Saturday 7 December 2019

Anthony Foley's Munster reign begins with sloppy defeat

Ian Keatley, left, and Simon Zebo, Munster, react after defeat to Edinburgh.
Ian Keatley, left, and Simon Zebo, Munster, react after defeat to Edinburgh.
Simon Zebo, Munster, in action against Greig Tonks, Edinburgh.
Shane Buckley, Munster, is tackled by Tomas Leonardi, Edinburgh.
Jack Cuthbert, Edinburgh, is congratulated by team-mates after scoring a try.
Munster captain Donncha O'Callaghan makes his way out for the start of the game.

Edinburgh pulled off a shock win - only their second in their last 24 visits to Ireland - as Anthony Foley's Munster fluffed their lines at Thomond Park.

Alan Solomons' men gained a measure of revenge for last season's 55-12 hammering by the Reds, beginning the new GUINNESS PRO12 campaign with a well-earned four points and a 14-13 success.

New fly-half Tom Heathcote coolly slotted three penalties to give Edinburgh a deserved 9-5 half-time lead, with CJ Stander touching down for the hosts while Tomas Leonardi was in the sin-bin.

Edinburgh were briefly down to 13 men when Leonardi's fellow flanker Hamish Watson was singled out for a ruck offence, but Jack Cuthbert dotted down in the 48th minute to leave Foley's misfiring side nine points adrift.

Stander's second try set up a tense final quarter but Munster failed to score again with Ian Keatley, who had an off-night with the boot, narrowly missing a last-gasp long range penalty.

One of Edinburgh's summer signings, John Andress, made an immediate impact in the first scrum, driving John Ryan backwards to set up a fourth minute penalty which Heathcote converted.

Heathcote, who started in place of late withdrawal Greig Tonks, rifled over his second successful penalty after BJ Botha was caught offside.

A marginal forward pass from Heathcote denied Dougie Fife the opportunity to raid up the right wing - in plenty of space - but error-strewn Munster were really struggling to settle.

They finally reached the Scots' 22 at the tail-end of the first quarter, with Shane Buckley standing out during a busy set of phases, however Edinburgh robustly defended a close-in maul and cleared the danger.

Simon Zebo was unable to latch onto his own kick through midfield and Heathcote suffered his first miss from a difficult penalty attempt on the right wing.

Edinburgh's aggressive pack - led by man of the match Cornell du Preeze - held the edge until flanker Leonardi saw yellow for a 32nd-minute tip tackle on Zebo. Munster mauled up close from a lineout and the recycled ball saw Stander crash over past both centres for a well-taken try.

Keatley missed the conversion though and Edinburgh finished the first half strongly, busy centre Sam Beard's forward pass ruling out a try for Tim Visser before Heathcote split the posts with the final kick.

That good work was undone when Watson was binned for killing Munster ball after an incisive break by Zebo.

Nonetheless, 14-man Edinburgh soon broke downfield for a fine try, Cuthbert's timely injection of pace helping him gobble up Beard's grubber kick to score in the right corner.

Stander - the focal point of the Munster pack - answered back on the hour mark, rolling his way over the try-line having shrugged off Heathcote's initial tackle. Keatley missed the conversion at 14-10.

As time ticked on Heathcote sent a testing place-kick wide and after WP Nel became the third Edinburgh player to be carded, Keatley could not save Munster from their third successive Thomond Park defeat which is a first in the professional era.

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