A massive second-half defensive stand gave Munster a vital Champions Cup victory over Northampton Saints at a wet and cold Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday afternoon.
All of the points were scored in the first half with Gavin Coombes scoring two tries as Joey Carbery kicked both conversions and a penalty.
There were three yellow cards for Munster after the break and one for Northampton with the hosts camped in the Munster half for almost the entire 40 minutes but the Munster defence came up trumps time and time again.
Tadhg Beirne was named Heineken Star of the Match after another excellent display.
There was fantastic travelling support for Munster at the game and they were treated to a rapid start with Keith Earls released up both flanks early on.
He was bundled into touch on the right wing and chipped cleverly ahead for Conor Murray on the opposite flank but Northampton’s Alex Mitchell was on the cover. Munster pressure at the ruck earned the penalty and Carbery went to the corner but Northampton were eventually awarded a penalty for Munster going off their feet.
Graham Rowntree’s men hit the front on 13 minutes as Calvin Nash won a breakdown penalty after a good chase and tackle on Fin Smith from Carbery’s crossfield Garryowen.
Carbery kicked to the corner and despite a Munster knock-on, the pack won a scrum penalty to go for the corner again. Coombes scored a trademark try from close range after Niall Scannell, on his 150th Munster appearance, made good yards off the five-metre tap and Coombes did the rest from a yard out. Carbery converted to make it 7-0.
Munster hands in the ruck gave Northampton the chance to kick to the corner off the restart but the Munster maul defence was rock solid.
It was nip and tuck in the scrum with Northampton winning a penalty to go to the corner again. They eventually won a penalty in midfield and Smith kicked the points to make it 7-3.
Carbery and Smith traded penalties before the half hour and a Munster knock-on spoiled a promising attack after Carbery went to the corner off a maul penalty.
Munster were back in the red zone on 35 minutes and made no mistake this time after a superbly-worked lineout move.
Scannell found Peter O’Mahony in the lineout and he transferred to Tadhg Beirne who popped it for Coombes on the loop to power over.
Carbery converted and Munster led 17-6 at half-time.
It was all hands to the pump for Munster in the second half as the rain continued to pour down.
A Calvin Nash tackle on Mitchell allowed Beirne in to win a brilliant turnover.
Jack O’Donoghue came up with another turnover under the posts for Munster as Northampton piled on the pressure early in the second half.
After a huge skirmish, O’Donoghue and Lewis Ludlam were sin-binned with a few players lucky to escape any sanction.
Munster were briefly down to 13 men on 57 minutes as Craig Casey was sin-binned after tackling James Ramm in the air as he jumped to catch a crossfield kick in the right corner.
The rearguard action continued as O’Mahony and Beirne made vital lineout steals to keep Northampton out.
Carbery became the third Munster player to be sin-binned on 68 minutes for an offside just as Craig Casey had returned with Munster down to 14 men once again.
John Hodnett came up with a magnificent turnover two minutes after coming on as the game entered the final eight minutes.
The clock was Munster’s friend as Northampton continued to attack fruitlessly and Coombes came up with yet another turnover on 77 minutes to see out an extremely hard-fought victory.
Champions Cup Round 2 Round-Up
Tadhg Beirne was named Star of the Match.
Niall Scannell made his 150th Munster appearance.
Munster are up to sixth in Pool B in the Heineken Champions Cup, level on five points with Sale Sharks and Stormers.
Munster: Mike Haley; Calvin Nash, Antoine Frisch, Jack Crowley (Rory Scannell, 54), Keith Earls (Shane Daly, 75); Joey Carbery, Conor Murray (Craig Casey, 49); Jeremy Loughman (Dave Kilcoyne, 49), Niall Scannell (Diarmuid Barron, 55), John Ryan (Roman Salanoa, 75); Jean Kleyn (John Hodnett, 69), Tadhg Beirne; Jack O’Donoghue, Peter O’Mahony (C) (Alex Kendellen, 75), Gavin Coombes.