Munster rounded off the 2015 Kearys Renault Series with a 21-15 win over London Irish at Irish Independent Park. Andrew Conway scored a brace of tries while Francis Saili also crossed for his first Munster try.
A scrappy first half at times saw both sides knock on in attack and cough up possession at the breakdown. However, Anthony Foley will be happy with the much improved intensity this weekend – Munster making good yardage in collisions and winning the majority of breakdown battles.
At set piece too it was Munster who gained the upper-hand, using both the line-out and scrum to better effect.
One of the night’s most impressive showings came from Andrew Conway. Moving from the wing to fullback in his first outing of the season, he made himself a thorn in the side of London Irish all evening – threatening in attack and on the counter, as well as displaying a solid defence with his efforts sparing Munster’s blushes on a couple of occasions in the opening 40 as London Irish charged for the whitewash.
Conway’s efforts were rewarded with the first try of the evening. Taking the ball at pace from a deft Dave O’Callaghan offload, the speedster kicked in behind the covering London Irish defence and also claimed the ball to touch down and get Munster off the mark.
Adding the extras was sub academy player Bill Johnston who made his first start in in the senior ranks while his academy colleague Stephen Fitzgerald also acquitted himself well on the right wing.
A 7-0 scoreline at half time was indicative of a lack of precision from both sides.
Better was to come from Munster in the second half, exerting their dominance from the restart, playing the majority of the game in opposition territory and forcing repeated penalties from their visitors.
The pressure eventually paid when clever thinking from Conway saw him tap and go from five meters and touch down for Munster’s second try under the posts before London Irish had time to set their defence.
Rockwell College graduate Johnston was again on hand to push Munster out to a 14-3 lead after an earlier infringement from Munster at the breakdown had allowed the Londoners to slot a penalty.
There was mixed fortunes for Francis Saili on his first start for the province. Showcasing good hands and strong running all game, the All Black crossed for his first Munster try – the province's third on the night – after neatly spotting and exploiting a gap in the London Irish midfield. Running in under the posts, he gave Ian Keatley the easiest of conversions in extending Munster's lead to 21-3.
Not long after however, Saili suffered a knock in the tackle and following treatment for a number of minutes was stretchered from the field to warm applause from the crowd of 5,208. Speaking after the game Head Coach Anthony Foley commented that the injury appeared to be concussion but added that Saili had gone to hospital for a full assessment.
London Irish would mount a charge before the end of proceedings. Firstly Christian Lewis-Pratt crossed on 75 minutes after a wonderful solo effort down the left wing, before Munster also fell victim to the quick tap and go. With Munster down to 14 with James Cronin picking up yellow Alex Lewington crossed with Brendan McKibbin adding the extras.
That would be the final play of the game, Munster deservedly returning to winning ways in timely fashion ahead of next weekend’s Guinness PRO12 opener against Treviso also at Irish Independent Park – Saturday at 7:45pm. Purchase tickets online here.
21-15 the full time score.