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Munster ‘A’ Continue Strong Start To B&I Cup Title Defence
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Munster ‘A’ Continue Strong Start To B&I Cup Title Defence

Munster ‘A’ Continue Strong Start To B&I Cup Title Defence

For a traditionally youthful and emerging side like Munster ‘A’, matching the physicality of an English Championship side such as Nottingham is never an easy thing to do, but that is exactly what transpired at Irish Independent Park where they recorded a comprehensive 38-7 win.

With five tries scored, Bill Johnston had a busy night off the tee, the talented 20-year-old out-half giving an inspired performance in this British & Irish Cup second round clash, kicking six from six in extremely windy conditions.

The sides traded tries in the opening half through Brian Scott and Oli Evans, but with the wind at their backs in the second period, Peter Malone's charges cut lose, outgunning their visitors in the physicality stakes, dominating set piece play and giving an all-round clinical performance, with unanswered tries from Evan Mintern (2), Sam Arnold and Sean O'Connor.

Playing the slippery conditions well, Munster 'A' took the game to Nottingham up front from the off, making huge ground via the maul and when the game's first penalty came the hosts' way, it was no surprise that captain David Johnston opted for the corner.

With the lineout secured, the province set about pounding the Nottingham line, powerful prop Scott eventually breaching the last-ditch defence on seven minutes with the younger of the Johnston brothers converting.

Ian Costello's visitors, who included five ex-Munster players in their starting XV, saw precious little of the ball in the opening 20 minutes, and when they failed to release the tackled player on 16 minutes, Johnston was there to punish them further off the tee.

With their first visit to the Munster 'A' 22, Nottingham attempted to give the home side a taste of their own medicine via a maul, but Malone's young guns were more than up to the challenge.

However, Nottingham did manage to score five minutes before half-time. Kicking cross-field off a maul, Murray McConnell's effort bounced awkwardly under the posts, evading both Stephen Fitzgerald and his opposite number Sean Scanlon before it landed in the path of centre Evans who had a simple touchdown with Tiff Eden converting.

It was very much game on with Nottingham now only 10-7 in arrears, but Munster 'A' made sure they had a little more breathing space just five minutes after the restart. Initially, excellent centre Arnold was unlucky not to score after kicking ahead a loose ball and putting on the after-burners.

The men in red did at least gain a five-metre scrum from which there was no stopping Cork Constitution clubman Mintern as he charged over from the number 8 berth, with support from Arnold and Liam Coombes. Now kicking with the wind, Johnston was again inch perfect with the conversion strike.

Arnold got his just desserts in the 52nd minute when Munster 'A' were again all too clinical for Nottingham, the centre spinning out of an attempted tackle from Jordan Coghlan to touch down. There were big carries in the lead up from the Academy trio of Gavin Coombes, his cousin Liam Coombes and debutant winger Jack Power. Johnston made certain of the extras for a 24-7 lead.

In attempting to halt the dominant Munster 'A' maul, Nottingham found themselves down to 14 men – replacement Tim Cardall saw yellow – as the match entered the final quarter and the province set about chasing the bonus point try.

That score came just minutes later when 21-year-old Corkman Mintern, who turned in an impressive display as part of an athletic back row, used another strong scrum – aided by the newly-introduced Ciaran Parker – to brush off a tackle and thunder over from close range. Johnston converted from the right to make it a full seven-pointer.

Worse was to follow for the English side when an overthrown lineout near their own line allowed O'Connor to pounce for a 70th-minute try, with Johnston's boot pushing the Munstermen's tally out to 38 points.

38-7 ended up being the final scoreline, despite O'Connor seeing yellow soon after. There were late B&I Cup debuts for Conor Fitzgerald and UCC hooker John Hodnett who both came on in the last few minutes. Try as they might, Nottingham were unable to make their numerical advantage count with Munster 'A' remaining defiant right through to the final whistle.

Referee: Craig Evans (Wales)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Stephen Fitzgerald; Jack Power, David Johnston (capt), Sam Arnold, Liam Coombes; Bill Johnston, James Hart; James Cronin, Mike Sherry, Brian Scott, Darren O'Shea, Sean McCarthy, Sean O'Connor, Gavin Coombes, Evan Mintern.

Replacements: John Hodnett, Ciaran Parker, Fineen Wycherley, Ronan Coffey, John Poland, Conor Fitzgerald, Conor Hayes.

Away Team

Sean Scanlon; Billy Robinson, Oli Evans, Gearoid Lyons, Joe Cobden; Tiff Eden, Murray McConnell; Tom West, Jimmy Stevens, Rory Burke, Tom Holmes, Danny Qualter, Ben Morris (capt), Jordan Coghlan, Shane Buckley.

Replacements: Ben Brownlie, James Penman, Aniseko Sio, Tim Cardall, Josh Poullet, Darryl Veenendaal, Vili Hakalo.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Brian Scott, Evan Mintern 2, Sam Arnold, Sean O'Connor; Cons: Bill Johnston 5; Pen: Bill Johnston

Away Team

Try: Oli Evans; Con: Tiff Eden