Munster 34 - 23 Edinburgh
Scorers: Munster – Tries: D Hurley, J Coughlan, J Cronin, I Dineen, JJ Hanrahan. Pen: I Keatley. Cons: Ian Keatley (2), JJ Hanrahan. Edinburgh – Tries: N de Luca, L Jones. Pens: P Francis (2), H Leonard. Cons: P Francis, H Leonard.
The new coach was able to take stock of a performance that was disappointing on the one hand and comforting to an extent after a decent second-half display which saw his side outscore Munster by 17 points to 12.
Reflecting on the outcome and performance, he said: “We failed to stop momentum in the first half and that was a huge problem. We were down 22-6 but, in the second half, we showed tremendous character and resolve, we scored 17 to 12 in the second half and both their tries came off mistakes on our part from the restarts after we had scored.
“There are a lot of young guys and we have only been together for a very short time. Defensively, for instance, our defence coach has started literally this Monday. We have got to have a pre-season in season, because [only] one of us has been here for the pre-season, so, until the end of October, it is going to be tough but we knew that. What is important for me is the resolve in that second half. They could have thrown in the towel and let their heads drop but they never did that and that’s important.”
The new coach is readying himself for much tougher games down the track, not even counting the fact that Edinburgh play Munster three more times this season, twice in the Heineken Cup and again at home in the RaboDirect.
He admitted: “Edinburgh have gone off track the last couple of years and we have to rebuild that situation now. We have to lay the foundations to do that and it will take a while. Unfortunately, due to Super Rugby [his involvement] I wasn’t there for pre-season or for recruitment either. I just wasn’t there at all, that was unfortunate but it was nobody’s fault, everyone has just done the best they can. Obviously we’re starting on the back foot.”
On Saturday, Edinburgh took the lead with a tenth-minute penalty from Piers Francis but that was really against the run of play, Munster having come close to scoring the opening try a couple of minutes earlier.
Justice was seen to be done in the 12th minute when Denis Hurley was sent in for a corner-flag try after a lovely weighted pass from Ian Keatley, and Munster stormed into a more comprehensive lead when James Coughlan scored a second try after 15 minutes, with Keatley converting before kicking a 21st-minute penalty.
Edinburgh did strike back with a second Francis penalty and Keatley missed a chance to re-establish that 12-point advantage when he came up short with a 29th-minute penalty but Munster continued to dictate the trend of this game and went further ahead when James Cronin got in for the third try near the posts and Keatley converted for a 22-6 lead which they held until the break despite a couple of penalty chances for the visitors.
Nick de Luca gave Edinburgh brief hope with a 53rd-minute try that Francis converted, but Munster struck back immediately when Keatley sent Ivan Dineen over for a try in the corner and a 27-13 lead.
Edinburgh replacement Harry Leonard narrowed the gap with a 63rd-minute penalty goal. The action continued, with Munster storming into a stronger position with a JJ Hanrahan try and conversion and then Lee Jones responding for the visitors with a conversion from Leonard to leave the score 34-23 going into the last five minutes.
That ensured a nervy finish for the Munstermen, even if they continued to force the pace. Ultimately, they were more than good enough to hold on.
Munster: D Hurley; R O’Mahony, C Laulala, I Dineen, J Murphy; I Keatley, D Williams; J Cronin, M Sherry, S Archer, Donncha O’Callaghan, D Foley, Dave O’Callaghan, J Coughlan (captain), S Dougall. Replacements: B Holland for Donncha O’Callaghan, T O’Donnell for Dave O’Callaghan, C Sheridan for Williams (all 56), D Varley for Sherry, D Kilcoyne for Cronin, J Ryan for Archer (all 60), JJ Hanrahan for Keatley (63), C Bohane for Dineen (71).
Edinburgh: G Tonks; D Fife, N de Luca, B Atiga, L Jones; P Francis, S Kennedy; A Dickinson, R Ford, W Nel, G Gilchrist, I van der Westhuizen, S Cox (captain), D Denton, R Grant. Replacements: L Niven for Dickenson (6, inj, J Cuthbert for Atiga (46), H Watson for van der Westhuizen (48), H Leonard for Francis (59), D Hidalgo-Clyne for Kennedy (71).