Foley’s focus on play-off spot as Munster impress
Edinburgh 3 Munster 34
Munster defied the blustery and showery conditions at Murrayfield on Saturday to emerge with a bonus-point victory that keeps them firmly on course for a place in the play-offs of the Guinness Pro12.
The win, and importantly the margin of victory, puts Munster in second place in the league table, level with Ulster, but ahead of the Belfast team on points difference.
“It keeps us in the hunt for a top-four place” said Munster’s head coach Anthony Foley.
“It was important for us with Ulster, Glasgow and Ospreys all getting five points. Getting the extra point was not something we had planned. But we’ll take it and I think our second-half performance deserved the bonus point.
“We want to maintain top form. I know people talk about a home semi-final.
“But at the moment, we just want to make sure we’re in the top four. Getting into the knockout stages is our focus. Looking too far ahead is not wise, particularly with the fixtures that are coming up.” added Foley.
These three remaining fixtures ahead of the play-offs are home games against Treviso and Dragons on either side of the away match against Ulster, all of them difficult, but at least the trip to Edinburgh is now behind them.
In all, Munster ran in five tries on Saturday, but just as crucially, they prevented Edinburgh from crossing the line and moreover, kept their discipline, allowing the Scottish capital side to kick just one penalty goal.
“We were pleased with keeping Edinburgh’s score to just three points. We had a big focus on defence. Luckily or unluckily, we haven’t had European rugby to worry about over the past month, so it’s given us extra time to prepare for these league games,” observed the Munster hooker, Duncan Casey, one of his side’s try scorers.
Edinburgh were not helped by a double blow – an injury to their principal ball carrier David Denton after only 13 minutes that forced the back row to leave the field and then in the second half, the departure of the Scotland wing Tim Visser to the sin-bin.
Munster fully capitalised on their one-man advantage by running in three tries in a 10-minute period to secure the vital bonus point, with man-of-the-match Conor Murray influential in each score.
As well as Murray, Simon Zebo and Felix Jones looked sharp, while elsewhere, the performance of the front row against an experienced Edinburgh trio was key in the set-piece.
Munster, after thwarting Edinburgh’s early ambitions, led 10-3 at the break from a penalty by Ian Keatley and the outside-half’s conversion of a rolling maul try for Casey.
Another driving maul resulted in a second try for back-row CJ Stander before the turning point in the game when Visser was yellow-carded.
Murray immediately took advantage with a blind-side try, converted by Keatley, before Zebo used pace and skill to win a foot race for a score.
Then, with Visser still off the field, Keith Earls touched down from a Denis Hurley grubber kick, Keatley’s conversion sealing an impressive win.
Edinburgh – G Tonks (T Brown 68), D Fife, P Burleigh (S Beard 55), A Strauss, T Visser; T Heathcote, N Fowles (G Hart 55); A Dickinson (G Shiells 72), R Ford, WP Nel (W Andress 72), A Bresler (F McKenzie 51), Toolis, R Grant, H Watson, D Denton (S Leonardi 13)(McInally 51).
Munster – F Jones, K Earls (R O’Mahoney 65), A Smith, D Hurley, S Zebo; I Keatley (JJ Hanrahan 65), C Murray, D Kilcoyne (Cronin , D Casey (E Guinazu 60), BJ Botha (Cronin 60), B Holland (D Ryan 51), P O’Connell, P O’Mahony (D O’Callaghan 63), T O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
Ref – Ian Davies (WRU).