‘Next game huge’, as Munster head coach Peter Malone eyes place in final

Munster A 26 Ulster A 3: It was rugged, it was tough, but Munster A secured a well-deserved B&I Cup quarter-final victory over Ulster at Musgrave Park yesterday and earned themselves a home date with Ealing Trailfinders, who had a huge 84-7 win over Llanelli Scarlets.

“This next game is going to be huge and you would have to say that Ealing must be a decent side given their recent record and that big win,” reflected Munster head coach Peter Malone.

“But we will look positively; we will see it as an opportunity to get to a final.”

Munster hit the front with a well-struck penalty from David Johnston, but Brett Herron responded with his second attempt. The visitors continued to set the pace of the game, though they were thwarted constantly by a dogged Munster defence and by their own handling errors. Comfortable in the scrum, Munster always seemed to find a way out of their defensive zone and rangy and strong-running full-back Stephen Fitzgerald was often at the centre of their ability to do that.

In 22 minutes, after one such break from the number 15, Johnston kicked a magnificent second penalty to give his side back the lead.

Munster started to turn the screw and John Poland’s clever short pass gave Darren O’Shea the room to break through a suddenly porous Ulster defence.

Five minutes later, Munster had jumped 20-3 ahead after Sam Arnold was sent in by Goggin and Johnston majestically kicked the conversion from the right-hand touchline, before he kicked another penalty to add to Ulster’s misery.

Ulster proved to be more competitive in the second half and Munster really didn’t have much scoring opportunity in the early stages, though they were still able to stymie Ulster’s best efforts to find the crucial try-scoring breakthrough.

The third quarter, in terms of action, was a pretty damp squib and the first scoring opportunity fell to Ulster winger Conor Kelly with a 50-metre breakaway that was only stopped through intervention from Greg O’Shea.

However, as the half progressed, Ulster launched offensive after offensive and Munster had to be at their best defensively to keep them at bay.

Johnston kicked a 76th-minute penalty to stretch Munster’s lead to 23 points and Ulster were left to rue their failure to unlock a determined Munster defence in a disappointing second half.

Munster A:

S Fitzgerald; D Goggin, S Arnold, C Bohane (captain), G O’Shea; D Johnston, J Poland; P McCabe, K O’Byrne, B Scott; J Madigan, D O’Shea; S O’Connor, C Oliver, R Copeland.

Replacements:

D Casey for O’Byrne (53), L O’Connor for Scott, R Burke for McCabe (both 61), J Foley for Madigan, A Griesel for Poland (both 64), S McMahon for Fitzgerald (67), B Faloon for Arnold (77).

Ulster A:

D Busby; A Cairns, J Owens, M Best (captain), C Kelly; B Herron, D Shanahan; T O’Hagan, J Murphy, R Lutton; P Browne, A Thompson; N Timoney, C Joyce, M Rea.

Replacements:

Z McCall for Murphy (14, injured), J Donnan for Thompson (40), C Boomer for Joyce, R Kane for for Lutton (both 52). M Kane for Boomer (73), A McGrath for Shanahan, Creighton for Herron (both 79).

Referee. F Kirby (England).

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