A 77th minute intercept try from winger Michael Vaughan and two second half penalty goals from the boot of out-half Gearoid Lyons helped second-placed Munsters’ score a vital victory in a highly competitive tie played before a bumper attendance.
This win sees David Corkery’s Munsters’ side remain strong contenders to secure a home semi-final with just one round of regular season fixtures to come.
Last night’s defeat ends Garryowen’s hopes of making it through to the semi-finals of the league, however. Munsters’ have now won 11 of their last 13 top flight league fixtures and have emerged as serious contenders to lift the AIL title at the end of the season.
Garryowen, who have now lost three of last four to slip out of play-off contention, defended stoutly on the night. However, Munsters’ scrum proved the visitors crucial weapon as the Clifford Park side earned no fewer than five scrum penalties.
In wet, and greasy conditions caused by regular showers of light rain, the first half was understandably error ridden. There was no shortage of endeavour and commitment as one would expect from a full-blooded Limerick derby, however.
Young Munster got off to the best possible start when out-half Gearoid Lyons kicked a second minute penalty goal after the home side was penalised at scrum-time.
Munster enjoyed the lions share of posession and territory during that opening quarter, but Garryowen held their local rivals at bay, thanks to some excellent defence.
Lyons had the opportunity to kick Munsters’ further in front on 17 minutes after the home side was penalised for pulling down a well-executed maul. However, Lyons was off-target with his attemt. Garryowen drew level soon after when scrum-half Neil Cronin, brother of Leinster and Ireland hooker, Sean, kicked a precious penalty goal after Munsters’ were pinged for not staying on their feet at ruck time. The score remained tied, 3-3, at half-time.
Lyons kicked Munsters’ in front with a second penalty goal on 44 minutes and a third successful kick of the night on 74 minutes which made the score 9-3 eased the nerves among the vocal travelling support.
An intercept try from winger Vaughan when he raced over from the half-way line, after Garryowen were forced to chase the game, sealed the win.
Garryowen did earn some degree of consolation and a losing bonus point when full back Alex Wootton raced clear for a try in stoppage time.
Munsters’ complete their programme of Division 1A games with a home tie against Lansdowne on Saturday, April 16.
A Wootton try, N Cronin pen.
M Vaughan try, G Lyons three pens.
A Wootton, S McMahon, A O’Byrne, J Purcell, J McInerney, C Doyle, N Cronin; JP Cooney, L Cronin, B Rowley, P McCarroll, D Sherry, S Buckley, C Oliver, J Hrstich (Capt). Replacements C Moloney, M O’Donnell, J Keane, J Gavin, R O’Halloran.
C O’Hanlon, M Vaughan, D Goggin, J O’Connor, D O’Neill; J Lyons, A Griesel; D Begley, G Slattery, E Ryan, T Goggin, S Duggan, S Rennison, D Dee, B Kilkenny. Replacements - S Fenton, P Meyer, M Madden, R Guerin, J Harrington.
Sean Gallagher (IRFU)