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Gritty Away Win Keeps Munster ‘A’ On Course For Quarter-Finals
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Gritty Away Win Keeps Munster ‘A’ On Course For Quarter-Finals

Gritty Away Win Keeps Munster ‘A’ On Course For Quarter-Finals

Defending champions Munster ‘A’ recorded their fourth British & Irish Cup win of the current campaign, battling past Ian Costello’s Nottingham side for a 17-12 victory in a close encounter at Ladybay tonight.

The result keeps Peter Malone's charges hot on the heels of Bedford Blues (19 points) at the top of Pool 1. Munster 'A' are two points behind the Blues ahead of their final round clash with Ospreys Premiership Select in Cork next Friday (kick-off 7.45pm).

This was a much tighter contest than when the province hosted Nottingham at Irish Independent Park in October. That night saw the home side run out 38-7 winners with back rower Evan Mintern scoring two of their five converted tries.

However, it was the Green & Whites who were first on the scoreboard in this evening's rematch. As well as the coaching nous of Ian Costello, they lined out with five ex-Munster players – Sean Scanlon, Gearoid Lyons, Rory Burke, Shane Buckley and Jordan Coghlan – in their starting XV.

Nottingham established early dominance with Tim Cardall making a break and their lineout maul was particularly effective. The pack forced a penalty which Tiff Eden sent to the corner and a second powerful drive, from the subsequent lineout, saw hooker Jimmy Stevens notch an unconverted try with nine minutes gone.

It was nip and tuck up towards the midpoint of the first half as Munster 'A' began to grow into the game as an attacking force. After Eden missed touch from a penalty on halfway, the errors began to rack up for Nottingham and the visitors duly punished them.

A free-flowing 32nd-minute move had the desired outcome as captain David Johnston and Shane Daly combined on the left wing to send the supporting James Hart in behind the posts. Bill Johnston converted and also added the extras to Fineen Wycherley's try on the stroke of half-time to give Munster 'A' a 14-5 lead.

With the Munstermen pressurising the home lineout and Nottingham's error count increasing, the province struck for try number two after winger Stephen Fitzgerald has jinked through into try-scoring range. Hart released Wycherley from a close-in ruck and the Cork youngster showed impressive power to barge over past two defenders.

Nonetheless, Nottingham brought it back to a two-point game with a strong start to the second period. Winger Joe Cobden struck inside four minutes with a brilliant solo score, chipping forward and winning the race to touch down to the right of the posts. Eden's conversion cut the gap to 14-12.

The English Championship outfit continued to test the Munster 'A' defence on several occasions but failed to come away with a crucial score. Malone's men, including lock Gerbrandt Grobler on his competitive debut for the province, won a relieving penalty which allowed them to clear their lines.

Munster 'A' held firm towards the final quarter, maintaining their narrow lead thanks to the determined defensive efforts of the likes of centre Dave McCarthy and replacement Ronan O'Mahony. A penalty on halfway released the forward in a series of carries, and several rucks later, number 8 Gavin Coombes had the ball at the base of the post but referee Aled Evans was unsighted.

The Welsh match official called play back for another penalty and as Munster 'A' strengthened their attack in the closing stages, Nottingham lost replacement Matt Everard to the sin-bin for a 71st minute infringement close to his own try-line.

A Munster 'A' lineout put the Nottingham defence under significant pressure and McCarthy and John Poland gained territory into the 22 before the visitors won a kickable penalty. Replacement Conor Fitzgerald stepped up to slot the kick through the posts and give the title holders a five-point winning margin.

Referee: Aled Evans (Wales)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Sean Scanlon; Billy Robinson, Will Millett, Gearoid Lyons, Joe Cobden; Tiff Eden, Murray McConnell; Aniseko Sio, Jimmy Stevens, Rory Burke, Tim Cardall, Ben Morris (capt), Shane Buckley, Jordan Coghlan, Josh Poullet.

Replacements: Ben Brownlie, Jamie Jack, Ben Hooper, Seb Cecil, Matt Everard, Darryl Veenendaal, Vili Hakalo.

Away Team

David Johnston (capt); Calvin Nash, Shane Daly, Dave McCarthy, Stephen Fitzgerald; Bill Johnston, James Hart; Jeremy Loughman, Mike Sherry, Brian Scott, Fineen Wycherley, Gerbrandt Grobler, Sean O'Connor, Conor Oliver, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements used: Ronan O'Mahony for Daly (half-time), Duncan Casey for Sherry (51 mins), John Poland for Hart, Ciaran Parker for Scott, Sean McCarthy for Grobler (all 63), Conor Fitzgerald for B Johnston, John Foley for O'Connor (both 72).

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Jimmy Stevens, Joe Cobden; Con: Eden Tiff

Away Team

Tries: James Hart, Fineen Wycherley; Cons: Bill Johnston 2; Pen: Conor Fitzgerald