PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY: Friday, August 19
Munster 20 Northampton Saints 18, Thomond Park
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Paul Devlin, Rob Henderson; Cons: Paul Burke, Jeremy Manning; Pens: Burke 2
Northampton: Tries: Bruce Reihana, Darren Fox; Con: Reihana: Pens: Reihana 2
Coach Declan Kidney made a winning return to Thomond Park as Munster came from behind to pip Northampton Saints 20-18 in Friday night's pre-season friendly.
Last season's Celtic Cup winners got their 2005/06 run off to the best possible start, in the absence of the majority of their Ireland internationals. It feel to 19-year-old New Zealand-born fly-half Jeremy Manning, on as a replacement for Paul Burke, to land the winning conversion and he duly obliged, adding the extras to a late Rob Henderson try for the victory.
Munster, who handed debuts from the kick-off to Ben Martin at full-back, tighthead prop Tony Buckley and ex-Connacht back row John O'Sullivan, and were skippered by Shannon number 8 Stephen Keogh, trailed 8-6 at the interval having leaked the game's opening try to Saints' captain Bruce Reihana.
The twice-capped All Black, who worked well in tandem with new signing and fellow Kiwi Carlos Spencer, added a penalty in reply to Burke's brace of kicks for the home side.
Kidney's charges, who take on Leicester at Welford Road in a friendly next Friday, looked the more clinical on the restart.
Mossie Lawlor's chip kick set up a well-taken try for former Ireland Under-21 Paul Devlin, only a few minutes into the second half, with Burke converting.
An almost inevitable piece of Spencer magic created Saints' second try for Darren Fox. Reihana's conversion and second penalty then pushed the visitors into the lead, inside the closing quarter.
But back came Munster, perhaps still with the memories of their 2000 Heineken Cup final loss to the Saints fresh in their minds, and a quick tap penalty from substitute scrum-half Frank Murphy sent centre Henderson bulldozing through to square up the game.
Manning held his nerve toconvert and Munster dug their heels in for a morale-boosting win.
The province's success was slightly tainted by an Achilles tendon injury to centre Mike Mullins, sustained in the first half.
A happy Kidney said afterwards: "For the number of younger guys we had, they did extraordinarily well. We defended really well, they came back into the lead but we didn't panic.
"When you look at the number of academy players and players straight from clubs we had - this was a great result."
MUNSTER: Ben Martin; Paul Devlin, Rob Henderson, Mike Mullins, Mossie Lawlor;
Paul Burke, Mike Prendergast; Frank Roche, Jerry Flannery, Tony Buckley, Donnacha Ryan,
Mick O'Driscoll, John O'Sullivan, Johnny O'Connor, Stephen Keogh (Capt).
Replacements: Eugene McGovern, Denis Fogarty, Rory McGrath, Frank Cogan, Anthony Foley, Frank Murphy, Ian Dowling, Barry Murphy.
NORTHAMPTON: Bruce Reihana (Capt); Sean Lamont, John Clarke, David Quinlan, Ben Cohen; Carlos Spencer, Mark Robinson; Tom Smith, Dylan Hartley, Brett Sturgess, Damien Browne, James Percival, Mark Easter, Darren Fox, Daniel Browne.
Replacements: Dan Richmond, Chris Budgen, Matt Lord, Mark Soden, Ben Jones, Seamus Mallon, John Rudd, Rhodri Davies, Andy Vilk, Alex Rae.
Referee: Alan Lewis (IRFU)