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Marsh On Fire As Leinster ‘A’ Advance To Last-Four

Marsh On Fire As Leinster ‘A’ Advance To Last-Four

Out-half Cathal Marsh racked up 27 points as Leinster ‘A’ enjoyed a comprehensive 47-15 victory over Munster ‘A’ in tonight’s British & Irish Cup quarter-final at Donnybrook.

Leinster 'A' entered this contest on the back of a flawless journey through Pool 1 of the competition, while their Munster counterparts finished second in their pool behind English Championship outfit Plymouth Albion.

With both provinces in Heineken Cup action this weekend preparations had not been ideal for either squad, but right from the opening moments of the game it was the defending champions who had the upper hand.

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A strong burst into Munster territory by powerful number 8 Jack Conan set the tempo for the hosts early on.

Following an incisive fifth minute move, out-half Cathal Marsh evaded a series of Munster challenges to cross with aplomb for the opening try.

The St. Mary's College clubman was unfortunate to see his conversion from a tight angle bounce back off the woodwork – but with the Munster pack struggling to make an impact, further scores appeared inevitable for Girvan Dempsey's men.

Indeed, outstanding work by the Leinster scrum against the head presented Marsh with an opportunity to add to his tally in the 11th minute. As well as being successful from this 35-metre effort, he was also on target from closer in just three minutes later.

Leinster 'A' were full value for their 11-0 lead at this point. However, thanks to the endeavours of Rory Scannell and Ivan Dineen, Munster 'A' started to make more of an impression towards the end of the first quarter.

They lacked penetration inside the Leinster 22 though, and were finding it difficult to bring their potentially potent back-three, which included former Leinster winger Andrew Conway, into the play.

Leinster 'A', on the other hand, had a number of attacking options when they gathered possession in key areas of the field.

Some excellent approach play by Marsh, Colm O'Shea and the ever-influential Quinn Roux played in Noel Reid for a converted try, with the centre doing brilliantly to stay in play close to the right touchline.

After the nail-biting encounters between the sides over the past two seasons, this was threatening to be a one-sided affair.

Sam Coghlan Murray was held up just shy of the half hour mark, but the Munster 'A' defence could not prevent Conan from driving over for the hosts' third try 31 minutes in.

As the half drew to a close, Munster 'A' started to make some positive inroads and out-half Scannell went close to touching down two minutes before the interval.

Superb work by Coghlan Murray thwarted the Dolphin clubman in the nick of time, but Scannell did finally open the visitors' account with a routine penalty in injury-time.

This meant that Leinster 'A' held a considerable 25-3 advantage heading into the second period.

The Peter Malone-coached visitors were given a boost just six minutes into the second half when back rower Paddy Butler drove over at the end of a maul on the right for a five-pointer.

Replacement David Johnston was short from a tricky conversion, but Butler's effort was enough to cause an increase in tempo from the Blues.

Excellent second row Tom Denton added a majestic score three minutes later to help Leinster 'A' steady the ship, but the men in red were eager to make their provincial rivals work for their victory.

Moments after his introduction in place of Shane Buckley, current Ireland Under-20 international Jack O'Donoghue broke through unopposed. Johnston landed the conversion and Munster 'A' remained in the contest.

The deficit still stood at 17 points though and despite their best efforts, they were unable to breach the Leinster line again during the final quarter.

With the likes of John Cooney, Leo Auva'a, Steve Crosbie and Thomas Daly all appearing off the bench, there was a fresh look to the Leinster 'A' side late on.

Dempsey's charges kept pressing for scores and Marsh completed his impressive personal haul with a converted try 11 minutes from time.

It was then the turn of Andrew Boyle to finish off a terrific evening's work for his side with an injury-time try on the left wing.

The result keeps Leinster 'A' on course for back-to-back British & Irish Cup titles. They will be away to either Cornish Pirates or Pontypridd in the semi-finals in a few weeks' time.

Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys (England)