• Text size      
  • Send this article to a friend
  • Print this article

Munster 38 Edinburgh 6: Horror second half as Munster mash visitors

An old-fashioned Munster mugging for Edinburgh, who had their hopes of an Amlin Cup place not just obliterated, but thoroughly mocked by a second-half performance in which they were not remotely the equals of their opponents.

Peter O'Mahony is congratulated by team-mates Ian Keatley and Conor Murray after scoring his side's fourth, and bonus point-securing, try against Edinburgh. Picture: Diarmuid Greene /Fotosport
Peter O'Mahony is congratulated by team-mates Ian Keatley and Conor Murray after scoring his side's fourth, and bonus point-securing, try against Edinburgh. Picture: Diarmuid Greene /Fotosport

Munster march on, their home quarter-final secured with room to spare by this six-try rout, but their astute coach Rob Penney will surely warn them that they are unlikely to meet such obliging opponents again.

Some credit is due to Edinburgh, as they seemed to adopt Munster's Stand Up And Fight anthem as some sort of tactical instruction in the first half, but they were blown away in the second. By the end, it was hard to recall a single significant Edinburgh foray into the Munster half during that period, when the abiding image was of Irishmen steaming in the opposite direction.

It is probably just as well that Edinburgh have some time off now, for this result will have bruised egos as well as bodies. After their admirable wins against Gloucester, Leinster and Perpignan in recent weeks, this was a giant step backwards. The hardest part of all to watch was that the Edinburgh defence, which had been coming on in leaps and bounds, simply fell apart towards the end.

As Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons conceded afterwards, on a day when Edinburgh were too many notches below their best, and Munster were absolutely at the top of their game, only one result was ever going to be possible. By the finish, with the cauldron of Thomond Park seething with Munster passion, there was a distinct feeling that Edinburgh's thoughts were focused solely on getting out of the place as quickly as possible.

Munster had held a 12-6 lead after 40 minutes, but it was credit to Edinburgh that they had been by far the stronger side for the closing stages of the first half, despite conceding two tries earlier in the game. What was maybe not so clever from an Edinburgh point of view was that they had also just lost Cornell du Preez, harshly yellow carded after 39 minutes for leading with his head as he tried to clear Paul O'Connell out of a ruck.

The ambition of Munster had been obvious from the start, the Irish side clearly desperate to get the bonus point that would guarantee a home quarter-final. Greig Laidlaw stuck a small Scottish spanner in their works when he clipped over the penalty that opened the scoring after seven minutes - he had missed his first effort in the second minute - but Munster struck back powerfully to take a grip of the game.

Granted, about half of their team looked to be offside at the restart after Laidlaw's penalty, but they used that piece of mischief to great effect. O'Connell plucked the ball out of the air, Munster churned possession through a few phases, and Ian Keatley and James Downey combined to send over No.8 James Coughlan for their first try.

The score energised the Thomond Park crowd, who had been uncharacteristically quiet up to that point, and the noise levels grew and grew as Munster laid siege to the Edinburgh line. Panic in the Scots' ranks produced a succession of penalties, but Munster's priorities meant they had no interest in taking pots at goal.

Around the 20th minute they won - or rather opted for - a series of scrums a few yards from Edinburgh's posts. That passage produced the usual sequence of resets, but just at the point that Edinburgh seemed to have got the nudge on their oponents, they conceded a second try. The ball shot out of the back of the scrum, and Conor Murray shovelled it back to Johne Murphy, sprinting in from the wing. The move caught Edinburgh cold, and Murphy simply sidestepped Dave Denton to score.

Yet Edinburgh girded themselves well, and Laidlaw's second penalty, after 26 minutes, cut the gap to 12-6. Clearly, they did not consider themselves out of it, and they came agonisingly close to getting a try when Laidlaw's dash for the line in the 34th minute needed a last-gasp tackle by O'Connell to keep him out. However, the wind went out of their sails when Du Preez went to the sin bin, and Edinburgh knew that a difficult start to the second half lay in store.

And so it proved. Two minutes after the interval, Munster flanker Tommy O'Donnell set off on a bustling run that took him up to the Edinburgh 22. His team-mates powered up in support, spreading the play to the left. When it came back inside, Coughlan and Dave Kilcoyne almost found a way over before Edinburgh's understrength defences were finally breached by Conor Murray.

At this point, the only question was how long it would take Munster to add the bonus point they desperately wanted. The answer was just over 12 minutes. For most of that time, the Munster side built momentum with a series of potent attacks, but the fourth try was actually ­delivered by some old-fashioned forward power, with Coughlan bashing through for his second touchdown, the presence of Denton in the tackle proving little inconvenience as he ploughed over.

After which, Munster switched into crowd-pleasing mode, seeing out the game with another two tries, scored by Simon Zebo, an early replacement for Keith Earls, and Felix Jones. Edinburgh's most noteworthy contribution to the closing phases came when Geoff Cross, who had only come on a few minutes earlier, collected their second yellow card. It really was not their day at all.

Contextual targeting label: 
Sport

Commenting & Moderation

We moderate all comments on HeraldScotland on either a pre-moderated or post-moderated basis.
If you're a relatively new user then your comments will be reviewed before publication and if we know you well and trust you then your comments will be subject to moderation only if other users or the moderators believe you've broken the rules

Moderation is undertaken full-time 9am-6pm on weekdays, and on a part-time basis outwith those hours. Please be patient if your posts are not approved instantly.

206896