Staunton finds range to punish Lansdowne
Young Munster 15 Lansdowne 13
YOUNG MUNSTER left the pitch at the end of their Ulster Bank Division 1A game against Lansdowne on Saturday much relieved that they had held onto their position at the top of the table.
It took a last-minute penalty from out-half Willie Staunton to bring them victory.
Staunton, normally the most reliable of goalkickers, had seen four out of five second-half efforts go wide. But, from a position wide out to the left, he struck the final kick of the game much better. Once again the Young Munster supporters watched anxiously as it swung very close to the right-hand post, but, much to their relief, the officials ruled that it had gone over.
As a result, the Limerick outfit remain in pole position, now just one point ahead of their nearest rivals, Clontarf. And while they were not at their best in this latest encounter, they crucially managed, once again, to display their ability to fight right until the final whistle.
Earlier, it look as if they would have no need to call on such qualities.
Despite playing into the strong wind, they were 6-0 ahead within the opening three minutes and Lansdowne had flanker Jason Kelly yellow carded.
Although the visitors pulled three points back with a penalty from their out-half Craig Ronaldson, Young Munster still looked very much in control when Staunton put over a third penalty to make it 9-3.
But a well-taken try from right-wing Matt Healy, converted by Ronaldson, shortly before the interval gave Lansdowne a 10-9 advantage and hope for the second half.
To their credit, the young and talented Lansdowne outfit went on to provide Young Munster with real problems, even though they were playing into the wind.
With Staunton and Ronaldson exchanging penalties, Lansdowne were still 13-12 in front and within range of a surprise victory as the game entered the closing stages.
However, their problem was that they had conceded too many penalties and eventually Staunton nailed one in what were, admittedly, very difficult conditions for a goalkicker.
Player/coach Mike Prendergast was much relieved.
"I was very happy with our first half performance, but we did not play particularly well in the second half," he said.
"Some of the credit for that must obviously go to Lansdowne, they are a good, very well-coached side who will take a lot of scalps before the season ends.
"But we just couldn't get any flow to our game after the interval. Fortunately, though, character is something we have never lacked."
Lansdowne coach Mike Ruddock commented: "You never want to lose with the last kick, but we did concede too many penalties.
"We played some good rugby, scoring the only try of the game, but we just needed to be a little bit smarter."
Young Munster -- R Moloney; M Costello, A Burke, M Kelliher, D O'Neill; W Staunton, M Prendergast; G Flaherty, G Slattery (capt), A Cotter, D Gallagher, S Duggan, L Murphy, S Hassett, N Melbourne. Replacements used: H McGrath, S O'Neill, J O'Neill, B Haugh.
Lansdowne -- R McCarron (capt); C Aherne, F Horan, W Walsh, M Healy; C Ronaldson, J Cooney; J O'Connell, D Twomey, M Moore, T Byrne, W Earle, K Essex, J Kelly, R Boucher. Replacements used: T Sexton, D O'Reilly, A Matthews, S Carey, I Prenderville.
Ref -- E O'Dowd.