JACK Cuthbert got a late birthday present last night as his try helped Edinburgh get their Guinness Pro12 season off to the perfect start at Thomond Park.
Two days on from his 27th birthday Cuthbert ran in his side’s only try along with three penalties from the boot of Tom Heathcote on his debut and, when Ian Keatley missed a last-minute penalty, the win went to Alan Solomons’ men.
The victory could have come at a cost though as winger Tim Visser limped off late on with what appeared to be a leg injury.
Cuthbert’s try gave Edinbugh a nine-point lead, which was eventually cut back to one, but they held on bravely for the win.
The visitors struck the first blow in the third minute, a penalty earned from a Munster scrum 30 metres from the home try line. A powerful shove knocked Munster off the ball as Kevin O’Byrne tried to hook and eventually the pressure told and Leighton Hodges awarded Edinburgh the penalty, which Heathcote slotted from the left.
Heathcote doubled that lead four minutes later when Munster prop John Ryan was penalised for being offside. That 6-0 lead looked to have been substantially added to in the 13th minute when another excellent turnover – this time from Tomas Leonardi – sent Edinburgh on the attack. Heathcote sent Dougie Fife flying down the right and in for the try, only for the celebrations to be cut short because of a marginal forward pass. Edinburgh were without doubt the better side in the opening half, and 11 minutes from half-time they came very close to scoring the first try that their enterprising play deserved.
Scrum-half Sean Kennedy was fortunate to get away with a knock-on on half way, but after Ollie Atkins carried powerfully, Kennedy’s pass to Fife was deliberately knocked on by Duncan Williams. The scrum-half escaped further punishment, and Munster were mighty relieved to see Heathcote’s kick slide wide.
Eight minutes from the break it was Edinburgh’s turn to breathe a sigh of relief after Leonardi looked to have committed a tip tackle on Simon Zebo. In the end the Edinburgh flanker was fortunate to escape with just a yellow card.
The one-man advantage lifted Munster and after Hamish Watson conceded a penalty, Keatley pinned the visitors back in their own 22. Munster went for the maul and after they were stopped short, CJ Stander could not be halted from a yard.
Keatley missed the straightforward conversion as Edinburgh retained the lead at 6-5, but on the cusp of half-time they pulled further clear when Donncha O’Callaghan failed to roll away from the tackle. With the penalty awarded Edinburgh almost crossed in the corner but Sam Beard’s looped pass sailed forward to Visser, but Heathcote made no mistake with the kick from the right.
Two minutes after the restart Edinburgh were briefly reduced to 13 men when Watson failed to roll away from the tackle following a scything Zebo run.
Leonardi returned to the fold soon after, but Edinburgh were still down to 14 men when they struck for the crucial score in the 49th minute. A knock-on from Williams gave Edinburgh possession, and Beard’s chip through bounced up kindly for Cuthbert, who dived across the line for his sixth league try.
Heathcote failed to slot the conversion and Munster closed the deficit to four points on the hour mark, when Stander barrelled over for his second try. A Keatley penalty 12 minutes from time cut the Edinburgh lead to one point but the visitors held on manfully.