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Munster ‘A’ Win Battle Of The Provinces
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Munster ‘A’ Win Battle Of The Provinces

Munster ‘A’ Win Battle Of The Provinces

Munster ‘A’ booked their place in the British & Irish Cup semi-finals by overcoming provincial rivals Ulster ‘A’ 26-3 at Irish Independent Park this afternoon.

In a keenly-contested encounter where the Ulstermen enjoyed much, if not most, of the possession, they failed to make it count unlike Munster 'A' who displayed a clinical edge, especially in the opening half.

Three penalties from the assured David Johnston (older brother of current Ireland Under-20 out-half Bill Johnston), coupled with tries from Darren O'Shea and Sam Arnold, saw the hosts take a commanding 23-3 lead into the break.

The Munster 'A' defence was the standout element of a somewhat lacklustre second half as Ulster 'A' tried in vain to chase down their provincial counterparts on the scoreboard. Instead, it was Munster 'A' who grabbed the only score of the second half when Johnston kicked his fourth successful penalty with the result beyond doubt at that stage.

Johnston's opening penalty of the afternoon got Munster 'A' up and running in the third minute, but that advantage was soon negated when Peter Malone's men conceded two consecutive penalties deep in their own half. Brett Herron missed the first but made no mistake with the second attempt.

Excellent running and deft hands down the left flank soon saw the Ulstermen back in the Munster 22 but, put to the pin of their collar early on, the men in red held firm as the visitors bashed through the phases from left to right before eventually knocking on. A sign of things to come from the Munster 'A' defence.

Handling errors and a lack of cohesion at set piece time dogged Munster 'A' early on and it was their continued steadfastness in defence that meant Ulster 'A', who lost hooker Jonny Murphy to an early injury, saw little return on the scoreboard for their territorial advantage in the opening 20 minutes.

Instead it was Munster 'A' that nudged ahead on 22 minutes when Johnston bisected the posts with a superb penalty from 40 metres out. That was the spark that ignited Munster 'A', with their set piece solidifying and their attack finding a cutting edge.

Corkman O'Shea was the first to cross the whitewash as soon as it was his side's turn to pummel Ulster 'A' through the phases, the second row hitting the gap and running in behind the posts to hand Johnston an easy conversion.

The Clonmel native's next kick at goal was a sublimely struck touchline effort when converting the second try which came while Ulster 'A' flanker Conor Joyce was in the sin-bin for a deliberate knock-on. Lovely hands from left to right found centre Arnold popping up in the right corner and there was no stopping the former Ulster player as he crashed over.

Johnston tagged on another accurate penalty five minutes before the break, widening the margin to 23-3, but similar to the opening 20 minutes, Ulster 'A' dominated the territorial stakes on the resumption.

In fact, second half visits to the Ulster 'A' half were few and far between for Munster 'A' as the northerners threw everything at them. However, in both set piece and open play, the Munster outfit consistently did enough to force a penalty or knock-on during the visitors' repeated visits to the 22.

On the 60-minute mark, a quick tap released Dave Shanahan and the pacy Ulster 'A' scrum half made a good break deep into enemy territory but was forced into touch just metres from the try-line.

Adding salt to the visitors' wounds, Munster 'A', despite their minimal possession, claimed the game's final score when the in-form Johnston made it six from six off the kicking tee by slotting a 76th minute through the posts.

Malone's charges will have home advantage against Ealing Trailfinders – impressive 84-7 winners over the Scarlets – in the last-four on the weekend of April 1-2. A finalised date, kick-off time and venue will be confirmed in the coming days.

Referee: Fergus Kirby (England)

Lineups Scorers

Match Lineups

Home Team

Stephen Fitzgerald; Dan Goggin, Sam Arnold, Cian Bohane (capt), Greg O'Shea; David Johnston, John Poland; Peter McCabe, Kevin O'Byrne, Brian Scott, John Madigan, Darren O'Shea, Sean O'Connor, Conor Oliver, Robin Copeland.

Replacements used: Duncan Casey for O'Byrne (54 mins), Liam O'Connor for McCabe, Rory Burke for Scott (both 62), John Foley for Madigan, Abrie Griesel for Poland (both 65), Steven McMahon for Fitzgerald (67), Bailey Faloon for Arnold (76).

Away Team

David Busby; Aaron Cairns, Jack Owens, Mark Best (capt), Conor Kelly; Brett Herron, Dave Shanahan; Tommy O'Hagan, Jonny Murphy, Ricky Lutton, Peter Browne, Alex Thompson, Nick Timoney, Conor Joyce, Matthew Rea.

Replacements used: Zack McCall for Murphy (14 mins), John Donnan for Thompson (half-time), Conall Boomer for Joyce (52), Ross Kane (for Lutton 52-72), Mark Keane for Boomer (74), Andrew Magrath for Herron, John Creighton for Shanahan (both 78).

Match Scorers

Home Team

Tries: Darren O'Shea, Sam Arnold; Cons: David Johnston 2; Pens: David Johnston 4

Away Team

Pen: Brett Herron