Munster inspired by Gavin Coombes two tries beat Northampton in vital Heineken Cup clash

Munster’s hopes of a big away victory were boosted by the news that England forward Courtney Lawes had to cry off just before kick off, which increased Munster’s chances of overpowering the home side at set piece time.
Munster inspired by Gavin Coombes two tries beat Northampton in vital Heineken Cup clash

Northampton Saints vs Munster

Northampton Saints 6 

Munster 17 

TWO first-half Gavin Coombes tries inspired Munster to a key victory on the road in their Heineken Champions Cup Round 2 clash against Northampton Saints at Franklin’s Gardens on Sunday afternoon.

Munster’s hopes of a big away victory were boosted by the news that England forward Courtney Lawes had to cry off just before kick off, which increased Munster’s chances of overpowering the home side at set piece time.

Munster were the dominant side early on but they coughed up a few early scoring opportunities to get on the scoreboard due to little errors and going off their feet in one instance. 

However, they got a break when the Saints scrum conceded a free kick for a lack of a strike on their own scrum and when Niall Scannell tapped quickly the inevitable occurred when number eight Gavin Coombes crashed over from close range in the 14th minute after a series of beefy carries by the Munster pack.

Munster's Peter O’Mahony tackled by Northampton's Lukhan Salakaia-Loto. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Munster's Peter O’Mahony tackled by Northampton's Lukhan Salakaia-Loto. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

The Saints then won a number of penalties deep in Munster territory, but were happy to take the three on offer when one of those was awarded right under the Munster posts, with home outhalf Fin Smith kicking his penalty in the 20th minute.

Carbery added a penalty of his own from 25m in the 27th minute, but a minute later he stepped across Northampton full back George Furbank, as he chased a speculative chip into the Munster 22, to concede a kickable penalty directly in front of his own posts, and Smith slotted it to make it 6-10.

Munster scored their second try in the 36th minute, and again it was that man Coombes, and strangely, once again the genesis of the try came from Northampton’s inability to strike at their own scrum. 

Munster won a penalty from this failure, and when they kicked to the corner they instigated a training ground move off the lineout, whereby they created a situation that had Coombes barrelling towards the line at a fair rate of knots with ball in hand, with just five metres to go, and the two Saints defenders had no chance of halting the Skibbereen Express, as he dotted down to give Munster a healthy looking 6-17 lead at half time.

Munster’s handling errors undermined their attacking efforts in the third quarter, but trademark jackals from Tadhg Beirne and Jack O’Donoghue ensured that the Saints were halted down the other end at key moments.

O’Donoghue and home captain Lewis Ludlam were sent to the sinbin in the 52nd minute, after a schmozzle had broken out, although the Waterford man can feel aggrieved as he appeared to be the innocent party, and a number of Northampton players will have felt lucky not to have been shown a card of some description.

Craig Casey was then yellow carded for taking Saints winger James Raam out in the air, when a score looked likely and Munster can consider themselves fortunate that a penalty try was not awarded. 

Munster's head coach Graham Rowntree arriving at Franklin's Gardens. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane
Munster's head coach Graham Rowntree arriving at Franklin's Gardens. Picture: INPHO/Bryan Keane

The Saints went for the Munster throat in the right corner, and won a number of penalties close to the Munster line, but a typical trademark lineout steal from captain Peter O’Mahony lifted the siege.

Northampton were struggling to break down the dogged Munster defence but at the same time Munster’s indiscipline kept presenting them with attacking opportunities, as at one stage Munster conceded eight penalties on the trot, which eventually led to a yellow for Carbery, as the ref finally lost patience with them.

Munster simply did not exist as an attacking entity in the final quarter, as it became a game of Saints attack versus Munster defence. 

It could easily have gotten away from Munster during this time, but to Munster’s credit they held firm, and simply would not let Northampton cross their tryline, as no score was added in an arm wrestle of a second half.

Scorers for Northampton: Smith (2 pens) Munster: Carbery (1 pen, 2 cons), Coombes (2 tries) Northampton: Furbank; Ramm, Proctor, Hutchinson, Freeman; Smith, Mitchell; Waller, Matavesi, Painter, Salakaia-Loto, Ribbans, Scott-Young, Ludlam (capt), Augustus.

Subs: Petch for Painter (56), Iyogun for Waller (57), Moon for Augustus (66), Dingwall for Proctor (69), Haywood for Matavesi (71), Hinkley for Scott-Young (75).

Munster: Haley; Nash, Frisch, Crowley, Earls; Carbery, Murray; Loughman, N Scannell, Ryan; Kleyn, Beirne; O'Donoghue, O'Mahony (capt), Coombes.

Subs: Kilcoyne and Casey for Loughman and Murray (49), R Scannell for Crowley (54), Barron for N Scannell (55), Hodnett for Kleyn (69), Salanoa, Kendellen and Daly for Ryan, O’Mahony and Earls (75).

Referee: Pierre-Baptiste Nuchy (France).

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