Young Munster gained some manner of revenge on St. Mary’s College for a defeat at the end of last season as they came out on top at Tom Clifford Park on Saturday, winning a closely-fought encounter by two points.
Referee Richard Kerr was the busiest man on the pitch, flashing six yellow cards in the second half – three to both sides – as defending champions St. Mary’s fell to their first loss of the campaign.
Team captain Richie Sweeney, Colm McMahon and Arthur Lyons were all sin-binned for St. Mary's, while the Limerick men had to cope with yellows for Luke Russell, skipper Ger Slattery and Neville Melbourne.
Munsters could not have had a better start, forcing the issue right from the kick-off. They won a penalty from a scrum which Clare native Brian Haugh, the kicker of 13 points against Shannon, tucked away in the third minute.
Haugh doubled the hosts' lead four minutes when again St. Mary’s were penalised in the scrum – an area where the Cookies held the edge.
But there was very little in the way of scoring opportunities for either side during the remainder of a disappointingly dour first half.
St. Mary’s got off the mark early in the second period thanks to a drop goal from centre Marcus O’Driscoll.
However, Young Munster regained the initiative when they were awarded a penalty try awarded for a deliberate knock on from Lyons, just as Mike Prendergast’s men looked set to convert an overlap into a try. Haugh conerted.
Matters got worse for the visitors when they were reduced to 13 players but Young Munster then conceded a penalty in front of the posts which Ray Crotty tapped over, and he did likewise in the 68th minute.
The yellow cards were flying at this stage and Young Munster seemed to have blown their chances when number 8 Kevin Sheahan muscled over for a quality try for the Dubliners two minutes later, edging them 14-13 ahead.
But three minutes from the end, scrum half Haugh held his nerve to land a penalty from 30 metres to win the game for Munsters and bring his season’s tally to 24 points.
Giving his reaction to the Irish Examiner, Munsters' forwards coach John 'Paco' Fitzgerald said: “That was as hard and exciting a game as you could wish to see. We went at them at the scrum.
“We got off to a great start but gradually lost momentum, while all the yellow cards made life very hard for both teams. Wins away to Shannon and now another here at Clifford Park are great for our confidence.”
Referee: Richard Kerr (IRFU)