Munster A crossed for 5 tries in recording a bonus point win away to Rotherham Titans in round three of the British and Irish Cup at Clifton Lane this afternoon.
Leading 10-21 at half time through a Te Aihe Toma try, a James Cronin brace and pinpoint conversions from the boot of Bill Johnston, the province responded to a second half comeback from the hosts with another brace, this time from academy hooker Vincent O’Brien after excellent work at maul time.
Mixing experience with emerging talent, Peter Malone featured senior, academy and club players in today’s 22 man squad. And while discipline may concern the Head Coach after Cronin, Toma and Darren O’Shea all spent spells in the bin, overall Malone will be happy with his side’s endeavour as they were full value for their 24-35 win.
Making the perfect start, Munster applied all the early pressure with a sustained attack that netted the game’s first try. With captain Dave Foley claiming an early lineout at close range to the Rotherham line, there would be no stopping the men in red as they crossed on 8 minutes with Ireland U20 out half Johnston kicking the conversion.
The next opportunity came the way of the hosts when Munster went offside in defence. Kicking to the corner, Rotherham were held up over the line as their pack looked to punish Munster though the maul. But off the subsequent 5 metre scrum, a switch in midfield and an excellent JP Estelles line saw the centre touch down for Titans opening try with Caolan Ryan’s extras levelling the game on 23 minutes.
Determined momentum would not shift the way of the Championship outfit, Munster soon upped the ante, keeping Rotherham firmly planted in their own half and, on his Munster A debut, scrum half Toma provided lively service as backs and forwards looked to make the hard yards and apply massive pressure in attack.
On 29 minutes, after Alex Wootton made excellent headway, Toma and Dan Walsh combined to put Munster back in front. Spinning quick ruck ball out to Walsh, Toma did well to take the return pass from the flanker and touch down under the posts. Johnston had the easiest of conversions.
A Ryan penalty for a Munster scrum infringement reduced the gap to three before the visitors scored at an opportune time.
Attacking hard off a restart, the province went from touchline to touchline and after a series of quick rucks, Irish international and injury returnee Cronin was in under the posts for his second try. Another easy tap over for Johnston and Munster took a 10-21 lead into the interval.
Cronin did however see yellow for a neck-roll at the breakdown before the half was out.
A hugely positive start from Rotherham upon the resumption kept Munster very much on the back foot and Titans were rewarded for their efforts when Santi Socino dotted down off a powerful maul. Ryan’s conversion put just four points between the sides (21-17) and the game was well and truly on. Or so one would have thought.
Instead Munster raised their game and in the subsequent few minutes had put the game beyond the hosts with two textbook mauls. O’Brien touched down for both tries, one a carbon copy of the other with Johnston on the money with each conversion and kicking five from five on the day.
It’s testament to Munster that, despite conceding a late penalty try – Toma deliberately knocking on – and losing both the scrum half and O’Shea to the sin bin late on, they had still done enough to secure the win and take maximum points from their trip to Clifton Lane.
Sunday week gives Munster fans in and around Clare the chance to cheer on Munster A when they bring the return Rotherham fixture to Ennis RFC at 2pm. Tickets can be bought at the ground on matchday while entry is free for all MRSC members and Ten Year Ticket holders.