Munster A 13 Llanelli 15
MUNSTER A scored the only try but lost their first home game in the British and Irish Cup at the Waterford Regional Sports Centre last night when Llanelli stole victory in a hard fought battle that will best be remembered for the influence of Scottish referee Dave Walker.
Seldom can an official have caused so much annoyance amongst the players and supporters alike, but that is not to detract from the gritty display that secured victory for the Welsh side.
It was still there for Munster; down to 14 men in the last 10 minutes, they let it slip and lost a golden opportunity to snatch back the initiative when the unfortunate Connor Murray narrowly missed an injury-time penalty.
“Unfortunately, we have to travel to Melrose, Nottingham and Bristol, and none of those games will be easy. But we will have to pick ourselves up because we can’t afford to lose any of our remaining games,” said coach Anthony Foley afterwards.
Foley was upset, but more so perplexed by the style of refereeing, saying: “Neither side grasped what he was on about; unfortunately we came out at the wrong end of it.”
Munster can be particularly happy with their first half performance when they defended and attacked well. If there was a frustration for both sides it was with Mr Walker who saw penalties where few others did. As a result, it was a stop-start contest.
It didn’t help either that there were long delays for serious injuries suffered early and late in the half, to Llanelli full back Dan Newton (ankle) and Munster winger Danny Barnes (elbow), both removed by ambulance to hospital.
If Munster lived dangerously near their line on a couple of occasions, they deserved their 10-3 lead at the break. They reacted positively to a Steven Shingler penalty after five minutes, responding with the equaliser from Declan Cusack, who also twice created promising opportunities for Simon Zebo and Barnes.
With Llanelli’s second row Adam Shingler harshly sin-binned – apparently a case of mistaken identity – Munster prospered when they kicked for touch from the penalty and drove off the resultant line out, Sean Henry getting the try that Cusack converted out wide.
With referee Walker continuing to rule as he awarded a plethora of penalties to both teams, Munster went down a man when Peter O’Mahony was pulled for hitting a ruck from the side. It was clearly a case of zero tolerance from the Scottish referee as players and crowd alike became increasingly tetchy.
The penalties continued in the second-half although, happily, not with the same regularity. Llanelli kicked three through Schingler and Munster one from Cusack to allow the visitors creep to within a point as the game crept into the last quarter.
But Munster lost captain Dave Foley to a yellow card on 73 minutes – another harsh call from the referee – and that was crucial. They nearly scored at one end but a Llanelli counter-attack yielded a penalty to Shingler who gave his side the lead for just the second time.
The drama continued to unfold when Munster had the chance to win it; with Cusack already substituted, Murray took on the task but sent his 35 metre 80th minute effort just to the right.
MUNSTER A: S. Scanlon, D. Barnes, I. Dineen, T. Smith, S. Zebo, D. Cusack, C. Murray, D. Ryan, S. Henry, D. Hurley, D. Foley (captain), I. Nagle, B. Holland, P. O’Mahony, T. O’Donnell.
Replacements: R. O’Mahony for Barnes (injured, 38), M. Sherry for Henry (49), S Archer for Hurley (59), G. Quinn-McDonagh for Cusack (61), P. Butler for O’Donnell (66), D. O’Callaghan for Nagle (77)
LLANELLI: D. Newton, J. Lewis, N. Reynolds, C. Keenan, J. James, S. Shingler, G. Davies, M. Monaghan, R. Lawrence, a. Hopkins, a. Powell (captain), a. Shingler, M. Gilbert, B. Moran, N. Cudd
Replacements: L. Williams for Newton (injured, 15), D. Eager for Gilbert (42) C. Hawkins for Lawrence (57), A. Davies for G. Davies (69)
Referee. D. Walker (Scotland).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved