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How The Scots Saw It

February 16, 2008 12:00 am By Munster Rugby

Edinburgh’s inability to finish cost them dearly in Murrayfield, according to David Ferguson (The Scotsman newspaper), as Munster’s 11-7 victory denied the home side a fifth successive Magners League win.

The last league defeat suffered by Andy Robinson’s side was away to Munster, a narrow 19-16 loss in early November, and they had since beaten Llanelli, Ulster, Glasgow and Cardiff, as well as overcoming Leicester in the Heineken Cup.

But last night their hopes that early enterprise would build into another victory ran aground on their own failure to execute attacks more precisely once into the Munster 22. The first half was where the hosts essentially allowed victory to slip from their grasp. It was not that Edinburgh did not play well in the opening 40 minutes, just that they could not score the points their play merited. And neither was it the similar problem of poor creativity and lack of chances witnessed with Scotland lately.

The set-piece was solid and the build-up largely good, taking ball through phases and blending direct running with wide moves, mixing forwards and backs, but Phil Godman, the stand-off, pulled three successive penalty kicks wide of the uprights, in the fifth, 27th and 30th minutes, which lifted the visitors, and the Munster forwards used all of their experience to disrupt rucks inside their 22.

Referee Tim Hayes was also struggling to take a grip of Munster’s negative play, warning the captains as early as the 16th minute, after a succession of rucks were ended illegally, but then penalising, and sometimes just getting it plain wrong, without any more severe action until the final minutes of the half. Ironically, then it was not one of the forwards, but winger Ian Dowling who was sent to the sin-bin, for straying offside, and paying the price for his team-mates’ continued infringing.

By then, we had witnessed some good mauls from the home pack, great skills from Ross Rennie, the home openside flanker, in attacking from a ruck, excellent defence from Edinburgh, particularly on the edge of their own 22, which had ensured Munster never looked like scoring a try, even when Doug Howlett got his hands on the ball and scorched the Murrayfield grass.

No team with the Heineken Cup champions’ pedigree plays second fiddle throughout 80 minutes and Munster took a firm grip of the third quarter from the restart. The pack drove into the home 22 and tried to wrestle Edinburgh out of the game. The Welsh referee continued to disappoint the hosts by missing a blatant crossing as Munster launched another attack inside Edinburgh’s 22, but worse was to come when Reid was shown the yellow card for what was deemed to be a spear tackle on Howlett.

The Munster pressure eventually gained reward with a penalty, for a collapsed maul, and as Paul Warwick lined up the kick, which he duly converted, the visitors were also returned to their full complement with Dowling returning. Edinburgh’s appearance also changed with Nick De Luca coming on for John Houston at inside centre, sparking a midfield combination with Ben Cairns which may be in the minds of the national coaches, Greig Laidlaw took Ben Meyer’s place at scrum-half and Craig Smith replaced Augusto Allori in the front row. Meyer returned as a blood replacement for Laidlaw, and he played the key role when Edinburgh did finally made the breakthrough and score the game’s first try.

It came on the hour-mark, Munster being penalised at a scrum near their own line and the scrum-half charged between defenders and had the strength to get the ball down. Godman finally notched a kick to edge Edinburgh in front, but only for seven minutes. Munster pressed inside the Edinburgh 22 virtually from the restart and as the hosts began to slip off the odd tackle, the Irishmen took advantage to drive at the line on the left and finally touch down, Donnacha Ryan, the lock, being credited with the try. Warwick missed the conversion from the left touchline.

Munster tried to snuff out the game in the final ten minutes with their turgid pick-and-drive style, and although it made little ground against a good Edinburgh defence, it did bring another penalty. Warwick struck the post with his effort, but De Luca threw a wild pass touch and goal. His forwards rescued the situation by stealing back possession from the resultant scrum, but the hosts were now struggling furiously to put together anything meaningful and escape their own half.

A long Southwell kick took them deep into enemy territory with four minutes to go, and Allister Hogg continued to offer a lead, but the game was drifting into a deep sleep and was put to bed when Andrew Turnbull cleared into touch from close to his line.

Munster: S Payne (T O’Leary 64 mins); D Howlett, R Tipoki, L Mafi, I Dowling; P Warwick, P Stringer; F Pucciariello (D Hurley 64 mins), F Sheahan, T Buckley (Pucciarello 70 mins); M O’Driscoll, D Ryan, A Quinlan, N Ronan, A Foley (capt) (P O’Connell 44 mins).

Edinburgh: H Southwell; A Turnbull, B Cairns, J Houston, R Reid; P Godman, B Meyer; A Allori, A Kelly, G Kerr, M Mustchin, C Hamilton, A MacDonald, A Hogg (capt), R Rennie. Subs: C Smith for Allori, N De Luca for Houston, G Laidlaw for Meyer, all 51mins, Meyer for Laidlaw 53, S Cross for MacDonald 60, Laidlaw for Meyer 64, F Pringle for Mustchin 70,

Referee: T Hayes (Wales).

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