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Young Munster Seal Semi-Final Place

Young Munster Seal Semi-Final Place

Two major dust-ups, the first of which was after just two minutes, indicated the intensity of this crucial battle between two great local rivals at Tom Clifford Park.

There was a huge amount riding on this final game of the regulation season. Young Munster were eyeing up the third semi-final spot in Division 1A and Garryowen were hoping to avoid finishing bottom of the table and a promotion/relegation play-off.

The second melee between the players saw Young Munster captain Ger Slattery and key Garryowen back rower Paul Neville sent to the sin-bin by referee Olly Hodges.

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In terms of the rugby, Garryowen managed to break into a 12-0 lead by half-time. Munster's Declan Cusack popped over penalties after 7, 36 and 40 minutes and also struck a 32nd minute drop goal.

But Young Munster, fired up by Mike Prendergast's half-time words, came out a transformed team in the second half.

They made immediate in-roads thanks to a penalty from scrum half Alan Kingsley and then a try, moments later, from winger Craig O'Hanlon. He took advantage of a favourable bounce following Willie Staunton's kick into space.

Scrum half Kingsley landed the conversion and another penalty to edge the home side in front at 13-12. It was up to the Light Blues to respond and they did, once again through the boot of Cusack.

Nevertheless, Munsters were carrying more of a try-scoring threat and a superb individual touchdown from powerful centre Matthew Costelloe, which Kingsley converted, settle their nerves.

Out-half Staunton tagged on a drop goal for the Cookies and although Cusack responded with his fifth penalty success in the 68th minute, Young Munster deservedly held on.

It was a vital victory for Prendergast's charges who have leapfrogged above St. Mary's College in the table to gain that semi-final place.

They will travel to defending champions Cork Constitution in the last-four, a side they beat 6-3 at home in February.

Speaking afterwards, Munsters' director of rugby Prendergast said: “We got a quick penalty in the second half to get us off the mark, the crowd got behind us and it went from there.

“I threw a few comments their way at half-time, strong comments, for a couple of minutes and then left them to work it out themselves.

“A lot of things went wrong in that first half, our kicking, our tackling wasn't good, we kicked a few balls into touch directly.

“I think the boys knew what had gone wrong. But they did work it out, got themselves a platform and deserved to win, I feel.”

For Garryowen, they must lick their wounds before contemplating a decisive play-off against Buccaneers, who finished third in Division 1B. The winners will join the ten-team Division 1A for next season.

Garryowen boss Paul Cunningham admitted: “We coughed up our 12-point lead too easily and Young Munster were worth the win.

“We knew the first 10 minutes of the second half were going to be critical and that was the key to the whole game.

“Munsters have a very good pack, and are well-coached, well-trained. They have a very strong set piece, know exactly what they're doing, when they're doing it, all over the field and good luck to them.”

Referee: Olly Hodges (IRFU)