MUNSTER cast aside their pre-match nerves to secure their first win outside Ireland for over a year with a deserved victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield last night in the second round of the Magners League, to make it two from two in the competition.
Pleasing for Munster was the way they fought back after going behind just after half-time. That was after a first-half in which Munster had dominated territory and possession but had singularly failed to convert this massive advantage into points on the board.
“We were really disappointed to be ahead just 6-3 at half time,” admitted skipper Denis Leamy. “We never really threatened their line in that first period. But we showed real character when we went behind.
“When we play the Ospreys next week we have to convert pressure into points and improve aspects of our scrummaging as well as one or two points in the line-out”
Coach Tony McGahan, concurring with his captain on Munster’s failure to put Edinburgh away in the first half. nevertheless express relief at the final outcome.
“I was pleased with the result. Last season we lost a lot of games by a similar margin. I thought we were tremendous in the last 20 minutes and, for me, Donnacha Ryan and Peter O’Mahony had outstanding games.
“It was, of course useful, having such a good bench. But remember these are players who are just re-integrating into the squad,” added McGahan.
Munster looked the more composed of the two sides in the opening ten minutes, their best chance coming from a slick pass by Ryan that put Alan Quinlan in the clear.
When the flanker was brought to ground Edinburgh conceded a penalty allowing Paul Warwick to goal from 27 metres. Then, almost immediately, Edinburgh loose-head Allan Jacobsen gave away a penalty on the half-way line but this time Warwick was marginally astray with his kick.
What looked to be a serious injury to Edinburgh’s Argentinian lockEsteban Lozada halted play for some 10 minutes as the Puma received on–field medical attention before
being stretchered off and taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary for observation of a head/neck injury.
When play resumed Munster quickly regained their momentum and after Felix Jones had tested the defence with a teasing run, Edinburgh gave away a penalty at the breakdown and from 40 metres out Warwick kicked his second goal.
Then, having been cast in a defensive role for much of the first-half, Edinburgh began to make territorial gains but their attempts to put together cohesive gaps foundered against solid Munster tackling.
The visitors, however, conceded a penalty and Chris Paterson grabbed his side’s first points to leave Edinburgh trailing 3-6 at the break.
Munster again looked dynamic at the beginning of the second-half but it was Edinburgh, against the run of play, who struck first. A clever cross kick behind the defence by Phil Godman was complemented by alert fielding by winger Tim Visser, who had the pace to outflank both Doug Howlett and the covering Ian Dowling. Paterson’s conversion giving the home side a four-point advantage.
Now chasing the game Munster brought on big guns, Tomás O’Leary, John Hayes, Marcus Horan, Donncha O’Callaghan and Ronan O’Gara. The arrival of the big guns had an immediate impact as Dowling took an inside pass from O’Leary after the scrum-half had made a lateral break from a powerful scrum. Edinburgh’s initial defence stopped Dowling but in the follow-up O’Callaghan grabbed the ball to power over for the try, O’Gara converting.
Edinburgh then levelled the scores with a 40m goal after hooker Damien Varley had been penalised for offside at the breakdown, only for O’Gara to reply in kind.
It only remained for Munster to protect their three-point lead, using close forward play and the boot of O’Gara to seal a deserved win.
Scorers for Edinburgh: T Visser try; C Paterson con, 2 pens.
Scorers for Munster: D O’Callaghan try; P Warwick 2 pens; R O’Gara pen, con.
EDINBURGH: C Paterson; M Robertson, B Cairns, A Grove, T Visser; P Godman, M Blair; A Jacobsen, R Ford, G Cross; E Lozada, S MacLeod; S Newlands, N Talei, R Rennie.
Replacements: J Houston for Grove (52), D Blair for Godman (65), K Traynor for Jacobsen (56), A Kelly for Ford (65), F MacKenzie for Lozada (30), S McInally for Talei (64).
MUNSTER: F Jones; D Howlett, J Murphy, S Tuitupou, I Dowling; P Warwick, P Stringer; W du Preez, D Varley, T Buckley; D Ryan, M O’Driscoll; A Quinlan, N Ronan, D Leamy (c).
Replacements: R O’Gara for Warwick (32), T O’Leary for Stringer (50), M Horan for du Preez (55), D Fogarty for Varley (62), J Hayes for Buckley (44), D O’Callaghan for O’Driscoll (55), P O’Mahony for Quinlan (67).
Referee: James Jones (WRFU)
Magners League: Ospreys 32 Benneton Treviso 16