Billy Holland inspires Munster to deserved victory over Edinburgh
Secondrow celebrated his 240th appearance with man-of-the-match performance
Munster’s Billy Holland is presented with the Pro14 man of the match award by Jack O’Donoghue. Photograph: Inpho
Edinburgh 10 Munster 22
Munster’s pragmatism, mental and physical, allowed them to put the elements, torrential rain and a strong wind, to one side and concentrate on eking out a win, accomplished on foot of an assured performance.
Johann Van Graan’s team availed of superior forward power, especially in the scrum, establishing a sturdy foundation to dominate sufficiently to guarantee a result. It wasn’t perfect, indiscipline caused a few problems initially and again in an end game elongated by an injury to Andrew Davidson.
The match was halted for six minutes - the second half lasted just shy of an hour - the Edinburgh player was removed on a spinal board as a precaution but was later able to join his teammates in the dressing-room.
Billy Holland celebrated his 240th appearance - second on the all-time list alongside Ronan O’Gara - with a man-of-the-match performance, a fitting accolade for a player who led his team superbly and contributed handsomely. Jack O’Donoghue would have run his captain close, so too Gavin Coombes and Chris Cloete; indeed the pack in general earned the collective plaudits for underpinning the win.
Holland said: “Yeah we are delighted. It’s a tough place to come, a good team we were playing against and not the easiest of conditions; 1-23, we played well. We controlled the set piece and you have guys like Jack O’Donoghue and Craig Casey, picking and going from half a yard, it was a good performance. Both teams showed great ambition to get a try at the end of the game. We have come away with the four points and I am very happy with that. “
O’Donoghue exacted his revenge with a smile, presenting Holland with his medal, he ventured: “not bad for a 40-year-old.” Craig Casey was sharp at scrumhalf, while Chris Farrell and Mike Haley, particularly in the first half, were others to excel. It was pleasing to note Joey Carbery’s presence in the pre-match warm-up, a suggestion that his return to the match environment isn’t too far away.
Edinburgh’s early dominance was predicated on Munster conceding a slew of penalties, one of which Jaco van der Walt kicked to give the home team a 3-0 lead. The Scottish side had tested the mettle of the Irish province’s defensive maul and found it unyielding, so eventually settled for points.
Munster found a little rhythm, began to squeeze in terms of exerting pressure, and it was the home side that racked up the transgressions. Flanker Jack O’Donoghue’s excellent work at the breakdown was rewarded when JJ Hanrahan kicked an equalising penalty on 15 minutes.
The visitors’ hard nosed goal-line defence allowed them to survive a concerted assault until Edinburgh scrumhalf Henry Pyrgos knocked on; Munster made the most of the reprieve by winning a scrum penalty, a rich seam on the night.
Haley twice kicked beautifully, from the first Edinburgh escaped a charge down but less than a minute later a well judged grubber kick put the home side in trouble again deep in their 22.
The visitors won a penalty from the first lineout, O’Donoghue couldn’t ground the ball following a maul from a second, but the flanker powered over after good work initially from number eight, Coombes. Hanrahan kicked the conversion to give Munster a deserved 10-3 lead on the half hour.
An error from van der Walt from the kickoff - he kicked the ball dead - gave Munster a scrum on the halfway line from which they forced a penalty. Hanrahan brought play into the Edinburgh 22 and there followed yet more ill discipline from the home side, conceding penalties like confetti.
Cloete tapped and surged for the line and although he was repelled, as were a couple of others, Casey demonstrated to his larger colleagues that speed of thought and an appreciation of space could unlock the goal-line defence, wriggling over from a metre or so. Hanrahan kicked the conversion and Munster headed for the dressing room with a 17-3 lead.
Apart from the first 10 minutes it was an impressive half of rugby from Johann van Graan’s side, intelligent in the way they played the conditions and manipulated their opponents.
Edinburgh looked more attuned and sharper on the resumption, reducing the deficit with a try through the excellent Bill Mata on 45 minutes. Munster’s response was to force another scrum penalty, kick to the corner, and following a fine half-break from Casey, Coombes powered over for his seventh try in 11 matches.
The expectation was that the visitors would chase down a bonus point but instead Munster’s defensive integrity was tested with a series of scrums five metres from their line. They escaped when Edinburgh replacement hooker Mike Willemse conceded a free kick for not striking in the scrum. The home side for all their huffing and puffing lacked a cutting edge outside of Mata and Sau.
Connacht’s bonus point win over the Cardiff Blues trimmed Munster’s lead on top of Conference B to nine points but Johann van Graan will be happy with his side’s victory.
Scoring sequence - 8 mins: Van der Walt penalty, 3-0; 15 mins: Hanrahan penalty, 3-3; 30 mins: O’Donoghue try, Hanrahan conversion, 3-10; 36 mins: Casey try, Hanrahan conversion, 3-17. Half-time: 3-17. 45 mins: Mata try, van der Walt conversion, 10-17; 56 mins: Coombes try, 10-22.
Edinburgh: D Hoyland; J Blain, M Bennett, C Dean E Sau; J van der Walt, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, D Cherry, L-R Atalifo; A Davidson, G Gilchrist; N Haining, L Crosbie, B Mata.
Replacements: M McCallum for Atalifo 53 mins; M Bradbury for Haining 55 mins; C Shiel for Pyrgos 58 mins; M Willemse for Cherry 63 mins; B Venter for Schoeman 66 mins; A Miller for Crosbie 66 mins; M Currie for Bennett 72 mins; N Chamberlain for Davidson 84 mins.
Munster: M Haley; A Conway, C Farrell, D de Allende, S Daly; JJ Hanrahan, C Casey; J Cronin, N Scannell, J Ryan; J Kleyn, B Holland (capt); J O’Donoghue, C Cloete, G Coombes.
Replacements: J Loughman for Cronin 65 mins; S Archer for Ryan 65 mins; F Wycherley for Kleyn 65 mins; J O’Sullivan for Cloete 65 mins; K O’Byrne for N Scannell 66 mins; B Healy for Hanrahan 67 mins; R Scannell for De Allende 72 mins; N McCarthy for Casey 76 mins; Cloete for Coombes 80 mins.
Referee: M Adamson (Scotland)