A gallant defensive effort from Munster ‘A’ saw them hold on to earn a 9-3 victory over Scottish side Ayr in the British & Irish Cup on Saturday afternoon.
JJ Hanrahan missed his first shot at the posts in the second minute but the Castleisland man did not falter for the rest of the pool clash, kicking all of the hosts' points in tough playing conditions at Tralee RFC.
The same could not be said for Ayr out-half Robbie Fergusson who missed his two attempts at goal before centre Ross Curle took over the duties, kicking his side's only points to close the gap by half-time to 6-3.
Munster 'A', with most of the possession, looked the more threatening in attack with their young back-line showing their pace and power when breaking the Ayr defence.
However, Ian Costello's charges were unable to convert the possession into points. Frustratingly any momentum seemed to end in a forward pass or a knock on.
A missed try-scoring opportunity came after 36 minutes when Declan Cusack opted to chip ahead. Ronan O'Mahony and Hanrahan chased down the line, but the latter dropped the ball at the crucial moment after Ayr had failed to clear the danger.
The visitors were reduced to 14 men when place-kicker Curle was sin-binned just before half-time. The second half was just as closely-fought with Munster 'A' dominating but no points to show for it.
Hanrahan's 48th-minute penalty strike strengthened their lead and came after another yellow card for Ayr, this time experienced prop Moray Low was the offender.
Paddy Butler carried well coming off the back of the scrums and his Shannon club-mate Duncan Casey made yards each time with ball in hand, and on a further positive note the fit-again Peter Borlase made his return to action in the 59th minute.
The home side's six-point lead did not look so certain when Butler picked up a yellow card in the 75th minute. Ayr increased the pressure, and momentum shifted in their favour as they attacked the province's line, dominating the scrums and taking advantage of the reduced opposition.
Garryowen clubman James Rael's introduction to British & Irish Cup rugby was unfortunately a short affair – he replaced Casey in the closing stages but was sin-binned just eight minutes later.
The result of which left Munster 'A' without any front row replacements and uncontested scrums were introduced to the relief of the home side.
Butler made a timely return deep into added time after Munster 'A' had defended their line ferociously with 13 men. Ayr opted to move the ball out to the back-line before Sean Scanlon made a crunching tackle to halt the visitors' final attack, ensuring a battling victory for the young home side.
After the final whistle, head coach Costello said: “We left it down to the wire again and just didn't take our opportunities earlier in the game.
“But our defence and composure showed in the end this time, we were able to hold out with only 13 men and get the win.”
Referee: Rhys Thomas (Wales)