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Munster ‘A’ Title Defence Is Dented By Bedford Defeat
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Munster ‘A’ Title Defence Is Dented By Bedford Defeat

Munster ‘A’ Title Defence Is Dented By Bedford Defeat

Munster ‘A’ were denied three wins in a row in the British & Irish Cup as Bedford Blues came from 14 points down to claim a 25-14 victory at Irish Independent Park tonight.

Munster 'A' led 14-0 after an excellent first half hour, but Bedford's forward power told after the break as they fought back to claim a notable win over the defending B&I Cup champions in Cork.

There were a number of impressive performances on the night with Ireland international Tommy O'Donnell, on his return from a short-term shoulder injury, James Hart, Bill Johnston and Stephen Fitzgerald the pick of the bunch.

Prop Jeremy Loughman made his Munster 'A' debut after signing a short-term development contract with the province, while UL Bohemians' Joey Conway also made his B&I Cup bow for the province in the front row. Jack O'Sullivan and Bryan O'Connor were two more tournament newcomers on the bench.

Peter Malone's men burst out of the blocks with a try after barely a minute. Winger Jack Power chased down a clever Hart kick off the side of a scrum and capitalised on an error by the covering Bedford defender to score. Scrum half Hart also left-footed the conversion through the uprights, from wide on the right, for good measure.

It took some excellent defending from Bedford to prevent the province from adding to their lead, while the visitors' own attacking opportunities were limited. They did have a promising attack midway through the first half, however full-back Rich Lane knocked on and the chance was lost.

A bout of pressure at the other end – 13 phases in all – yielded the second Munster 'A' try in the 24th minute when Cork Constitution's Ireland Sevens international Alex McHenry was sent in behind the posts by Hart's quick pass from a ruck, with the latter comfortably adding the extras.

Nonetheless, a rare attack by the visitors – against the run of play – gave them a lift before half-time. The split the deficit in half with a 33rd minute try from lock Ed Taylor who crossed near the left corner. Will Hooley landed the difficult conversion.

The English Championship outfit were level shortly after the break as dangerous winger Dean Adamson shot through a gap, following some nifty midfield interplay between Hooley and skipper Michael Le Bourgeois, to touch down by the posts with Hooley again on target with the conversion.

Bedford took the lead for the first time on 52 minutes as Hooley landed a long range three-pointer following a scrum penalty to make it 17-14. A second scrum penalty just before the hour gave Hooley another opportunity and he duly obliged to move the Blues 20-14 in front.

Those scrum issues proved costly for Munster 'A' who were also let down by some uncharacteristic handling errors as they desperately tried to get back into scoring range. A key lineout was also lost, while Garryowen's Liam Coombes was also denied by Bedford's scrambling defence after Fitzgerald and O'Donnell had set him free down the left wing.

Bedford then hit the hosts with a late sucker-punch as Adamson pounced on a high ball which went loose – evading the grasp of both Fitzgerald and Power – to claim his second try of the night. This prized victory on the road puts five points between the sides at the top of Pool 1 ahead of next Saturday's rematch at Goldington Road (kick-off 3pm).

Referee: Dewi Phillips (Wales)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Stephen Fitzgerald; Jack Power, David Johnston (capt), Alex McHenry, Liam Coombes; Bill Johnston, James Hart; Joey Conway, Mike Sherry, Jeremy Loughman, Fineen Wycherley, Sean McCarthy, Sean O'Connor, Tommy O'Donnell, Gavin Coombes.

Replacements used: Jack O'Sullivan for McCarthy (half-time), Bryan O'Connor for Conway, Duncan Casey (both 52 mins), Dave McCarthy for McHenry, John Poland for Hart (both 56), John Foley for G Coombes (74), Conor Fitzgerald for B Johnston (79).

Away Team

Rich Lane; Elliot Clement-Hill, Ollie Dodge, Michael Le Bourgeois (capt), Dean Adamson; Will Hooley, Jordan Burns; Sean McCarthy, Tom Lindsay, Ben Cooper, Ed Taylor, Jordan Onojaife, Alex Rae, Josh Buggea, Jarad Williams.

Replacements used: Will Carrick-Smith for Rae (27 mins), Huw Worthington for Taylor (44), Alex Penny for Cooper (60), Lee Dickson for Burns (67), Harry Sheppard for Hooley, Dave Spelman for McCarthy (both 79). Not used: Jacob Fields.

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Jack Power, Alex McHenry; Cons: James Hart 2

Away Team

Tries: Ed Taylor, Dean Adamson 2; Cons: Will Hooley 2; Cons: Will Hooley 2