Keatley is Munster's almost perfect 10
Edinburgh 18 Munster 23:MUNSTER MADE the best possible start to their RaboDirect Pro12 campaign by defeating a powerful Edinburgh side at Murrayfield on Saturday evening with a performance that was an endorsement of new coach Rob Penney’s ability to inspire his side.
“I thought the boys played a lot of good rugby. They reduced the amount of unforced errors that we had been guilty of in our pre-season and I thought that we defended with a massive amount of determination. We’re ahead of where I thought we would be at this stage” said Penney.
“A lot of credit must go to Edinburgh. They threw everything at us and played some good football to produce what I thought was a very good match and a good advert for the game.”
Pleasing for a Munster side shorn of a number of their front line troop was their ability to overcome what was a strong Edinburgh missing very few top stars. Edinburgh actually outscored Munster in tries, with a spectacular hat-trick from Tim Visser. But Munster can thank the accurate kicking of Ian Keatley, who aside from scoring one of his side’s two tries, kicked three penalties and two conversions for an invaluable contribution of 18 points.
“Ian had a terrific performance” said Penney. “Ten is a very difficult position as you have to make 80 to 90 decisions in the match and you have to have time there. Ian showed a great deal of maturity and fortitude. He was able to guide the team around the park”.
The Munster coach also praised the efforts of the back three among whom Denis Hurley at fullback was a forceful presence and skipper Doug Howlett showed good leadership. “I was very pleased for Doug leading the team in the last 10 minutes when Edinburgh put us under pressure” observed Penney.
Munster elation was in contrast to Edinburgh disappointment, the home side’s coach Michael Bradley admitting that defeat was something of a set-back for his new look side. The former Ireland scrumhalf said: “It was disappointing for us. We fielded a strong and experienced side”.
Edinburgh looked the more likely winners when their expansive game produced the first of Visser’s three tries, from clever work by outhalf Greig Laidlaw, and good support from fullback Greig Tonks, whose perfectly timed pass gave Visser an easy romp to the line.
A Keatley penalty was followed by an attack that all but resulted in a try for Hurley. But at the immediate ruck, Munster turned over vital possession on the Edinburgh line, allowing Stuart McInally to break away before sending Visser in for his second try.
Just before half-time, however, Munster achieved the score they had threatened. Howlett did the damage with a deft chip to the line and it was Keatley who was on hand to control the bouncing ball for his side’s first try, his conversion levelling the scores.
A Keatley penalty just after the break then gave Munster the lead for the first time, only for Laidlaw to reply in kind. Then after Hurley had been beaten to the ball by Visser, Munster worked a planned move from the line-out that ended with Luke O’Dea cutting through midfield for a converted try.
O’Dea almost scored again but instead of five points Munster were happy to settle for a third Keatley penalty and a 23-13 lead. With 10 minutes remaining, Edinburgh threw everything into attack and from a lineout they moved the ball well for De Luca to deliver the scoring pass to Visser.
Munster’s defence stood firm for the remaining moments to earn the visitors a deserved victory.
EDINBURGH. G Tonks; L Jones, N De Luca, B Atiga, T Visser; G Laidlaw, R Rees; J Yapp, R Ford, W Nel; G Gilchrist, S Cox; D Denton, R Rennie, S McInally. Replacements: G Cross for Nel, A Jacobsen for Yapp (both 51 mins), C Leck for Rees, D Basiliai for McInally (both 60 mins), A Titterell for Ford (61 mins), J Houston for Atiga (65 mins), P Parker for Gilchrist (69 mins).
MUNSTER:D Hurley; D Howlett, C Laulala, J Downey, L O’Dea; I Keatley, D Williams; W du Preez, D Varley, BJ Botha; D O’Callaghan, B Holland; P Butler, S Dougall, J Coughlan. Replacements: M Sherry for Varley (47 mins), D Kilcoyne for du Preez (55 mins), D Foley for P Butler, I Dineen for Laulala (65 mins), B O’Mahony for Dougall (71 mins), P Stringer for Williams (72 mins), S Deasy for Hurley (74 mins).
Referee: Leighton Hodges (WRU).