (79).
Munster A: S Fitzgerald; C Nash, D Johnston (C), A McHenry, R O'Mahony; B Johnston, J Stafford; J Loughman, K O'Byrne, B Scott; S O'Connor, D O'Shea; D O'Callaghan, C Oliver, J O'Sullivan.
Replacements: M Sherry for O’Byrne (39), C Parker for Scott (45), Scott for Loughman (injured, 54), J Power for Fitzgerald (59), J Poland for Stafford (62), J Foley for O’Sullivan (68). A Tynan for O’Mahony (73). J Daly for O’Callaghan (78).
Referee: K Dickson (R.F.U)