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Foley's Munster reign begins with Thomond Park defeat to Edinburgh

The southern province delivered an error-strewn performance in Limerick.

CJ Stander bashed at Edinburgh's defence all evening.
CJ Stander bashed at Edinburgh's defence all evening.
Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Munster 13

Edinburgh 14

MUNSTER BEGAN LIFE under Anthony Foley with a dispiriting 14-13 Guinness Pro12 defeat to Edinburgh at Thomond Park.

The home side’s performance was littered with handling errors, while the Scots won a worryingly high percentage of the collisions. Forced offloads, poor decisions, weak breakdown work and a lack of line speed will be among the points Foley picks apart in his review.

Whether or not this week’s report furore had an impact on the Munster preparation and mindset is impossible to prove, but this was a disjointed start to life for the southern province and their all-Irish coaching staff.

John Ryan was pinged at the first scrum of the evening to allow Tom Heathcote to open the scoring in the third minute, and the out-half doubled that lead shortly after when Munster came offside 35 metres from their tryline.

The province’s opening 15 minutes or so was rusty in the extreme as they coughed up possession at the breakdown and through handling errors, while referee Leighton Hodges struggled to get the scrum functioning.

The home side finally progressed into the Edinburgh 22 on the 20-minute mark, but opted against going for the posts after strong carries from CJ Stander and Shane Buckley had led to a penalty. A knock-on from the maul after kicking to touch added to the sense of frustration.

Heathcote was wide with his third effort at goal, after Duncan Williams was penalised for slapping the ball down. Shortly after, blindside flanker Tomas Leonardi was yellow carded for a tip tackle on Simon Zebo, allowing Munster territorial and numerical advantage.

The result was a 35th-minute try for CJ Stander, who stretched out his right arm to dot down following a strong Munster maul in the left-hand corner. Keatley missed the chance to put Foley’s men in front for the first time, pulling his conversion wide.

Simon Zebo Simon Zebo showed his attacking quality in bursts.

Edinburgh almost immediately replied with a Tim Visser try, but Hodges and his TMO correctly ruled it out for a forward pass from Sam Beard. However, Heathcote was able to extend the Scots’ lead to 9-5 with another penalty on the stroke of half-time.

Munster burst out of the traps in the second half, with a scintillating Simon Zebo break taking them to within metres of Edinburgh’s tryline, where Hamish Watson cynically killed the ball and joined Leonardi in the bin. Despite the two-man advantage, Munster failed to maul over from five metres out, instead conceding a penalty themselves.

After their exit strategy malfunctioned, Munster conceded a try in the 48th minute, Edinburgh fullback Jack Cuthbert getting on the end of Beard’s clever grubber kick to touch down. Heathcote’s missed conversion left the score at 14-5 in the Scots’ favour.

Munster’s response was a sustained period of territory in the visitors’ 22, a passage that ended with Stander bursting over for his second try. Improved ruck speed allowed Munster onto the front foot, and the South African did the rest from close-range.

Keatley missed the conversion again, but his 69th-minute penalty drew Munster to within a single point.

A missed tackle from Zebo almost allowed Edinburgh in for a second try with time running out and momentum fully shifted back in the Scottish side’s favour, although the scramble defence came up with a turnover.

Keatley had a late, late chance to win it for Munster with a 42-metre penalty, but his effort drifted right and wide. In truth, the victory would have been stolen.

Munster scorers

Tries: CJ Stander [2]

Penalties: I Keatley

Edinburgh scorers

Tries: J Cuthbert

Penalties: T Heathcote [3]

MUNSTER: Ronan O’Mahony (Ivan Dineen ’41); Andrew Conway, Johne Murphy, Andrew Smith, Simon Zebo; Ian Keatley, Duncan Williams (Cathal Sheridan ’72); John Ryan, Kevin O’Byrne (Duncan Casey ’47), BJ Botha (Stephen Archer ’76); Donncha O’Callaghan (capt.), Billy Holland (Dave Foley ’52); CJ Stander, Sean Dougall (Tommy O’Donnell ’52), Shane Buckley.

Replacements not used: Alan Cotter, Johnny Holland.

EDINBURGH: Jack Cuthbert (Nick McLennan ’69); Dougie Fife, Sam Beard, Andries Strauss (Phil Burleigh ’52), Tim Visser (Rory Sutherland ’75); Tom Heathcote, Sean Kennedy (Sam Hidalgo-Clyne ’69); Alasdair Dickinson, Ross Ford (capt.) (James Hilterbrand ’61), John Andress (WP Nel ’52); Fraser McKenzie, Ollie Atkins; Tomas Leonardi (YC ’33) (Mike Coman ’66), Hamish Watson (YC ’41), Cornell Du Preez.

Replacements not used: Ben Toolis.

Referee: Leighton Hodges [WRU].

Attendance: 13,428.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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