Munster veteran Billy Holland proves his worth in key win at Edinburgh

Reds close in on Pro14 Grand Final as Man of Match makes his 240th appearance
Munster veteran Billy Holland proves his worth in key win at Edinburgh

Munster's Billy Holland celebrates after winning a penalty at the scrum. Picture: INPHO/Craig Watson

Edinburgh 10 Munster 22 

MUNSTER secured yet another crucial win on the road on Saturday evening, as they scalped Conference rivals Edinburgh at the Murrayfield Stadium, to take a huge step forward in terms of qualifying for the Pro14 Grand Final next month.

The icing on the cake was the awarding of the Man of the Match award to captain Billy Holland. He equalled Ronan O’Gara’s Munster appearance total of 240, to move joint second-place with only Donnacha O’Callaghan now ahead of him.

The windy conditions in the Scottish capital ensured that it was always going to be a scrappy affair, but Munster had enough know-how in their ranks to get the job done. 

Yet they will have been a little disappointed not to have nabbed a fourth try in the final 24 minutes that would have gotten them the four-try bonus point.

Three penalty concessions by Munster in four minutes gifted Edinburgh easy possession and territory early on, which ended with their Scottish international out-half Jaco van der Walt slotting a simple kick in the 9th minute to open the scoring for the home side.

Munster responded quickly, however, with Munster No. 10 JJ Hanrahan landing a penalty of his own in the 15th minute after a big carry by Damian de Allende up the middle had forced the Scottish indiscretion.

Edinburgh were playing with a significant wind behind them in the first half, and they went close in the 20th minute through big drives from Eroni Sau and Andrew Davidson. The Munster defence held firm, and they eventually cleared their lines thanks to a huge effort from the Munster scrum that saw them win a crucial penalty near their own line.

Johann van Graan’s side patiently worked their way up the pitch until they were camped deep inside the Edinburgh 22, and the pack drove their counterparts into submission with Jack O’Donoghue eventually scoring the first try with an excellent spinning finish from close range in the 29th minute.

Munster engineered another penalty deep in Edinburgh territory soon after, and after another series of meaty carries it was left to the diminutive scrum-half Craig Casey to dive under the home defence from close range for a well-taken score in the 36th minute, which saw Munster totally in control at the break with a 3-17 lead.

Rory Scannell of Munster is tackled by Chris Dean of Edinburgh. Picture: Paul Devlin/Sportsfile
Rory Scannell of Munster is tackled by Chris Dean of Edinburgh. Picture: Paul Devlin/Sportsfile

Any hopes that Munster had of any easy night went south when Edinburgh scored a try in the 46th minute that was very similar to those Munster had got in the first period, as their powerful number eight Viliame Mata managed to burrow underneath the despairing effort of Munster second row Jean Kleyn, after sustained pressure, to bring the Scottish side within seven points.

With scores from close range being all the rage it was almost inevitable that Gavin Coombes would get in on the act, with him popping over for a try in the 56th minute, for his seventh league try of the campaign after Casey had gone close just before.

Picture: Paul Devlin/Sportsfile
Picture: Paul Devlin/Sportsfile

Casey and Coombes will have been particularly pleased to have put their hands up in this tie after both had been released from the Ireland camp in recent weeks. Ireland head coach Andy Farrell will certainly have taken note of their respective performances on Saturday night.

Edinburgh dominated territory and possession from there on in but Munster were able to slow down their attacking efforts sufficiently, and in truth, the Scottish side never really looked like getting back into the tie after Coombes’ score.

Considering the conditions it was very much a win for the engine room up front. 

Scorers for Edinburgh: Van der Walt (1 pen, 1 con), Mata (1 try).

Munster: Hanrahan (1 pen, 2 cons), O’Donoghue, Casey and Coombes (1 try each).

EDINBURGH: Hoyland, Blain, Bennett, Dean, Sau, van der Walt, Pyrgos, Schoeman, Cherry, Atalifo, Davidson, Gilchrist (c), Haining, Crosbie, Mata.

Subs: McCallum for Atalifo (53), Bradbury for Haining (55), Shiel for Pyrgos (57), Willemse for Cherry (62), Venter for Schoeman (68), Miller for Crosbie (68), Currie for Bennett (72), Haining for Davidson (80).

MUNSTER: Haley; Conway, Farrell, de Allende, Daly; Hanrahan, Casey; Cronin, N. Scannell, Ryan; Kleyn, Holland (c); O’Donoghue, Cloete, Coombes.

Subs: Loughman, Archer, Wycherley and O’Sullivan for Cronin, Ryan, Kleyn and Cloete (65), O’Byrne and Healy for N. Scannell and Hanrahan (67), R. Scannell for de Allende (72), McCarthy for Casey (75), Cloete for Coombes (80). 

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland)

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