Munster ‘A’ suffered an agonising late defeat to Worcester Warriors in round 2 of the British & Irish Cup this afternoon, with the host’s snatching a 27-23 victory in the final minute of the game.
It was Worcester who looked the more threatening from the outset, and incisive play from their back-line saw the Munster 'A' defence scrambling back and coughing up the opening penalty of the game in the third minute.
After Tiff Eden sliced the kick wide, the Warriors regrouped and were on the attack again. This time the backs were more clinical in their execution and a nice offload from Eden found Ben Sowrey who touched down for the opening, with Eden converting.
The hosts exerted opening superiority not just in the backs, but in the pack as well with former Munster Academy player Darren O'Shea more than playing his part. When Munster 'A' found themselves deep in opposition territory for the first time, the Warriors drove them back up the pitch form their own attacking lineout.
The Munstermen held their composure though, and some nifty passing saw centre Niall Kenneally crash over the try line on 14 minutes. Rory Scannell (pictured below) made it a full seven-point return to bring his side level.
With their tails up, Munster 'A' went on to steal the Warriors' next lineout and were unlucky not to be in again when Academy flyer Greg O'Shea took the ball at pace and was just bundled into touch.
Possession continued to go back and forth between both sides with Worcester possibly getting a better return from the go-forward collisions, and Munster indiscipline was left off the hook when Eden missed a sitter from straight in front of the posts.
Scannell had the next penalty chance, but the Academy out-half was unable to make it two magical halfway line kicks in as many weeks when his attempt went just wide of the posts.
The Worcester pack was next to strike, using the maul to good effect and after the pile of bodies removed themselves from the collapsed maul, Sam Bettey was credited with touching the ball down.
However once again, the Munster 'A' side's reply was swift. Rory Scannell's probing kick inside the home defence began the lead up to an attacking lineout for the province, and just like his try against Moseley, Paddy Butler (pictured below) struck from the set piece, leaping over the Worcester defence to score the visitors' second try.
Scannell missed the conversion, but that was soon forgiven when he landed a penalty on 36 minutes to give his side the lead – not for long, though.
It was to be the Warriors who would enter the dressing room in front after the sin-binning of Alan Cotter allowed Eden to make it 17-15 at the break.
From the restart the hosts retained most of the opening possession and an Eden penalty saw them extend their lead in the 49th minute.
Another clever Scannell dink saw Munster 'A' bring play deep inside the Warriors' 22, and with the put-in to the scrum. Eventually going wide from the scrum, Munster 'A' will rue the missed opportunity after Johne Murphy knocked on ten metres from the line.
That said, learning from mistakes just committed, Mick O'Driscoll's charges rallied and it was a proud moment for the Scannell family when brothers Niall and Rory combined nicely in the lead up to the third try. This time Ronan O'Mahony was on the end of a well-worked move as, just like Butler, he made it two tries in two British & Irish Cup games.
Not enjoying the best of afternoons in terms of place-kicking, Scannell was off target with the conversion, leaving it all square at 20-20 with 57 minutes on the clock.
After Scannell and Eden missed another penalty each, it was the Dolphin clubman who eventually broke the deadlock with a successful 76th minute penalty.
However, in a bid to hold onto possession and close out the game, Munster 'A' impeded Eden when chasing loose ball, presenting the hosts with a kickable penalty to force the draw.
Not content with sharing the spoils, the Warriors went for touch and showed no mercy in the lineout, clinically driving the ball over the line with flanker Betty on hand to touch down for his second try.
Eden's successful conversion closed out a hard-fought 27-23 victory for the hosts, with Munster 'A' hoping to bounce back quickly away to Nottingham in round 3 next Friday.