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First Half Sets Munsters On Their Way

First Half Sets Munsters On Their Way

Young Munster did most of the damage in the first half as they overcame a battling Blackrock side in Ulster Bank League Division 1A on Saturday.

Munsters had only scored one try in their previous two league outings this season, but they crossed the ‘Rock whitewash on three occasions in an incident-packed opening period at Stradbrook.

Centre Matthew Costelloe (2) and returning winger Darragh O'Neill shared out the tries, helping the Cookies establish a 24-10 advantage by the break.

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Suffering their third successive defeat under new coach Eric Miller, Blackrock's only response in the second half was a penalty from Darragh Fitzpatrick.

A penalty try secured the bonus point for the visitors, whose superb out-half Willie Staunton completed his 17-point haul with a last-minute drop goal.

Munsters welcomed back the fit-again O'Neill on the left wing, with Neville Melbourne starting at number 8 after a successful run off the bench last time out.

The visitors still have captain Shane O'Neill and back rowers Liam Og Murphy and Johnny Moroney on the injury list, but settled quickly here for Staunton to kick them ahead.

Blackrock’s response was swift. Fitzpatrick slotted a right-sided penalty after Craig O’Hanlon had prevented a certain try for Miller's men.

Having tasted defeat on successive weekends, ‘Rock really had the bit between their teeth and they sliced open the Cookies’ defence for winger Jan-Simon Byrne to score a converted try.

But that good work was undone when a blocked kick was gobbled up by Staunton and he passed for Costelloe to touch down and the conversion tied the game.

The Dubliners could not make full use of their lion’s share of the possession. On the other hand, Munsters were much sharper in open play and Costelloe’s second try was evidence of that.

‘Rock had the better of proceedings coming up to half-time, however a slip spoilt an overlap for them and Fitzpatrick sent a penalty chance wide.

They were stung in injury-time when O’Neill was unleashed on the left and he won the race to his own kick for the third try. Staunton provided an additional boost for Munsters by converting from the touchline.

Fitzpatrick and Staunton exchanged penalties as the sides resumed in fast-paced fashion, O’Hanlon going close to winning another kick chase close to the ‘Rock line.

Munsters forced a penalty try after a series of close-in scrums and ‘Rock were largely subdued after that. Staunton, who added the extras to his side’s fourth try, closed out the scoring with a deft drop goal.

Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)