Kidney hails Munster young guns

IT wasn’t pretty but Munster coach Declan Kidney was delighted after his side sneaked to the narrowest of Magners League wins over Border Reivers at Thomond Park on Saturday night.

Explained Kidney: “We were missing 20 contracted players and two development players, so to go out there and secure a win against a close to full strength Borders team is excellent.

“The performance, overall, is something we will have to take a look at, but the result is absolutely huge. It shows there are rugby players in Munster who are prepared to go out and put themselves about. We finished the game with two academy props, a development second row and two back-row players; two young half backs, and a newcomer James Downey giving it a go at 12.

“Overall, I’m quite happy.”

He agreed that there was room for improvement.

“We know the number of mistakes that were made out there. But a lot of our lads played their first Celtic League games last week. We had four newcomers in the pack last week, and to come out a week later and dig so deep is recognition of the talent there.”

One of the few experienced players in the side was Frankie Sheahan, who also paid tribute to the youngsters around him.

He said: “The effort from some of these players was immense. These youngsters were up against more experienced players, but they refused to give up. They kept plugging away, knocking guys down and getting up to knock down some more.”

As a front-row forward, Sheahan is well positioned to make a judgement call on young props Darragh Hurley and Tim Ryan, both of whom got game time in the province’s opening Magners League fixtures.

He noted: “I think they have proven over the last week that they have what it takes. Darragh is just 20 and Tim only a couple of years older. It’s a tribute to the work being done in the academy and a tribute to the guys themselves that they can step up so readily at their ages.”

It wasn’t all sweetness and light for Munster, who made the crowd sweat for their enjoyment on a night that was ideal for running rugby.

It didn’t help either side that Welsh referee James Jones was whistle-happy.

Reivers opened the scoring with a penalty from full back Calum MacRae but two penalties from Jeremy Manning, when Munster’s efforts probably deserved more, gave the home side a narrow lead at the break.

Manning struck with his third penalty 10 minutes into the second half before Mark Robinson scored a breakaway try for Reivers midway through the period.

Munster were relieved to watch MacRae send his conversion attempt wide and equally relieved to see the defence thwart the visitors time and again as they went in search of victory.

The man of the match award went to James Coughlan.

MUNSTER: S. Payne, T. Gleeson, J. Kelly (captain), J. Downey, M. Lawlor, J. Manning, T. O’Leary, D. Hurley, F. Sheahan, F. Pucciariello, D. Ryan, C. Wyatt, J. O’Sullivan, J. Coughlan, T. McGann.

Replacements: T. Ryan for Pucciariello (70), E. Hickey for Manning (injured, 72).

BORDER REIVERS: C. MacRae, G. Law, N. DeLuca, B. MacDougall, M. Robertson, S. Jones, C. Cusiter (captain), G. Kerr, R. Ford, B. Douglas, O. Palepoi, S. Grimes, K. Brown, R. Beattie, S. Gray.

Replacements: A. Miller for Beattie (54), G. Townsend for MacRae (62), E. Kalman for Douglas (66), C. Hamilton for Palepoi (69).

Referee: J. Jones (Wales).

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