Munster kept themselves on track for a place in the knockout stages of the British & Irish Cup with a 9-9 draw with Rotherham Titans at Musgrave Park on Friday.
After two contrasting halves – the first highly entertaining and the second more a battle of attrition – it came down in the end to the place-kickers, JJ Hanrahan and his former Ireland Under-20 team-mate James McKinney, and they ended the night tied as well.
The early pressure came from Munster 'A' and they had the first scoring opportunity. They were awarded a fifth minute penalty for a high tackle, but Hanrahan pushed his effort wide of the right hand post.
However, he made no mistake six minutes later from an easier angle after a superb break out of his own 22 by Ivan Dineen who took play up to the Rotherham 22.
The visitors continued to pose problems, former Leinster back Eamonn Sheridan and his centre partner Lee Blackett combining to carve an opening that needed vigilant defence before Johne Murphy blasted away a superb clearance to gain a relieving lineout.
McKinney tied it up with a long range 19th minute penalty and then edged his side in front with an even longer effort from the halfway line.
In a game that continued to entertain, with back rower Latu Makaafi offering the Titans lots out of touch and in the loose and Toby Freeman another good lineout option, Rotherham extended the lead.
McKinney split the posts again, with Munster 'A' guilty of going off their feet after full-back Murphy had gathered a high ball on his 22.
The best try-scoring chance came with six minutes of the first half remaining when Munster's former Titan Sean Dougall blocked Charlie Mulchrone's attempted clearance and Dineen was just beaten to the touchdown.
Alex Rieder made good ground down the left and from the ensuing ruck, Scott Deasy intercepted and broke clear only to be whistled up for offside by referee Simon Rees. It looked marginal and McKinney sent the ball narrowly wide of the left upright with his penalty effort.
Having come second in the physical stakes in the opening half, Munster 'A' needed a good start to the second period and they got it when young out-half Hanrahan landed a 35-metre penalty with just three minutes gone.
He could have levelled three minutes later but was wide with a kickable effort as was his kicking rival McKinney, albeit from a further distance out.
The round 4 clash developed into a bit of a slugfest, fought out between the respective 10-metre lines but with Ian Costello's men doing most of the pressing.
A neat Hanrahan dink through looked to be yielding dividends when Deasy gathered, but he was whistled back for being ahead of the kicker. Then Ian Nagle spilled the ball after cleverly finding a gap just inside the Titans 22.
With four minutes remaining, Rotherham were penalised and their flanker Rieder duly sin-binned. Up stepped Hanrahan, from a metre inside the Titans half, to bring the reigning champions level for a share of the spoils.
Speaking afterwards, Munster boss Costello told the Irish Examiner: “It was a poor game, we’re disappointed we got dragged into an arm wrestle that we didn’t intend to get dragged into.
“We didn’t build any period of pressure, we didn’t have the ball long enough to put them under pressure, they played to their strengths and unfortunately we played a little too close to their strengths as well.
“Look, on the positive side we’re still in control of the group, we’re four points ahead of them and so we have to make sure we stay ahead of them in the next two games in January (away to Aberavon and home to Plymouth Albion).”
Referee: Simon Rees (Wales)