Munster ‘A’ will have home advantage in the upcoming British & Irish Cup quarter-finals after earning a 24-16 win over Doncaster Knights at Bandon RFC tonight.
A scrappy affair in the initial exchanges, early scores came by way of penalties with Doncaster leading 6-3 before Munster 'A' found their rhythm and crossed for two unanswered tries through Stephen Fitzgerald and captain Cian Bohane before the interval.
The game was again error-strewn in cold and slippery conditions on the resumption and another Knights penalty on 52 minutes made it a tense second half for the hosts before John Poland eventually made sure of victory with their third try on the 79th minute. Munster 'A' were also helped by the accuracy of Te Aihe Toma who maintained his 100% kicking record off the tee.
A scrum penalty for Doncaster got them up and running on 10 minutes, winger Dougie Flockhart converting, but the boot of Toma had Munster 'A' back on level terms just a few minutes later when the visitors failed to roll away.
Peter Malone's side had their chances in the opening quarter, good tactical kicking placing them well within range of the Doncaster try-line but a number of knocks on at crucial stages meant they saw little return on the scoreboard for their overall efforts.
Instead, the English Championship outfit pushed ahead again through the boot of Flockhart before Munster 'A' began to make their territorial advantage count.
Gaining dominance upfront and particularly through a scrum that boasted experienced heads like Stephen Archer, Darren O'Shea and Dave O'Callaghan in its arsenal, the men in red had the perfect platform off of which to attack, and when Munster 'A' made their passes stick at close range, they netted two pivotal scores.
The first came down the left wing where, on the end of crisp hands, winger Fitzgerald did well to duck under the defence and touch down with out-half Toma adding a superb touchline conversion.
Another knock on looked to have spurned another gifted chance before Knights infringed on their exit. Munster 'A' pounced and found themselves held up over the line. After a number of resets with the Doncaster pack under all sorts of pressure, well-presented ball allowed Poland find skipper Bohane coming in at pace and the centre was in for his second try in as many games. Toma kicked the easy extras and Munster 'A' led 17-10 at the break.
It was game on again on when Flockhart drew first blood in the second half with his third successful penalty. But from there, Doncaster failed to kick on as the Munstermen kept them largely pinged on halfway or in their own 22. Knock-ons and scrum resets were once more the order of the day.
Not until the dying minutes of the game did Munster 'A' eventually make that second half possession count, scrum half Poland crossing for his first try of the cross-border competition after some excellent work and phase-building. Toma knocked over the extras.
As he had done last week, Sam Edgerley had the final say for the visitors with a try at the death but Munster 'A' were deserved eight-point winners in front of a vocal crowd of 937 in Bandon.
Munster 'A' will now progress to the knockout stages for their first time since 2014 and will play their home quarter-final on the weekend of March 10/11/12. A finalised date, kick-off time and venue will be confirmed in due course.
Referee: Dewi Phillips (Wales)