Munster rounded off the Kearys Renault Series with a 21-15 victory over London Irish at Irish Independent Park tonight, as Andrew Conway touched down twice and Francis Saili crossed for his first Munster try.
PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY: Friday, August 28
MUNSTER 21 LONDON IRISH 15, Irish Independent Park
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Andrew Conway 2, Francis Saili; Cons: Bill Johnston 2, Ian Keatley
London Irish: Tries: Christian Lewis-Pratt, Alex Lewington; Con: Brendan McKibbin; Pen: Theo Brophy-Clews
A scrappy first half at times saw both sides knock on in attack and cough up possession at the breakdown. However, Munster boss Anthony Foley will be happy with the much improved intensity tonight as his side made good yardage in collisions and won the majority of the 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 full-back 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 half as London Irish charged for the whitewash.
Conway’s efforts were rewarded with the first try of this pre-season contest. Taking the ball at pace from a deft Dave O’Callaghan offload, the speedster kicked in behind the covering London Irish defence and won the race 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 teams.
Better was to come from Munster in the second period as they exerted their dominance from the restart, playing the majority of the game in opposition territory and forcing repeated penalties from the visitors.
The pressure eventually paid when clever thinking from Conway saw him tap and go from five meters out and complete his brace by 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 were 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. After Saili scooted in under the posts, Ian Keatley had the easiest of conversions to widen the margin out ro 21-3.
Not long after, however, Saili suffered a knock in a tackle and following treatment for a number of minutes he was stretchered from the field to warm applause from the crowd of 5,208. Speaking after the game, head coach Foley commented that the injury appeared to be concussion but added that Saili had gone to hospital for a full assessment.
London Irish mounted a late charge before the end of proceedings. Firstly, Christian Lewis-Pratt crossed on 75 minutes after a wonderful solo run down the left wing, before Munster also fell victim to a quick tap and go. This time Alex Lewington went over the whitewash with Brendan McKibbin adding the extras.
That was the final play of the game as Munster deservedly returned to winning ways in timely fashion ahead of Saturday week’s GUINNESS PRO12 opener against Benetton Treviso, also at Irish Independent Park (kick-off 7.45pm). Purchase tickets online here.
MUNSTER: Andrew Conway; Stephen Fitzgerald, Francis Saili, Rory Scannell, Gerhard van den Heever; Bill Johnston, Cathal Sheridan; John Ryan, Mike Sherry, Stephen Archer, John Madigan, Dave Foley, Dave O’Callaghan, Jordan Coghlan, CJ Stander (capt).
Replacements used: Donncha O’Callaghan for Madigan (14-25 mins; 59), Duncan Williams for Sheridan (half-time), Robin Copeland for Dave O’Callaghan (47), Shane Monahan for van den Heever, Ian Keatley for B Johnston, James Cronin for Ryan, BJ Botha for Archer (all 49), David Johnston for Conway, Matt D’Arcy for R Scannell, Niall Scannell for Sherry, Shane Buckley for Stander (all 57), van den Heever for Saili (65).
LONDON IRISH: Andrew Fenby; Alex Lewington, Eoin Griffin, Dominic Waldouck, Topsy Ojo; Theo Brophy-Clews, Scott Steele; Tom Court, Gerard Ellis, Richard Palframan, Eoin Sheriff, Matt Symons (capt), Luke Narraway, Conor Gilsenan, David Sisi
Replacements (from): Tom Cruse, Tom Smallbone, Geoff Cross, George Skivington, Ollie Curry, Brendan McKibbin, Ross Neal, Christian Lewis-Pratt, David Paice, Johnny Harris, Jimmy Stevens, Conor Murphy, Johnny Williams, Harry Elrington.