Tuesday 20 February 2018

Munster stroll highlights fruits of Penney's labour

Edinburgh 12 Munster 55

Duncan Williams makes a break for Munster against Edinburgh
Duncan Williams makes a break for Munster against Edinburgh
Denis Hurley crosses the line to score a try for Munster at Murrayfield
Edinburgh's Willem Nel is tackled by Munster's Tommy O'Donnell, left, and Paul O'Connell
Munster's Tommy O'Donnell is tackled by Edinburgh's Willem Nel
Munster's Gerhard van den Heever is held up in the tackle by the Edinburgh defence
Edinburgh's David Denton wins possession in a lineout ahead of Munster's Paul O'Connell

Ruaidhri O’Connor

Munster bounced back from their Heineken Cup semi-final disappointment against Toulon with a stylish seven-try win at Meggetland.

By attaining a bonus-point win, Munster are still in contention to secure a Pro12 home semi-final, but they need to beat Ulster and for Glasgow to falter against Zebre in the final round.

Rob Penney's charges produced a performance laced with some colourful rugby, characterised by accurate and defence-teasing handling. It all confirmed that the New Zealander has left an indelible mark on the province's style of play.

"We've been playing like this all season. The ability to mix things up – to go through the middle and spin the ball wide – is what the game is all about," said Penney.

"It's attractive to watch, stimulating to play, exciting to train. It's not a slog-fest. It's a balanced structure and it lets people express themselves. And it's got the physical component that rugby players like, so it's got everything."

What made the win all the more pleasing for Munster was that 11 changes seemed to make little difference to the quality of their game.

"It's critical in a long season like this to have some depth and we've rotated guys in and out all year. It's part of our coaching philosophy to make these changes and it's bearing fruit for us," said Penney.

"I thought young John Ryan had a tremendous game at tighthead. All our loose forwards were terrific and I thought Conor Murray showed his class. I just loved what he was doing with ball in hand and his ability to unleash our backs."

Edinburgh looked competitive in the first half and led 12-10 after 21 minutes thanks to tries by out-half Carl Bezuidenhout and prop Willem Nel. A penalty by JJ Hanrahan and the out-half's conversion of a try by Andrew Conway were the Munster scores.

That, however, ended Edinburgh's scoring as Munster assumed complete control. Hanrahan kicked another penalty and then added the points to a Denis Hurley try to make it 20-12 at the interval.

Munster briefly dipped into their historical manual of play by adding two tries created by the forwards to secure the bonus point – the first by replacement hooker Damien Varley and the second a penalty try from a five-metre scrum.

Hanrahan converted both before completing a 100pc kicking display by adding the extras to a try by lively scrum-half replacement Duncan Williams.

Edinburgh lock Grant Gilchrist was then yellow- carded for illegally preventing a try in the corner, resulting in a second penalty try. Murray converted and he had a further opportunity to show his kicking prowess with a touchline conversion of Munster's seventh try, scored by impressive openside Tommy O'Donnell.

Edinburgh – J Cuthbert; T Brown (S Beard 18), M Scott, A Strauss (P Francis 75), T Visser; C Bezuidenhout, G Laidlaw (G Hart 68); A Dickinson (W Blaauw 65), R Ford (J Hilterbrand 55), W Nel; G Gilchrist, D Denton; M Coman (B Toolis 72), T Leonardi, C Du Preez.

Munster – S Zebo; G VD Heever, J Murphy, D Hurley, A Conway ( L O'Dea 40); JJ Hanrahan (I Keatley 70), C Murray; J Cronin (D Kilcoyne 66), D Casey (D Varley 29), J Ryan (A Cotter 72), D O'Callaghan, P O'Connell (D Foley 56); CJ Stander (J Coughlan 66), T O'Donnell, P Butler.

Ref – M Matrea (Italy)

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