Munster’s dominance of Pro14 Conference B carried on, as once again set-piece pugilism proved a key factor in an Irish province side easing to victory over a Scottish one.
An opening period saw both sides show their breakdown prowess with a trade of turnovers, but it was the home-side with the howling wind at their backs who had started the brighter and took an early lead.
Jaco van der Walt’s close-range kick had put Edinburgh into a 3-0 lead but Munster levelled the scores through a JJ Hanrahan penalty after another bit of ball-pilfering – this one claimed by Jack O’Donoghue on half-way – had given Munster a line-out in the Edinburgh 22
The famed Red Brick Wall defence of Munster kept Edinburgh out from a period of Edinburgh pressure, and once they had forced the knock-on by Pierre Schoeman, they won the penalty at the scrum and smacked the ball back to the half-way line.
The Limerick-based side then caused mass consternation in the Edinburgh ranks, the maul made a good few metres charge until a move through the backs saw Chris Farrell kick ahead into coffin-corner.
Jack Blain got back to cover, but his attempt at a clearance was blocked by Mike Haley into the Edinburgh in-goal area. Although Pyrgos recovered possession and cleared brilliantly, Munster kept the pressure on until they showed Edinburgh how it should be done when within 5m, blindside flanker O’Donoghue the man to twist his way over the line.
Van der Walt’s low-trajectory restart – don’t think it was deliberate, but I’ll not say he sclaffed it – was not the kind of cheap possession and territory you want to give Munster on a night such as this.
As had happened when Edinburgh hosted Ulster a few weeks ago, Edinburgh couldn’t handle the mauls of the Irish side.
A plethora of penalties and advantages followed until scrum-half Craig Casey dived under Andrew Davidson’s attempt to tackle the much, much smaller man.
One final shot before the half-time whistle at reducing the deficit came but quickly went when Bill Mata’s attempted off-load to Pyrgos went forward, and the season’s familiar tale of an Irish side dominating a Scottish one continued.
Half-time: Edinburgh 3 – 17 Munster
Pyrgos and Mata were involved as Edinburgh shortened the deficit, Fijian Villiame wrecking through the Red Wall, and as van der Walt had done in the first-half, Hanrahan misjudged the strength of the wind at his back to kick the restart dead.
Game on, or false dawn?
Munster no:8 and Ireland international hopeful Gavin Coombes put further distance on the scoreboard, surprisingly enough it came off the back of a maul, but his error from the restart saw Edinburgh look to reply instantly.
The capital side mauled up to within 5m, but drive after drive went nowhere until they won a penalty for offside.
Opting for the scrum, Murray McCallum won Edinburgh another penalty. Two scrum resets which ran the clock down then led to a Burgh free-kick. Then, with an air of predictability, Munster won the free-kick when referee Michael Adamson decided that replacement hooker Michael Willemse hadn’t hooked the ball.
Edinburgh huffed and puffed and started winning penalties at the scrum, but with the clock running down, canny Munster made sure to take their time at every set-piece, make Edinburgh work for every yard, and concede a “team penalty” just to be as big a nuisance as possible with only 5mins remaining. Kill momentum; take a breather; reset.
The end of the match was massively delayed by an injury to lock Andrew Davidson – who had to be carried off on a stretcher – and both sides wanted to keep playing due to bonus-points on offer for another try.
Eventually, with 88mins on the clock, Munster knocked on and the match ended before we hit France v Wales territory. (True story: I left Murrayfield at half-time of that match and got home to south Glasgow before it ended.)
The unprecedented season of little hope continues.
Full-time: Edinburgh 10 – 22 Munster
SRBlog Player of the Match: Eroni Sau had some decent moments but then knocked on a couple of high-balls in the swirling wind, thought Mark Bennett played pretty well, but Villiame Mata takes the honours for looking the most likely to spark an Edinburgh fight-back when the game was still in the balance.
Referee: Mike Adamson (SRU)