The Munster A side, made up of contracted and non contracted players, forged well together winning comprehensively away to Ulster on Thursday afternoon.
The opening exchanges in this first A fixture of the season were keenly contested with the home side getting the perfect start when Munster second row Ian Nagle was caught off side in the first minute giving Niall O'Connor an early penalty opportunity which he duly converted taking the Ravens into a 3-0 lead.
Munster always looked dangerous with halfbacks Duncan Williams and Declan Cusack mixing the play well. Cusack caught the Ravens defence flat in the 9th minute and he sprinted through a gap and into open space. The Ulstermen struggled to cover the danger and conceded a penalty, which Cusack converted to tie the score, at 3 points apiece.
The packs competed well in the tight with full commitment shown by both sides. The Ravens were playing with a strong wind advantage in the first half and at the 26th minute a long kick up field from O'Connor trundled over the dead ball line resulting on a scrum back to Munster on halfway. The visitors picked up and took the ball through a number of phases until they reached the Ravens 5 metre line where loose head prop Dave Ryan picked up to drive over and score the first try of the match. Cusack failed to convert leaving the score at 3-8.
From the restart the Ravens hit back, claiming the high ball they set up a ruck just outside the Munster 22. Under real pressure for the first time Munster's second row Dave Foley was yellow carded for deliberately lying over the ball. O'Connor stepped up to convert to bring his side back into the game trailing by just 2 points 6-8.
Despite having a man less Munster played all the rugby in the Ulster 22 where the home side conceded a soft penalty in the 37th minute after they came into the side of a ruck just in front of the posts. Cusack added the 3 points to take the visitors into 6-11 halftime lead.
The Ravens struggled at the start of the second half the Munster men having much more physicality at the breakdown they began to drive the home side back and a lack of possession began to take its toll. Tamaiti Houra was yellow carded in the 48th minute, as in the first half referee Dudley Phillips was taking no nonsense at ruck time. Now with an extra man advantage Cusack kicked the penalty into the corner to set up a catch and drive with second row Dave Foley making up for his first half yellow card by getting the touch down when his pack drove him over the line. The conversion was missed leaving the visitors with a 6 -16 lead.
Unlike Ulster, Munster made the most of their extra man advantage and a neat break by fly half Cusack cut the Ravens in two his skill and speed creating a clear overlap, a score was always on the cards. Despite having Danny Riordan and Ian Dowling to his outside the Thomond man did all the work himself stepping inside the Ravens cover to make the line. He failed to convert his try leaving Munster with a comfortable 6-21 lead with just over 20 minutes to play.
At this stage the Munster Manager Mick Galway brought all his replacements onto the park allowing the Ravens to take full advantage of their lack of continuity. Ravens number 8 Tamaiti Houra took off at the halfway and made great ground up the left wing feeding inside to Jamie Smith who sprinted for the line. Smith looked to have had the line at his mercy but was stopped just a metre short as a result of a great try saving tackle by fullback Danny Riordan. The ball was quickly recycled by the Ravens and replacement scrum half Ian Porter was first to react picking up and diving over for a try. O'Connor missed the extra points leaving the Ravens trailing 11-21.
The final score in the game came in the 2nd minute of injury time when a clever cross filed kick from Barry O'Mahany was collected in the left hand corner by Billy Holland, the Muster skipper dotting down for the try. Cusack added the extras to complete the scoring Munster winning comprehensively 11-28.
Munster A: Danny Riordan, Ian Dowling, Tom Gleeson, Scott Deasy, Danny Barnes, Declan Cusack (Sub Academy), Duncan Williams, Dave Ryan, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, Ian Nagle, Dave Foley, Billy Holland capt, Eoghan Grace, Peter O'Mahony. Replacements: Sean Henry (Sub Academy), Darragh Hurley, Kieran Essex, Barry O'Mahony (Dolphin), Paul Rowley, Andrew Burke and Ronan O'Mahony.
Munster A Management Team: Head Coach: Anthony Foley
Assistant Coach: Ian Costello
Manager: Mick Galway