Despite a late comeback that yielded a try for Danny Barnes Munster lost the British & Irish Cup final 23-14 to Cornish Pirates in Cambourne on Sunday.
And although they can have very little quibble with the outcome, they did have the opportunities to make this at least a tighter outcome. It really was a case of the auld dog for the hard road as the craftier Pirates, inspired by Blair Cowan and half backs Gavin Cattle and Jonny Bentley, brought their experience to bear particularly in the opening half that they led 20-6.
"In fairness Cornish Pirates came at us very strongly and deserved their lead at half time." conceded match day manager, Mick Galwey afterwards." It was a big learning experience for our young guys – the average age was 22. We’ve had great success in the British & Irish Cup but it was just a step too far."
Declan Cusack missed two early penalties while Bentley was off target with one of his own before adding the extras for Steve Winn’s 17th-minute try when the centre took Cattle’s pass and slipped his tackler to score behind the posts.
Pirates scored their second try five minutes before the break, Cowan driving from the scrum and then Cattle moving the ball wide for Wes Davies to offload for the lively Rhodri McAtee to score in the corner. Bentley converted from the touchline and then added a penalty for a 14-point half-time cushion.
Munster upped the ante in the second half but often saw their good undone by errors and tenacious Pirates defence. Their best opportunity came from broken play and mid-way through the half the try that would have asked serious questions of their opponents looked on when they carved out an opening down the right wing but scrambled Pirate’s defence thwarted the move.
To their great credit they continued to press right to the end against visibly tiring opposition who were helped by the work, often illegal, of number seven Dave Ward.
Replacement Dave O’Callaghan provided them with good line out ball that Jeremy Manning, swithced to fly half, used to good effect.
The inevitable try came when Barnes got in round a stretched defence but his well taken score came too late to affect the outcome.
Munster: S Scanlon, D Barnes, T Gleeson, J Manning, S Zebo (M Kelliher 77 min), D Cusack (R O’Mahony 66 min), D Williams (C Murray 66 min), D Kilcoyne (D Ryan 41 min), M Sherry (S Henry 77 min), S Archer, D Foley, I Nagle (D O’Callaghan 61 min), B Holland, T O’Donnell (P Butler 61 min), P O’Mahony (capt).
Cornish Pirates: W Davies; R McAtee, M Ireland, S Winn, N Jackson; J Bentley, G Cattle; (capt); C Rimmer, R Elloway, A Paver, L McGlone, B Gulliver, C Morgan, D Ward, B Cowan. Replacements: M Myerscough (rep McGlone 52) , S Betty (for Elloway 57), P Andrew (for Rimmer 61), M Evans (for Cowan 77), J Doherty (for Cattle 77), T Luke (for Davies 77), R Storer (for Paver 77)
Referee: L Hodges (WRU)