Leinster ‘A’ 22 v 17 Munster ‘A’
October 7, 2015 / jmcconnell
Leinster ‘A’ battled their way to a 22-17 victory over their Munster counterparts at Donnybrook this evening, with Billy Dardis and Mick McGrath crossing for first half tries…
Second row Tom Denton touched down early in the second half for a 22-3 lead, but the hosts had to scrap for the result in the end as Josh Murphy saw yellow and Munster 'A' closed the gap with two converted tries.
Elite Player Development Officers Hugh Hogan and Shaun Berne took charge of Leinster 'A' for the first time, following Girvan Dempsey's full-time move to the Leinster senior coaching set-up.
The sunny, dry conditions were ideal for both sides and although fast-starting Munster 'A' were denied by a knock-on as they pressed for an early try, it was the home side who hit the front on the quarter hour.
Leinster 'A' edged ahead thanks to a well-taken try from in-form full-back Billy Dardis, who took a neat pass from captain Nick McCarthy following the latter's purposeful break from a quick tap penalty.
Tom Daly, who partnered Collie O'Shea in the centre, missed the conversion and Munster out-half Rory Scannell opened their account from 30 metres out shortly afterwards as the Leinster youngsters were pinged for not rolling away.
Steve Crosbie and Tony Ryan, two of the All-Ireland League regulars on show, led Leinster's response, attacking at pace into Munster territory and the visitors did just enough to tackle Adam Byrne into touch as he threatened out wide.
However, with Leo Cullen watching on from the gantry, Leinster 'A' rediscovered their clinical edge to build some important momentum before half-time.
Ireland Sevens captain Daly was at the heart of it, first knocking over a 27th minute penalty and then drawing in a defender to release Mick McGrath who did superbly well to break past Steven McMahon and Stephen Fitzgerald on a 22-metre burst to the whitewash.
Daly converted for a 15-3 scoreline at the interval and he also added the extras to Denton's effort which saw the lock gobble up Charlie Rock's pass and barge over from five metres out.
The Munster 'A' forwards then enjoyed a purple patch, hammering away at the white-shirted defensive wall until a crack close-in allowed number 8 Shane Buckley muscle over for their opening try in the 58th minute.
Leinster 'A' went close to responding, work-hungry winger McGrath just missing out as he had a foot in touch before diving for the corner. Darren Sweetnam got the plaudits for a well-timed tackle. The pressure increased on the home defence, however, after blindside Murphy was binned with 12 minutes left.
Within four minutes, Munster 'A' had their second seven-pointer as Adam Byrne's pass was intercepted by recent PRO12 debutant Fitzgerald, just inside the visitors' half, and he raced up the right touchline to score and make it a five-point game (22-17).
That set up a tense and hard-fought finish. Leinster 'A', who had brought on a number of young replacements, had a let-off when a Munster touch-finding kick from a penalty was overcooked, giving them scrum possession.
Although Bryan Byrne was yellow-carded entering injury-time, the home side gritted their teeth in defence and forced a final knock-on to end Munster's hopes of a late win.
This was a very good workout for the young Leinster 'A' squad ahead of their upcoming interprovincial clashes with Ulster Ravens (away, 22nd October) and Connacht Eagles (home, 5th Novermber), and the start of their British & Irish Cup campaign away to Rotherham Titans on 14th November.
REFEREE: Frank Murphy (IRFU)
REPLACEMENTS USED: Darragh Fanning for Dardis, Oisin Heffernan for Burke-Flynn, Charlie Rock for McCarthy, Ross Byrne for Crosbie, Ian Hirst for Loughman, Gavin Thornbury for Beirne, Max Deegan for Aspil.
REPLACEMENTS: Kevin O'Byrne, Brendan Quinlan, JP Phelan, Rory Burke, Sean O'Leary, Kelvin Browne, Conor Oliver, John Poland, Tomas Quinlan, Alex Wootton.