YOUNG MUNSTER have moved right back into contention with a typically hard-fought success to knock Lansdowne off top spot at Tom Clifford Park.
Had they lost, Young Munster would have been a long way off the pace. But, as things stand, they have advanced back up to third in the table and within range of Lansdowne and new leaders Garryowen.
This was the perfect response to the recent home defeat by Garryowen.
Player-coach Mike Prendergast (pictured) masterminded a Young Munster performance which saw them become the first team this season to deny Lansdowne a try.
Prendergast explained: "We knew how dangerous they were. We knew they had a good set-piece, so we really had to front up or we would have shifted down the league. Our defence was outstanding."
He's right. Young Munster defended magnificently against what has been the most potent backline in the league but there were other important elements to the Limerick side's victory.
For instance, the 35-year-old Prendergast brought himself back into the side at out-half, instead of his usual scrum-half spot. His experience was vital.
He landed a crucial first-half drop goal and his decision to include Dom Lespierre on the right-wing was to prove a master stroke.
The flying London-born wing scored the decisive try nine minutes after the interval, taking off from inside his own half to outpace the Lansdowne cover for a spectacular score.
He joined Young Munster on their former out-half Alan Kingsley's recommendation after a three-year spell in Australia. A former rugby league player, the 25-year-old can't have scored many better tries. "It rates right up there," he said.
Lespierre's try, converted by Brian Haugh, gave Young Munster a 16-12 lead. As hard as Lansdowne tried, they couldn't break through the Young Munster defence and they had to settle for a fifth penalty from Craig Ronaldson in response.
Early on, it looked as though Lansdowne might win with something to spare, Ronaldson giving them a 6-0 advantage.
But Young Munster gradually fought their back into contention, to trail 12-9 at the interval.
Ronaldson added two more penalties with Haugh responding with two for Young Munster and Prendergast landing his drop goal. Lespierre was then to secure the victory with his outstanding try.
YOUNG MUNSTER – C O'Hanlon; D Lespierre, M Doyle, L Kuntz, D O'Neill; M Prendergast, B Haugh; G Flaherty, G Slattery, H McGrath, S Duggan, D Gallagher, N Melbourne, L Russell, R Rowley. Reps: D Cantillon, J Moroney, G Quinn-McDonagh.
LANSDOWNE – R McCarron; C Aherne, F Horan, T Daly, M Healy; C Ronaldson, P O'Driscoll; J O'Connell, T Sexton, M Moore, W Earle, R Hynes, T Beirne, C Butterworth, C Ross. Reps: S Carey, S Collins.
REF – D Phillips.