Munster fusiliers fire a warning shot

Munster 36 Edinburgh 15

It was a big improvement on recent outings, a point acknowledged by coach Declan Kidney, and more especially by the Gunners’ head coach and former All Black Todd Blackadder, who has revised his opinion on to the outcome of Munster’s eagerly awaited Heineken Cup clash with Leinster. He described their performance as “clinical” and added that “we have played some tough teams this year but their performance tonight was exceptional and they were probably the best side in the Celtic League so far.”

High praise indeed and while both coaches were at pains to stress that next week is a different competition, self-belief has risen appreciably in the Munster camp.

Edinburgh certainly put it up to the home side in a really high tempo first half, during which they scored a really delightful try by their captain Scott Murray. That try, converted by Duncan Hodge, cancelled out an earlier Munster score by Federico Pucciarello following a close range line-out.

With Anthony Horgan in the bin and the highly influential David Wallace filling in on the wing, Munster found themselves under pressure and the manner in which they withstood it will have pleased the coaching team no end. The forwards duly re-established their superiority and much to the satisfaction of a vocal 8,000 attendance, the bonus point tries quickly flowed from Shaun Payne, Ian Dowling and Jerry Flannery.

Their task was eased by the yellow card handed out to Hugo Southwell, the Edinburgh full-back, and a 22-7 lead at half time was perhaps just a little flattering.

Paul Burke landed three conversions during the evening without ever looking the part at out-half and many Munster prayers will be said during the week in the hope that Ronan O’Gara recovers in good time from his hamstring and knee infection problems.

Blackadder said: “The Leinster backs have a cutting edge whereas the Munster forwards are a lot more physical. At first, I thought it might be Leinster’s year but after tonight I think if the Munster forwards get on top of the Leinster forwards, they’ll be hard to beat.”

The Munster forwards were terrific with Pucciarello turning in a reassuring kind of performance at loose head prop given the serious doubts concerning Marcus Horan.

As an entity, the pack were outstanding, especially in the set pieces, and if Wallace probably merited his man of the match tag, it could have also gone to a number of his forward colleagues.

The outstanding John Kelly, who rounded off a great evening with a smashing try, was also a candidate. Horgan is well back in the running for a starting place on the wing after a contribution that contained more positives than negatives, Trevor Halstead’s strong running at inside centre helped to open the gaps and Dowling’s power running on the left suggested he will be a handful for any defence.

“We managed to take our opportunities, we defended when we had to and while there are obviously areas that we must look at, it’s always nice to get a win after three defeats in-a-row”, said Kidney.

“What pleased me most was the way the players took ownership of what was happening out there. We lost in Thomond Park the last time we played here and didn’t want that to happen again. Next week will be a great day for all concerned. The important thing to remember is that we have two Irish teams in the semi-final.”

Try telling that to the exuberant crowd that assembled on Saturday night to give Munster a rousing send-off.

MUNSTER: S. Payne; A. Horgan, J. Kelly, T. Halstead, I. Dowling; P. Burke, P. Stringer; F. Pucciarello, J. Flannery, J. Hayes, D. O’Callaghan, P. O’Connell, M. O’Driscoll, D. Wallace, A. Foley capt.

Replacements: D. Fogarty for Flannery half time; F. Roche for Hayes 69; T. Hogan for O’Connell 69; J. O’Sullivan for Wallace 69; R. Henderson for Dowling 69; M. Prendergast for Stringer 73; M. Lawler for Kelly 73.

EDINBURGH GUNNERS: H. Southwell; F. Leonelli, M. DiRollo, P. Jorgensen, S. Webster; D. Hodge, M. Blair; A. Dickinson, A. Kelly, C. Smith, A. Kellock, S. Murray capt, A. Hogg, A. Strokosh, S. Taylor.

Replacements: N. De Luca for Leonelli 50; P. Godman for Jorgensen half time; D. Duley for Murray 60; A. McDonald for Taylor 66.

Referee: H. Watkins (Wales).

More in this section

CourtsRugbyCeltic LeaguePlace: Thomond ParkPlace: WalesPerson: Declan KidneyPerson: Todd BlackadderPerson: Scott MurrayPerson: Duncan HodgePerson: Federico PucciarelloPerson: Anthony HorganPerson: David WallacePerson: Shaun PaynePerson: Ian DowlingPerson: Jerry FlanneryPerson: Hugo SouthwellPerson: Paul BurkePerson: Ronan O’GaraPerson: BlackadderPerson: PucciarelloPerson: Marcus HoranPerson: WallacePerson: John KellyPerson: HorganPerson: Trevor HalsteadPerson: DowlingPerson: KidneyPerson: S. PaynePerson: A. HorganPerson: J. KellyPerson: T. HalsteadPerson: I. DowlingPerson: P. BurkePerson: P. StringerPerson: F. PucciarelloPerson: J. FlanneryPerson: J. HayesPerson: D. O’CallaghanPerson: P. O’ConnellPerson: M. O’DriscollPerson: D. WallacePerson: A. FoleyPerson: D. FogartyPerson: FlanneryPerson: F. RochePerson: HayesPerson: T. HoganPerson: O’ConnellPerson: J. O’SullivanPerson: R. HendersonPerson: M. PrendergastPerson: StringerPerson: M. LawlerPerson: KellyPerson: H. SouthwellPerson: F. LeonelliPerson: M. DiRolloPerson: P. JorgensenPerson: S. WebsterPerson: D. HodgePerson: M. BlairPerson: A. DickinsonPerson: A. KellyPerson: C. SmithPerson: A. KellockPerson: S. MurrayPerson: A. HoggPerson: A. StrokoshPerson: S.Person: TaylorPerson: N. De LucaPerson: LeonelliPerson: P. GodmanPerson: JorgensenPerson: D. DuleyPerson: A. McDonaldPerson: H. WatkinsEvent: Celtic LeagueEvent: Heineken CupOrganisation: Munster FusiliersOrganisation: MunsterOrganisation: LeinsterOrganisation: Edinburgh GunnersOrganisation: Gunners’Organisation: Edinburgh
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