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Munsters dig deep in hunt for play-offs


YOUNG MUNSTER just won't go away. Saturday's hard-fought victory at Stradbrook means that they are in fourth spot and still in with a chance of making the play-offs.

The top three of Old Belvedere, Cork Constitution and St Mary's College remain firm favourites, but Young Munster are definitely not out of it. With three games remaining, they trail third-placed St Mary's by six points.

They have put together a run that has seen them beat Cork Con and Belvo -- and come within a whisker of recording a win at St Mary's. Now they must win their last three games -- against Shannon, Dolphin and Garryowen -- and hope Mary's slip up.

The only thing their coach Mike Prendergast can be sure about is that they will need to play better than they did in beating Blackrock.

"We were a bit below par," Prendergast admitted. "We played some decent rugby in the second half but our execution near the line let us down.

"In saying that, you have to give credit to Blackrock, they were very hard to break down. We're just pleased to come away with the victory."

The game wasn't a great spectacle. There was a huge amount of effort, with two well-matched packs fighting it out, and defences very much on top. Blackrock weren't helped by the fact that Andrew Conway, Niall Morris and Ian Madigan were needed by Leinster and Brendan Macken is injured.

Perhaps they also weren't helped by mixing up the Young Munster and the Shannon crests on their team sheet.

Not that Young Munster ever need motivation. They gave their usual hugely committed display against a Blackrock outfit that also gave absolutely everything.

The upshot was a really close contest. Young Munster led 10-6 at the interval, with centre Matthew Costelloe scoring a try following sustained pressure in the 19th minute.

Alan Kingsley added the conversion and also kicked a penalty. Blackrock replied with two penalties from their out-half Darragh Fitzpatrick.

The home side then went in front early in the second half. Following a great run by right-wing Dave Rowan, centre Rob Keogh forced his way over for a try.

Keogh missed the conversion, so Blackrock were left holding on to a slender 11-10 advantage.

It didn't last long, with the accurate Kingsley banging over a long-range penalty to leave Young Munster 13-11 in front.

That turned out to be the winning score. At least Blackrock secured a losing bonus point, which keeps them four points ahead of bottom-placed Garryowen.

"We have to keep fighting." stressed their coach, Andy Wood.

"It's disappointing to have lost such a close game, but you can't fault our effort or our energy. Young Munster are a very smart defensive team and really hard to break down."

Blackrock College -- M Scott-Lennon; D Rowan, L Ellison, R Keogh, J Simon-Byrne; D Fitzpatrick, A MacGinty; J Barretto (R Fisher 72), C Culleton, A Lyons (S O'Donnell 79), A Dunlop, M Carroll, P Graham (D Dillon h-t), P Ryan, M Noone (B Kelly 62).

Young Munster -- I Cross; M Doyle, M Costelloe, R Moloney, A Carroll; W Staunton, A Kingsley; I Cotter, G Slattery (Capt), H McGrath (D Murphy 76), S O'Neill, B Guilfoyle (S Hassett 76), L Og Murphy, J O'Neill (D Payne 55), N Melbourne.

Ref -- G Clancy.

Irish Independent