Despite a poor opening 40 and ten point deficit, Munster A rallied in the second half to record a 23-16 home victory over Nottingham in Pool 3 of the British & Irish Cup.
It was Munster A who started the more promising – forcing knock-ons from the visitors, winning two consecutive penalties at scrum time and looking the most likely to cross the white wash.
A penalty from the scrum allowed Johnny Holland to open Munster’s account on 6 minutes and he extended the province’s lead to 6-0 on 13 minutes after Will Maisey was off target for Nottingham with his fist kick at goal.
However the aforementioned 13th minute signalled the end of Munster’s grip on the opening half as they began to infringe at the scrum. With another penalty opportunity, Maisey would not miss on the second attempt, reducing the deficit to 3 and spurring the Englishmen into action.
Nottingham showed their intent early in the game, turning down kickable penalties to opt for touch.
On the first occasion Munster A did well to force the knock on in the line out, only to infringe in the subsequent scrum, allowing Maisey to level matters on 24 minutes.
Enjoying somewhat of a purple patch for the remainder of the opening half, serious pressure from Nottingham meant the hosts couldn’t guarantee possession from their own set piece.
Munster’s problems were compounded when the visitors again kicked to touch from a penalty, then keeping it tight from the line out maul before releasing centre Edward Styles to touch down for the opening try of the match on 32 minutes.
With Maisey missing the conversion, the score remained 6-11 at the break.
Things went from bad to worse for Munster in the early stages of the second half, losing play-maker Johnny Holland to injury on 42 minutes and Alan Cotter seeing ten in the bin on 48 minutes.
That was all before Nottingham again used their line out maul to good effect from a penalty. With the hard yards made and the Munster defence sucked in, they spread it wide and with a three on one overlap winger Liam O’Neill had the easiest of run ins on 52 minutes.
With the serious whiff of home defeat in the offing, Munster A then turned it on and set about overcoming a deserved ten point lead for Nottingham.
Sensing that their hosts were coming back into the game, the visitors began to lose some composure and the mistakes that dogged Munster A in the opening half were now the problem of Nottingham.
Two consecutive penalty misses from Rory Scannell let the English outfit off the hook in the short term, but they couldn’t prevent the eventual Munster A onslaught for the final 20 minutes of the game.
Johne Murphy’s searing run from inside his own 22 brought Munster deep in to the Nottingham half, and with the visitors on the back foot and scrambling to get numbers in defence, strong running and quick hands from the breakdown saw captain Jack O’Donoghue touch down for Munster A’s opening try of the game.
When Scannell added the extras, it was 13-16 and ‘game on’ on 67 minutes.
With Munster A now in the ascendancy, they gave Nottingham a little dose of their own medicine – making good yardage with the line out maul. Building up a serious head of steam, the provincial pack marched strongly towards the try line and when Nottingham pulled it down illegally, the referee wasted no time in awarding the penalty try.
The easiest of tap overs for Scannell made it 20-16 before he again extended Munster’s lead in the dying minutes of the game. Munster drove Nottingham backwards as they attempted to escape their own half, but the pressure proved too much and they conceded another three pointer right in front of the posts.
That was to be the final score of the game with Munster A remaining composed and staying strong in defence to see out the game on a 23-16 scoreline.
That makes it three wins from four for Mick O’Driscoll’s men in Pool 3 of the B&I Cup, with Munster A’s only loss in the current campaign away to Worcester Warriors whom they face in less than a week – next Friday night at the CIT Sports Stadium.
Munster A: Johne Murphy, Darren Sweetnam, Ivan Dineen, Rory Scannell, Luke O'Dea; Johnny Holland, Jamie Glynn; Alan Cotter, Niall Scannell, Martin Kelly; Shane Buckley, Sean McCarthy, Ryan Murphy, Sean Dougall, Jack O'Donoghue – capt.
Replacements: Andrew O'Driscoll, Christy Condon, Lee Nicholas, Joe McSwiney, Gerry Hurley, Greg O'Shea, Dan Goggin.
Munster A v Worcester Warriors, CIT Sports Stadium on Friday December 5th – KO 7:30pm
Tickets can be purchased online here while entry is free for all MRSC members and Ten Year Ticket holders (on production of your membership card or ticket book).