Leinster ‘A’ battled their way into the final of the British & Irish Cup thanks to an exciting 17-15 win over arch rivals Munster ‘A’ at Dooradoyle…
A smashing 69th minute try, scored by winger Sam Coghlan Murray, following a flowing back-line move proved the crucial score as Leinster ‘A’ ended the Munster ‘A’ team’s cup defence in dramatic fashion.
The drama was not over then, however, as Munster ‘A’ did have an opportunity to sneak victory in added time. However, a penalty attempt from the home side’s out-half JJ Hanrahan just outside the 22 flew narrowly left and wide.
Leinster ‘A’, who had lost out the Munstermen in last season’s semi-final, will face a trip to either Bedford Blues or Newcastle Falcons in next month’s British & Irish Cup final.
The winning margin may have been extremely tight, but there was no doubt that Leinster ‘A’ emerged as deserving winners of a fiercely competitive game where defences held the upperhand for long stretches.
Girvan Dempsey’s young charges held onto possession well, succeeded in building phases and pressure and forced Munster ‘A’ in conceding penalties, with centre Noel Reid landing four of them.
While Leinster ‘A’ were more clinical in attack, the visitors also managed to put the shackles on the hosts’ attack. The back row, including captain Conor Gilsenan, excelled, getting through some highly impressive at the breakdown and in the collision area.
Half-backs Cathal Marsh, who made his senior debut against Zebre last Sunday, and Luke McGrath controlled the game superbly all through.
The regular showers which fell prior to kick-off made for a slippery top surface in Dooradoyle. Led by exciting flanker Gilsenan, Leinster ‘A’ made a late change to their selected line-up, with Ireland Under-20 international Steve Crosbie coming in for Fionn Carr at full-back.
The visitors made the brighter start and took the lead in the third minute through a penalty goal from Reid.
Holders Munster ‘A’ enjoyed plenty of possession and territory for the next 20 minutes, but Leinster ‘A’ managed to hault their progress with excellent defending.
All Munster ‘A’ had to show for that period of domination was a 13th minute penalty goal from Hanrahan.
Dempsey’s side hit back strongly in the second quarter, with young scrum half McGrath especially influential. They succeeded in building phases and pressure, forcing Munster ‘A’ into the concession of several penalties.
Reid landed two further place-kicks at goal in the 22nd and 28th minutes to help his side into a useful 9-3 advantage. Hanrahan and Reid traded further penalties before the break to leave Leinster 12-6 in front at half-time.
Munster introduced the experienced duo of Marcus Horan and Sean Dougall in the third quarter and the home side drew level with Hanrahan’s fourth successful kick at goal in the 63rd minute.
However, a composed Leinster ‘A’ side showed admirable resilience to work their way deep into the Munster 22. After the initial onslaught through the forwards was stopped, they quickly moved the ball right and Coghlan Murray touched down.
To their credit, Munster ‘A’ came back and a fifth Hanrahan penalty goal made for a nervy finish. However, after the out-half missed his sixth penalty attempt in added time, Leinster’s victory was secure.
Referee: Ian Tempest (England)