Munster 34 - 17 Edinburgh: Edinburgh brought back down to earth with defeat in Limerick

AFTER the highs of the European Cup over the past two weekends, a scratch Edinburgh squad fell to earth with a bump and a good few bruises although no-one travels to Thomond Park with an excess of optimism.

This match was dominated by one man but instead of picking out a player it was the referee who will have grabbed the headlines in this morning’s papers. Neil Paterson may be Scottish but you wouldn’t know it from this performance because he sent not one but two Edinburgh props to the sin bin in a few minutes midway through the second half.

Winning in Limerick is tough enough, trying to do so while two men short was way beyond even the self-belief that this Edinburgh squad boasts. The fact that the try count read 4-3 at the death says as much about the spirit as it does about the attacking flair in the Scots squad.

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As always the Irish province fielded plenty of beef and tactically speaking they played it smart. Edinburgh have thrived in Europe at least partly because, in London Irish and Racing Metro, they played opposition who came to play expansive rugby which is not an accusation that has ever been levelled at Munster. The red forwards picked and drove into the heart of the Edinburgh line and, while the visitors’ defence was brave, the physical mismatch eventually took its toll.

Edinburgh’s cause was not helped when Jim Thompson was replaced by Harry Leonard as early as the 22nd minute after his knee came off second best in a clash with Ireland prop Marcus Horan. Leonard briefly took over the kicking duties from Phil Godman who’d made a dog’s dinner of his two shots at the post and his replacement did no better with his first penalty minutes into the second half. Godman missed three in all and only when Greig Laidlaw appeared did Edinburgh bag some points at the posts.

Edinburgh’s first try came courtesy of an interception when Ian Keatley’s kick flew into Jack Gildings’ gut and stuck there. The burly Edinburgh prop had the good sense to offload to Netani Talei early, the Fijian made good ground towards the Munster try line and Phil Godman finished off the move with a little help from Munster full-back Denis Hurley who tripped up over the mass of bodies.

Munster had already scored through centre Danny Barnes in the third minute when Sep Visser was caught in two minds about who to tackle and ended up stopping no one. The Dutchman grew into the game and was unlucky to have what looked like a good try wiped off by the TMO late in the second half.

Munster kicked two more first half penalties to stretch their lead but they butchered any number of scoring chances as well. Tom Brown got on the end of a long sweeping move to stretch his arm out and just make contact with the whitewash and that score brought Edinburgh back into the game at 13-10 which is when this game was decided by the referee.

Jack Gilding was yellow carded for not rolling five metres out, although the ball was clearly visible, Munster opted for the scrum with Edinburgh a man light and Kyle Traynor was the next to follow Gilding to the sin bin for not pushing straight. With two props in the bin Edinburgh were now short a flanker (Ross Rennie) and a centre (James King) and the match was over as a contest. At the next scrum Munster won a penalty try. Edinburgh were ten points and two men down with a quarter of the match still to play.

Munster are not the type to give a sucker an even break and with further scores came from wingers Simon Zebo and Luke O’Dea although Visser looked to have scored a good try in the right had corner only for the TMO to rule the video footage “inconclusive”. It mattered not as substitute Laidlaw scored from the very next move and his conversion of his own try was Edinburgh’s first success at goal all evening.

With that famous Heineken comeback fresh in their memory Edinburgh kept throwing the ball about and, now restored to their full compliment, they rattled their hosts but were unable to reproduce last Friday’s great escape.

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Scorers: Munster: Tries: Barnes, pen try, Zebo, O’Dea. Cons: Keatley 4. Pens: Keatley 4. Edinburgh: Tries: Godman, Brown, Laidlaw. Cons: Laidlaw.

Munster: Hurley; O’Dea, Chambers, Barnes, Zebo; Keatley, O’Leary (Williams 68); Horan, Fogarty, Archer (Hayes 68), O’Callaghan, O’Driscoll (capt), Holland, O’Donnell, Butler.

Edinburgh: Paterson (Hunter 77); Visser, Thompson (Leonard 22), King, Brown; Godman (Laidlaw 62 min) Blair; Traynor, Lawrie (Capt), Gilding, Cox, Turnbull, Talei, Rennie, McInally.

Referee: Neil Paterson