Stander saves Munster's blushes
MATCH REPORT: CJ Stander’s late try and Ben Healy’s crucial conversion maintained Munster’s unbeaten start to the PRO14 season with a tense 25-23 victory over Edinburgh.
It took until 78 minutes for Munster to finally cross but their patience paid off with Stander converting a typical forwards’ try, with Healy kicking the extras to add to his six penalties.
Edinburgh enjoyed a strong first half with Mark Bennett and WP Nel both crossing but they couldn’t prevent a fifth successive defeat in all competitions.
Healy started his season in fine form with the boot and that didn’t show any signs of ending at Thomond Park, kicking two early penalties for a 6-0 Munster lead.
But Edinburgh recovered from the early setbacks, playing through the phases with quick ball out to Bennett, who weaved his way through the tackles to dive over on the outside.
Munster still boasted the better of the play, however, with Jack O’Donoghue coming within inches of scoring when haring down a supposed lost cause on the visitors’ line.
The 26-year-old just missed out on getting the crucial touch but Munster were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over with a third Healy kick of the evening in 20 minutes.
Once again the visitors responded well and they were rewarded with their second try of the evening, playing through the phases before Stuart McInally and then Nel made crucial carries from which the South African-born prop crashed his way over.
A second successful conversion from Jaco van der Walt gave Edinburgh a 14-9 advantage but the home side were back to within two points at the break, Healy adding a fourth penalty to his impressive first half.
Neither side could wrestle the initiative in the early stages of the second half but Andrew Conway needed to be at his superb best to stop Taylor from scoring what seemed a certain dry following a superb van der Walt kick.
But the visitors weren’t to be denied points, van der Walt putting boot to ball to kick a penalty and reinstate the five-point lead after of the final 30 minutes.
Healy once again kicked three points for his side though both sides were crying out for someone to take this intriguing contest by the scruff of the neck.
A sixth successful Healy penalty gave Munster the lead for the first time in the half but it didn’t last long, with Bennett taking on kicking duties as the visitors edged back ahead in the closing stages.
At 20-18, it was anyone’s game with just ten minutes to play though Healy missed the chance to put the hosts back ahead when he missed his first kick of the night.
Van der Walt, meanwhile, made no mistake at the other end to leave Munster chasing a try in the final five minutes.
And finally their score game, captain Stander burrowing over a typical forwards’ try as the Munster pressure paying off the last to level the game up at 23-23.
But it wasn’t level for long with Healy making up for his last miss to put his side back ahead with a conversion, with Edinburgh unable to battle back in a tense and thrilling contest.
Tries: Bennett, Nel
Cons: Van der Walt 2
Pens: Van der Walt 2, Bennett
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Alex McHenry, 12 Rory Scannell, 11 Matt Gallagher, 10 Ben Healy, 9 Craig Casey, 8 CJ Stander (captain), 7 Tommy O’Donnell, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Tadhg Beirne, 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 John Ryan, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Jeremy Loughman
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 James Cronin, 18 Roman Salanoa, 19 Gavin Coombes, 20 John Hodnett, 21 Conor Murray, 22 Jack Crowley, 23 Dan Goggin
Edinburgh: 15 Damien Hoyland, 14 Darcy Graham, 13 Mark Bennett, 12 George Taylor, 11 Duhan van der Merwe, 10 Jaco van der Walt, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Nick Haining, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Jamie Ritchie, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 WP Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Rory Sutherland
Replacements: 16 Mike Willemse, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Andrew Davidson, 20 Mesulame Kunavula, 21 Dan Nutton, 22 Nathan Chamberlain, 23 James Johnstone
Referee: Nigel Owens
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher, Peter Martin
TMO: Joy Neville