Munster beaten again in South Africa after Lions comeback

Loss at Ellis Park in Johannesburg all but ends their hopes of securing a top-two berth in the URC
Munster beaten again in South Africa after Lions comeback

Alex Kendellan of Munster in action at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg, South Africa. Picture: Sydney Seshibedi/Sportsfile

Emirates Lions 23 Munster 21 

MUNSTER were beaten by a spirited second-half comeback from the Emirates Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Saturday to suffer a painful loss that all but ends their hopes of securing a top-two berth in the URC.

Munster seemed to be in control at 21-10 up but a strong Lions bench turned the tie completely in the home side’s favour.

Munster out-half Jack Crowley was just short with a penalty attempt from inside his own half in the fourth minute but Munster did not have long to wait for their first score when tighthead John Ryan burrowed over from close range in the eighth minute after a relentless drive from Munster, with big carries from the likes of Damian de Allende, Chris Farrell, John Hodnett and Alex Kendellen getting them within metres of the Lions line.

The front row party continued soon after with Josh Wycherley scoring in the 14th minute, again from close range, although the Bantry man had been involved on multiple occasions in a blistering build-up that had the Lions defence in sixes and sevens.

The Lions needed to get on the scoreboard and the electric Edwill van der Merwe got them up and running with a brilliant try in the 31st minute that saw him bounce Calvin Nash and get over in the left corner.

It became ten points shipped in five minutes for Munster when Jordan Hendrikse slotted a 35th-minute penalty soon after, but Munster had the last word in the half when they scored another brilliant try right on half time.

The move was sparked by a wonderful one-two by Josh Wycherley and Jack O’Donoghue and when scrum-half Neil Cronin put pace on the ball second-row Fineen Wycherley arrived like an express train from deep to crash over to give Munster a deserved 21-10 halftime lead.

Alex Kendellen had a try chalked off in the 50th minute for a forward pass from Cronin to Niall Scannell in the build-up and the warm conditions soon started to tell, with Munster’s performance levels dropping a tad.

Hendrikse then landed a penalty, won by the replacement Lions front row, in the 64th minute to reduce the deficit to eight points and almost immediately it was only a one-point game when the home side capitalised on a loose Fineen Wycherley pass to send centre Wandisile Simelane clear down the right-wing to score.

Edwill van der Merwe of the Emirates Lions runs in to score a try against Munster. Picture:  INPHO/Gordon Arons
Edwill van der Merwe of the Emirates Lions runs in to score a try against Munster. Picture:  INPHO/Gordon Arons

And not long later Hendrikse made no mistake from straight in front of the posts with a penalty in the 73rd minute to give the Lions the lead for the first time.

Munster had one last chance to engineer a winner in the 79th minute when Ben Healy’s clearing penalty had made huge yardage, but Scott Buckley’s lineout to Jean Kleyn was called as crooked and Munster’s chance of rescuing the tie was gone.

Scorers for Lions: Hendrikse (3 pens, 2 cons), van der Merwe, Simelane (1 try each).

Munster: Crowley (3 cons), Ryan, J Wycherley, F Wycherley (1 try each).

LIONS: Q Horn, Pienaar, Simelane, Odendaal (Capt), van der Merwe, Hendrikse, van den Berg, Sithole, Visagie, Sadie, Schoeman, Nothnagel, Sangweni, V Tshituka, F Horn.

Subs: Rass for Pienaar (18), E Tshituka for Sangweni (30), Swanepoel for Q Horn (46), Botha, Smith and Dreyer for Sithole, Visagie, Sadie (50), Venter for Sadie (73).

MUNSTER: Haley, Nash, Farrell, de Allende, Daly, Crowley, Cronin, J Wycherley, Scannell, Ryan, Kleyn, F Wycherley; O’Donoghue (c), Hodnett, Kendellen.

Subs: O’Connor for Kleyn (28), Kleyn for O’Connor (34), Buckley for Scannell (56), Knox for Ryan (57), Patterson and Healy for Cronin and Daly (63), Donnelly, O’Connor and Cloete for J Wycherley, Hodnett and Kendellen (70).  

Referee: Adam Jones (WRU).

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