Edinburgh were overpowered and outclassed as Munster ran in six first-half tries, eased up after the break and still ran out 30-point winners.
A week out from the first of their back-to-back Champions Cup clashes with Newcastle Falcons, Cockerill will welcome his international contingent back with open arms, but last night was relentless at times as the waves of Munster attack overwhelmed the Scottish outfit.
“There is no shame in losing to Munster with a team like that out against us,” said Cockerill. “Look, we came here with an experimental side and there are things we can take out of the game, but the match was pretty much settled by half-time, wasn’t it?”
The head coach made nine changes from last week’s defeat to Dragons and on his first start for the side Lewis Wynne made a big impact straight away, with a brilliant poach at the breakdown after just 50 seconds.
But the sweet notes were scarce for Edinburgh in that early action. The concession of a lineout penalty handed Munster an easy exit and a few minutes later the home side struck when Chris Farrell barged over for the first try in the fifth minute.
After the bad start Edinburgh appeared to have settled into the game as they nailed a few bright phases of play, but for the second time in ten minutes Munster scored off a lineout. Again Munster dummied to set a maul, but played wide off Chris Cloete while JJ Hanrahan’s inside pass sent Andrew Conway through a hole near the back of the lineout and he ran clear to score.
To be fair Edinburgh were down a player as they defended that try and Nathan Fowles was replaced by Sean Kennedy moments later for a head injury assessment, but there was no excuse for the defending of the third Munster try that arrived four minutes later. Farrell managed to suck in three defenders with a clever pass out the back, and Conway easily finished in the corner for a 19-0 lead.
Three tries down it looked worrying for Edinburgh, but they hauled themselves back into the game by the 21st minute. Juan Pablo Socino broke open the Munster cover with a strong carry up the middle, while debutant George Taylor freed Van der Merwe, pictured, and he barged past Mike Haley and Cloete with a powerful fend to finish brilliantly. Jaco van der Walt converted to put 12 points between the sides.
But that was just a brief interlude to Munster’s dominance and their bonus-point try arrived after just half an hour. This time the Munster pack elected to maul with Arno Botha in charge at the back, but when it was stopped just short of the line, Conor Murray fired a pass to Keith Earls who scored in the left corner.
Earls only had to wait four minutes to score his second try and it was Munster’s best effort so far. Farrell showed great footwork and power to break through the defence, he passed to Mike Haley and with the tackles closing in he looped a ball to the Ireland winger for another easy finish.
Munster were already 29-7 ahead and the only downside was Hanrahan’s four missed conversions. But Earls completed his eight-minute hat-trick two minutes before the interval when he scored after some more heroics from Conway and Haley. Hanrahan missed again but Munster were 34-7 ahead at half-time.
Edinburgh managed to stem the tide in the early stages of the second half and there was a debut for Fijian back row Senitiki Nayalo after an hour as Cockerill looked to his bench for inspiration. But the seventh Munster try did arrive 16 minutes from time, replacement out-half Tyler Bleyendaal scoring down the blind side of a dominant Munster scrum to make it 39-7.
There was time for one more Edinburgh highlight when Socino and Jason Baggott combined to send Van der Merwe in for his second try 11 minutes from time.
But Farrell had the final say in the 77th minute, claiming Munster’s eighth try.