Munster A recorded a 24-17 victory against Leinster A in UL this afternoon with Paul O’Connell coming through unscathed after impressing in his first 40 minutes of rugby since October.
O'Connell certainly didn't spare himself in that opening half nor did he avoid any of the physical battles and afterwards expressed his satisfaction at a return to action for the first time in over four months. "I'm delighted to be back and right now not feeling any ill effects," he told the unusually large media gathering, well unusually anyway for an A game played on the Tuesday afternoon of an international week. " I'm happy with the way things went, although I was finding it tough towards the end," he admitted, before adding with a grin, "but I suppose that's to be expected if I'm trying to keep up with these young fellas."
Among the young fellas he was alluding to probably was his second row partner Dave Foley, prop John Ryan, outside backs Danny Barnes and Ivan Dineen and out-half JJ Hanrahan who ran his backwell and kicked superbly.
In a game that was played at a cracking pace, Hanrahan kicked three first half penaties to edge his side in front at the break, Leinster's try coming from soon to be Munsterman Andrew Conway who showed blistering pace to split the home defenceand score near the posts to give Noel Reid and easy conversion.
Two evenly matched sides continued where they left off in the second half but it was Munster who showed ever the slightly more inventiveness and they were rewarded when Ronan O'Mahony finished off a flowing movement to score on the right, Hanrahan tagging on the conversion.
To their credit Leinster refused to buckle and Cathal Marsh avoided despairing Munster clutches to score in the corner with Reid knocking over a marvellous conversion to leave just two points separating the sides.
However, Dineen carved the opening for Barnes' 52nd minute try and though Reid narrowed the gap with a penalty after replacement Scott Deasy had been yellow carded to make it a four point game, Deasy returned to smash over a superb 78th minute drop goal and settle the matter.
Referee: Kieran Barry
Munster A: J Murphy (C Bohane H/T); L O'Dea (S Scanlon 39); D Barnes (J Holland 68), I Dineen, R O'Mahony (C Hircock 66), JJ Hanrahan (S Deasy 54), C Sheridan Capt. (B Slater 73), J Cronin (M Horan H/T), S Henry (D Casey H/T, N Scannell 63), J Ryan (A Cotter 65), D Foley, P O'Connell (B Hayes H/T), N Ronan (W Ryan 75), S Dougall, CJ Stander. Replacements: M Horan, D Casey, N Scannell, A Cotter, B Hayes, W Ryan, B Slater, S Deasy, C Bohane, C Hircock, S Scanlon, J Holland.
Leinster A: A Conway, A Boyle (F Carr 65), N Reid, J Coghlan (D Fanning 54), S Coghlan-Murray, C Marsh, J Cooney, J O'Connell (J McGrath 65), A Dundon Capt. (J Tracey 65), M Moore (T Furlong 67), M Flanagan, Q Roux, B Marshall, C Gilsenan, L Auva'a (T Beirne 68). Replacements: J Tracey, J McGrath, T Furlong, T Beirne, D Leavy, P O'Driscoll, F Carr, D Doyle, D Fanning.