Edinburgh missed a golden opportunity in injury time to record a home win over Munster tonight at Murrayfield.
With the clock well beyond 8o minutes and Munster leading 16-14, Damien Hoyland made a crucial interception in Edinburgh’s 22. Evading tackles he ran deep into the Munster half where the home side pounded the try line relentlessly for the next 2 minutes. Eventually they elected to pass the ball back to Sam Hildago-Clyne who saw his drop goal attempt charged down.
It was a thrilling end to an otherwise disappointing game. Whilst neither side showed much in the way of attack, Edinburgh made life difficult for themselves with some inaccurate passing and poor handling, and it was the half-backs Hildago-Clyne and Greg Tonks who seemed to be most afflicted with this.
The game started well for the visitors who found themselves 7-0 up early on thanks to a John Ryan try, the prop touching down against the base of the post following a free kick 5 metres out. Ian Keatley converted (0-7).
Hildago-Clyne got the Scots on the scoreboard 3 minutes later with a penalty in front of the posts (3-7), and Munster’s discipline slipped again when winger van den Heever was yellow carded for taking out Tom Brown in the air. Edinburgh were unable to take advantage of the extra man and although they tried to play with some width their accuracy often let them down. After half an hour Keatley was able to extend Munster’s lead from another penalty following a collapsed scrum (3-10).
It was not until 38 minutes that Edinburgh were able to mount their first sustained attack. They couldn’t break through the resolute defence, and after 10 phases they were awarded a penalty which Hildago-Clyne converted.
Half Time Score: Edinburgh 6 – 10 Munster
Edinburgh started the second half sharply, and 6 minutes in they scored their only try of the game; Cornell Du Preez manufactured a clever offload to Hoyland, the youngster then showed sizzling pace before the ball was shipped left through hands to Brown who stepped inside taking 3 defenders with him, this created space for Will Helu to touch down in the corner. The conversion attempt hit the post (11-10).
The Edinburgh scrum was starting to exert some control on the game at this point, and the all Scottish front row of Dickinson, Ford and Nel were doing some real damage. But it was from a penalty given for not rolling away that Edinburgh got their next points. Francis Saili was caught on the wrong side (albeit Anton Bresler made life very difficult for him to move away). Saili was yellow-carded and Hildago-Clyne added the 3 points (14-10).
Alan Solomons will be disappointed that his team were not able to push on from here being 4 points and 1 man up, but once again poor ball retention cost them field position, and this time it was Ross Ford’s turn to get pinged by the referee for not rolling away. It was an easy penalty for Keatley (14-13).
Edinburgh had a chance shortly after this to extend their lead when they found themselves deep in the Munster 22 following some good pressure. Rather than retaining the ball though, Hildago-Clyne elected to chip through only for the ball to land in the grateful arms of Conor Murray who cleared the danger, and the chance had gone.
When WP Nel was replaced by John Andress the home side scrum started to struggle, and on 66 minutes he was penalised on the halfway line. Keatley stepped up to fire over what turned out to be the winning kick (14-16).
Munster are experts at closing out tight games and for the next 15 minutes they camped themselves in their opponent’s half. In one remarkable passage of play Edinburgh ran through 19 phases but barely gained any ground.
The sin-binning of Greg Tonks 5 minutes before the end did not help Edinburgh’s cause, and it was perhaps most acutely felt in that last dramatic and heart stopping play of the game. Although the pace of the wonderful initial break from Hoyland had been lost, Edinburgh still had possession right in front of the posts. If blockers had been in place and a quicker pass delivered perhaps Hildago-Clyne would have dropped the goal. We will never know, but it certainly would have helped if the scrum-half had been able to deliver the pass and Tonks was on the field to kick the goal.
Edinburgh will reflect on this as a game they probably didn’t deserve to win, but perhaps should have. Their scrum went well until Nel went off, and Hoyland, Du Preez and Watson all came out of the game with plus marks. Ultimately though, some of the basic skills were not where they needed to be tonight.
Final Score: Edinburgh 14 – 16 Munster
SRBlog Man of the Match: Damien Hoyland was electric when he got the ball in space and was a constant threat to the Munster defence.