Munster ‘A’ made it three wins from three in the Celtic Cup with a well-executed 34-17 bonus point victory over Dragons ‘A’ at Irish Independent Park tonight.
The first half saw tries from captain Fineen Wycherley and Jeremy Loughman, with teenage out-half Ben Healy, Glenstal Abbey's 2018 Munster Schools Senior Cup-winning captain and one of the province's latest Academy recruits, converting both scores for a 14-10 interval lead.
John Poland and Calvin Nash both crossed during the closing 40 minutes as Munster 'A' maintained their winning form in the Irish-Welsh development competition. Healy added a conversion and two penalties to complete his 12-point tally, and replacement Jake Flannery landed the final conversion.
A late change for Munster 'A' saw Stephen Fitzgerald drop out of the matchday squad, and Academy back Liam Coombes came straight in at full-back. The visitors made a strong start and opened the scoring with a Jacob Botica penalty from 30 metres out in the opening minutes.
While it was a scrappy opening quarter from both sides, busy Munster 'A' scrum half John Poland, who helped UCC gain promotion to the top tier of the All-Ireland League last season, showed his attacking threat when making a number of darting breaks.
Poland played his part in the lead up to the opening try after taking the initial pop pass from Alex Wootton, and was on hand again to recycle the ball close to the Dragons 'A' line before lock Wycherley crashed over for the first score. Making his first start at this level, Healy added the conversion.
Munster 'A' kept the pressure on and a superb individual effort from Loughman saw the loosehead prop show impressive footwork and strength to fend off the Dragons 'A' cover out wide as he charged over for the province's second try. Healy's conversion gave the men in red a 14-3 advantage.
However, the Welsh side reduced the gap before the break when centre Calvin Wellington found the space to touch down under the posts for their first try of the night. Botica tagged on the simple conversion to leave it 14-10 at half-time.
The defensive efforts from both sides dominated the third quarter before a Poland try from close range extended the Munster 'A' team's lead right on the 60-minute mark. Healy's assured kicking from the tee continued and the young out-half added the conversion and followed up with two well-struck long range penalties.
That pushed the margin out to a comfortable 27-10 with Munster 'A' having a further eight minutes to push for their bonus point score. The initial penalty came after a Dragons 'A' high tackle with their captain Lennon Greggains seeing yellow in the 67th minute.
Limerick-born speedster Nash added the crucial fourth try with two minutes to go and Shannon's Flannery added the well-struck conversion on his Munster 'A' debut. The extra point has Munster 'A' top of the Irish Conference table, level with Leinster 'A' heading into the final three rounds.
Dragons 'A' played right to the final whistle and their persistence was rewarded with a try from returning flanker Greggains with the clock on 80 minutes. Botica's successful conversion made it a double-scores final scoreline – 34-17.
Referee: Chris Busby (Ireland)