A SORRY Edinburgh were swept aside by Munster at Meggetland last night, failing to assist Glasgow’s cause in the RaboDirect Pro12 and being unable to give captain Greig Laidlaw the home send-off he wanted before joining Gloucester.
Edinburgh 12 - 55 Munster
Scorers: Edinburgh: Tries: Bezuidenhout, Nel. Con: Laidlaw. Munster: Tries: Conway, Hurley, Penalty try (2), Varley, Williams, O’Donnell. Cons: Hanrahan 5, Murray 2. Pens: Hanrahan 2.
This thorough beating from the team lying third in the table shows head coach Alan Solomons just how much is needed to get Edinburgh back into the top echelon – a very great deal, it would appear.
Munster made 11 positional and personnel changes after their heartbreaking Heineken Cup semi-final defeat by Toulon last weekend. Edinburgh’s changes included the introduction of back row specialist David Denton at second row due to injuries to a host of forwards.
An entertaining first half saw Edinburgh take the lead with a ninth-minute try from Carl Bezuidenhout, the stand-off going over in the corner after good work by Jack Cuthbert and Matt Scott, Laidlaw missing the difficult conversion.
Romanian-born referee Marius Mitrea, now an Italian citizen, speaks five languages but it was his hand signals that were crystal clear as he penalised both sides frequently for going off their feet at the ruck.
It was from one of those penalties after 15 minutes that Munster got their first points with JJ Hanrahan scoring from in front of the posts.
Munster then took the lead almost from the restart, CJ Stander’s fine offload giving Andrew Conway the room to burst in from the wing and score under the posts, Hanrahan converting.
Edinburgh suffered an injury blow when Tom Brown limped off with a knee strain, Sam Beard replacing him. It did not disrupt the home side’s rhythm, as they made deep inroads into Munster’s half before prop Willem Nel powered over to finish a move in which Cuthbert and Scott were again the key players.
Laidlaw converted, and Edinburgh were briefly in the lead, before Hanrahan goaled another “off their feet” penalty.
Laidlaw missed a relatively easy chance to regain the lead, his penalty going narrowly wide, before Munster also had an enforced change, hooker Duncan Casey going off to be replaced by Damien Varley.
Munster piled on the pressure in the minutes before half time but Edinburgh held their nerve, kept their discipline and tackled like furies, winning two vital turnovers deep in their own 22.
Clearance kicks went awry, however, allowing Munster to rush back upfield, and as the clock moved into stoppage time, centre Denis Hurley ran a lovely angle to break through the tiring defence and score under the posts, Hanrahan converting for a 20-12 half-time lead for the visitors.
Until then Edinburgh’s pack had been competing well in the tight and loose play, and Laidlaw was as ubiquitous as ever, but the signs were there that Munster simply needed to move up a gear, especially in the forwards, to hammer the Scots, which they duly did.
Nine minutes into the second half and Edinburgh had barely been out of their 22, where they also threw the ball around almost suicidally, leading to substitute Damien Varley crashing over after a dynamic forward rumble, Hanrahan converting.
Edinburgh just could not get upfield, and conceded another “off their feet” penalty. Play was held up while a vehicle fire was attended to adjacent to the ground, and then Munster chose to go for a scrum ten metres out.
The Edinburgh pack looked to have stolen the ball but had done so illegally. Munster chose the scrum again, the home pack disintegrated and referee Mitrea awarded a penalty try which Hanrahan converted.
Munster now had their bonus point and any chance that Edinburgh might fight back disappeared in the 65th minute when Munster substitute Duncan Williams, in his first bout of action, finished off a fine move by bursting through for a try which Hanrahan converted.
After Laidlaw left the field to warm applause and a man of the match award, Grayson Hart replacing him, Edinburgh conceded a second penalty try with seven minutes left, when Grant Gilchrist deliberately knocked the ball forward as Munster looked set to score, the second row forward earning a yellow card for that action. Conor Murray converted that try and also the much more difficult conversion of Tommy O’Donnell’s last-minute try scored in the corner.
Glasgow must do it on their own against Zebre to gain home advantage in the play-offs, while Edinburgh have to visit league leaders Leinster in their final match. Oh, dear.
Edinburgh: J Cuthbert; T Brown, M Scott, A Strauss, T Visser; C Bezuidenhout, G Laidlaw; A Dickinson, R Ford, W Nel, G Gilchrist, , D Denton, M Coman, T Leonardi, C Du Preez. Subs: J Hilterbrand, W Blaauw, S Berghan, B Toolis, D Basilaia, G Hart, P Francis, S Beard.
Munster: S Zebo; G van den Heever, J Murphy, D Hurley, A Conway; J J Hanrahan, C Murray, J Cronin, D Casey, J Ryan, D O’Callaghan, P O’Connell, C J Stander, T O’Donnell, P Butler. Subs: D Varley, D Kilcoyne, A Cotter, D Foley, J Coughlan, D Williams, I Keatley, L O’Dea.
Referee: M Mitrea (Ita). Attendance: 3,782.