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Young Munster End 2011 As League Leaders

Young Munster End 2011 As League Leaders

Division 1A leaders Young Munster gave themselves an early Christmas present by claiming the scalp of Cork Constitution at Temple Hill on Saturday.

The result – Munsters' fifth win on the trot – ensures that they will take in the festive season as leaders of Ulster Bank League Division 1A.

With out-half Willie Staunton kicking superbly from hand and the tee and their forwards putting in a big shift, the Cookies were full value for this away victory.

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Mike Prendergast's men started strongly in what was a repeat of last season's semi-final. Staunton slotted two early penalties to take him through the 80-point mark for the campaign.

In between, centre Andrew Burke went close to turning a kick chase into a try and Cork Con had flanker Brendan Cuttriss sin-binned for striking out at Liam Og Murphy.

The Leesiders responded by enjoying a good spell of possession in the visitors' 22. A knock on spoilt a promising series of drives but scrum half Gerry Hurley landed a subsequent penalty from in front of the posts.

Staunton missed a 45-metre effort but Munsters, with props Alan Cotter and Ger Flaherty scrummaging well, increased the pressure coming up to the half hour mark.

From a five-metre lineout, they mauled forward and flanker Murphy got the touchdown for the opening try.

Staunton nailed the conversion and although Constitution number 10 Johnny Holland dinked over a drop goal, an injury-time penalty from Staunton from wide on the right gave the Cookies a 16-6 interval lead.

Cork Con, third in the table before kick-off, fell further behind in the 53rd minute when they leaked a penalty try after a succession of collapsed scrums.

Munsters' power up front did the damage and Staunton tagged on the extras for a seemingly unassailable 17-point advantage.

Constitution knuckled down and a Hurley penalty on the hour gave them some encouragement.

They fought back to earn a losing bonus point with a cracking try from winger Niall O'Driscoll. In the 77th minute he bravely sliced through a tiring Munsters defence to zoom over from fully 50 metres out, following good work from fellow winger Robert Clune.

O'Driscoll's fourth try of the campaign was converted by Hurley to get Brian Walsh's charges back within seven points, but Munsters were not to be denied.

Young Munster director of rugby Prendergast told the Irish Examiner: “This league is all about momentum and it's good for confidence to be top at Christmas, but we've got a five-week break and will have to deal with that.

“The one good thing is that we have a Limerick Charity Cup final to play against Shannon, and that will help us keep the focus.”

Referee: George Clancy (IRFU)