Staunton’s late, late penalty saves Munster

Munster 22 Celtic Warriors 21

Without the core of their squad through injury and international duty, the home side last night clung on to defeat the amalgamation of Pontypridd and Bridgend, while maintaining hopes of retaining their Celtic League crown.

In the end, Munster had to rely on a late, late penalty goal from Jeremy Staunton, who had been their saviour on many occasions last evening.

“We made a lot of mistakes but thankfully just about did enough to secure the points in a very tight encounter,” Munster coach, Alan Gaffney, admitted in the aftermath.

Ironically, his side started with a flourish. Staunton did err with a fifth minute penalty goal but atoned within 60 seconds, with a booming effort.

With wind assistance, the home side began to dominate, and surged further ahead when Dominic Crotty picked magnificently off the ground from a Jason Holland pass, before sending Mike Mullins racing away for a try. Staunton, despite a troublesome breeze, landed the conversion for a 10 point advantage.

But on the half hour mark, they inexplicably began to self-destruct. They won a lineout in the middle of the pitch, but promptly lost it again as the ball went loose. Neil Jenkins, hardly the fastest man on the pitch, weaved his way through three tackles, and then sent prop Phil Booth in for a try that the out half converted.

A three points advantage was hardly enough for Munster in the circumstances, although Staunton did kick another penalty in the 39th minute which should have taken the half time lead out to six points. It should have but didn’t, as Jenkins responded with a 40 metre penalty, to leave three between them.

Jenkins levelled matters in the first minute of the second half, but again Staunton nosed Munster in front.

The Warriors struck to the front for the first time when Gareth Wyatt slid over in the corner, after a great midfield break by Shaun James. Scottish referee Andrew Ireland had initially called for advantage to Munster, but then held back and allowed the Warriors move to develop.

Three minutes later, Staunton knocked over a very difficult penalty from the right hand touchline, to regain Munster’s precious lead. Not for long, as Jenkins booted over another penalty to give the visitors a 21-19 advantage.

Munster reserved their best until last, and one storming run by captain Jim Williams gave Staunton a penalty opportunity, which he missed.

Unfortunately for the visitors, Jenkins sliced his clearance, and Munster were awarded another penalty. This time, Staunton made no mistake to secure the points for a very relieved Munster.

MUNSTER: D. Crotty, M. McPhail, M. Mullins, J. Holland, M. Lawlor, J. Staunton, E. Reddan, S. Kerr, A. Long, F. Roche, T. Hogan, S. Keogh, D. Leamy, J. Williams (captain), C. McMahon.

Replacements. C. O’Sullivan for Crotty (65), T. Hayes for Hogan (73)

CELTIC WARRIORS: E. Lewis, A. Havili, S. James, L. Thomas, G. Wyatt, N. Jenkins, P. John, P. Booth, M. Rees, C. Horsman, D. Jones (captain), N. Budgett, M. Lewis, R. Parks, C. Harris. Replacements. C. Balshen for Rees (44), M. Molitiki for Harris (53).

Referee: A Ireland (Scotland)

Munster Cup quarter-final draw (November 22/23): Midleton v Shannon, Clonakilty v Cork Constitution, UL/Bohemians v Garryowen, Waterpark v Old Crescent.

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