Munster win but sweat on Francis Saili

Munster 21 London Irish 15: Munster produced a top drawer second-half performance as they put London Irish to the sword in front of an enthusiastic attendance of 5,208.

Munster win but sweat on Francis Saili

However, it was a black night in terms of injury with the impressive Francis Saili sustaining what appeared to be a serious head injury in the 65th minute. It led to a delay of 20 minutes after the livewire Kiwi centre received treatment before being stretchered off and taken to hospital.

It was such a pity because Saili had contributed immensely to Munster’s success, scoring a try and doing brilliantly in defence and attack.

Apart from Saili’s contribution, brilliant tackles from half backs Cathal Sheridan and Bill Johnston, as well as another defensive strike by the superb double try-scorer Andrew Conway were indicative of the determination to gain Munster’s first victory of three pre-season friendly games..

Head coach Anthony Foley hopes that Saili’s injury looks worse than what it was but conceded that, in probability, the player will be out for a few weeks at best.

“It looks more like a concussion at the moment but obviously they (medics) need to examine everything. They couldn’t examine everything on the pitch, so he’s gone to hospital and hopefully we get good news on that.”

In terms of last night’s game, second half changes helped Munster improve their superiority up front, even if there could be no faulting the effort up front in the opening 40.

It was an interesting opening quarter with both sides creating chances but failing to deliver at the last moment. Munster had the better of things in terms of possession and territory, but they contributed to their own problems by turning over possession on several occasions.

They took the lead, however, when Dave O’Callaghan made the initial break, Andrew Conway ran into space and kicked ahead before following up and getting the touch for the opening try. Young out half Bill Johnston added the conversion.

London Irish came close to their first score immediately afterwards with wingers Topsy Ojo and Alex Lewington combining betore Lewington was bundled into touch.

A few minutes later, Lewington was again denied by the touchline after splitting the Munster defence and the home side held out to lead 7-0 at the break.

Irish narrowed the gap with an early second half penalty from Theo Brophy-Clews but Conway got the second Munster try in 49 minutes and young Johnston added the conversion to push the lead out to 14-3.

Any doubt that Saili won’t be a crowd favourite was dispelled in the 53rd minute when he sliced through the London Irish defence to score under the posts and afford substitute Ian Keatley the simplest of conversions.

As both sides showed ambition in the following minutes, chances were still limited but London Irish took advantage of a turnover to allow Christian Lewis-Pratt race away to score in the corner for an unconverted try.

Deep into injury time the visitors struck again with Lewington providing the finish touch to a blind side move, McKibben added the conversion to cut the deficit to just six points at the end of a vibrant if error-strewn game only spoiled by that unfortunate and worrying injury to Saili.

MUNSTER:

A Conway; S Fitzgerald, F Saili, R Scannell, G van den Heever; B Johnston, C Sheridan; J Ryan, M Sherry, S Archer; J Madigan, D Foley; D O’Callaghan, J Coghlan, CJ Stander (captain)..

Replacements used:

D O’Callaghan, D Williams, R Copeland, I Keatley, S Monahan, J Cronin, BJ Botha, N Scannell, S Buckley, D Johnston, M D’Arcy.

LONDON IRISH:

A Fenby: A Lewington, E Griffin, D Waldouck, T Ojo: T Brophy-Clews, S Steele: T Court, G Ellis, R Palframan: E Sheriff, M Symons (captain): L Narraway, C Gilesnan, D Sisi.

Replacements used:

G Cross, G Skivington, Curry, B McKibbin, T Cruise, C Lewis-Pratt, D Paice, J Williams, T Smallbone, R Neal.

Referee:

D Phillips (IRFU)

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