Home Rugby Earls Brace Rescues Dramatic Win For Munster Over Edinburgh

Earls Brace Rescues Dramatic Win For Munster Over Edinburgh

Heineken Champions Cup Quarter-Final, BT Murrayfield, Scotland 30/3/2019 Edinburgh vs Munster Munster's Keith Earls scores their first try Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Edinburgh 13 Munster 17

Munster are through to the Heineken Champions Cup semi-final following a hard-fought win over Edinburgh in BT Murrayfield this afternoon. 

It was a Munster display littered with mistakes and despite Edinburgh’s dominance, Richard Cockerill’s side were left to rue early opportunities that they turned down as a 72nd minute try for Keith Earls, his second, secured the win for the visitors.

Edinburgh were awarded an early penalty John Barclay disrupted the Munster breakdown while Stuart McInally brilliantly locked onto the ball. Jaco van der Walt turned down the easy kick at goal, instead choosing to kick to the corner.

Munster were twice penalised in the next phase of play when Niall Scannell and Jack O’Donoghue were caught offside. Again, the home side chose to kick to the corner while Jean Kleyn replaced by Billy Holland temporarily. From the lineout, Munster’s defence held firm as a superb counter-ruck from CJ Stander forced the penalty allowing Joey Carbery to clear the early danger.

Edinburgh continued to look to play the game in Munster’s half but Andrew Conway proved more than up t to the aerial task. His brilliant chip and chase set up the first real attack from the visitors but Scannell lost the ball on the ground and John Barclay turned over and kicked it forward, Hamish Watson showing great pace to keep the pressure on retreating Munster.

Tadhg Beirne was sin-binned for lining on the wrong side and not rolling away, slowing play down. van der Walt chose to kick to the corner with the one-man advantage and Edinburgh set up the maul from the resulting lineout. Munster’s defence was heroic once again and with Jack O’Donoghue over the ball, they awarded the penalty.

Against the run of play, Munster scored the first try of the game and the move began when a Carbery grubber kick ricocheted off an Edinburgh jersey and Munster were awarded the lineout. Scannell sent the ball over the top to his brother, Rory, and Conor Murray sent a quick crossfield kick in the direction of Keith Earls. Duhan van der Merwe got a hand t to the ball in the air but it trickled over the line from his touch and Munster were awarded a five-metre scrum

Conor Murray postponed picking up the ball from the bottom of the scrum with Henry Pyrgos lingering over him. Despite warnings from the referee, Pyrgos slapped down the ball and the whistled sounded immediately. Earls displayed incredible quick-thinking, taking a quick tap and go and thundering over the Edinburgh line.

If the visiting fans were hoping that the try would launch a period of dominance for their side, they were mistaken as the unforced errors began to pile up. Munster were pinged for holding onto the ball on the ground in the Edinburgh half, with McInally once again executing a perfect turnover. Van der Walt penalty sent them deep into Munster territory and they wasted no time taking the lineout and setting up their next attack. The Edinburgh forwards made huge carries and despite the strong defence, Darcy Graham inched them forward. Edinburgh produced very quick ruck ball and Chris Dean crossed for his side’s first try with van der Walt adding the conversion.

The Edinburgh fans were incensed moments later when both Conway and Graham challenged in the air for a Carbery kick. Despite the calls that Conway dangerously took out the player in the air, it was deemed a fair contest and only a penalty was awarded. Beirne excellently stole the lineout but in the next phase, Kleyn knocked on and Edinburgh were awarded a penalty from the scrum. Munster were penalised for playing the scrum-half in the ruck and with 35 minutes on the clock, van der Walt took his first shot on goal and put his side three points in front.

Munster were dealt a huge blow when Carbery hobbled off five minutes before half-time with the hamstring injury that ended his Six Nations campaign. Edinburgh dominated the closing stages of the first half with thundering runs from Graham, who beat five defenders, and Mata. Munster’s tactic of slowing up the ball when in possession worked against them and when Murray eventually tried an over-the-top kick down the line for Earls to chase, he overcooked it and Graham was able to call the mark and end the half.

Munster began the second-half brightly and after five minutes, they were awarded a penalty in front of goal when Scannell was tackled high and Bleyendaal leveled the game once more.

The Edinburgh backline were able to easily deal with the long kicks that Murray and Bleyendaal repeatedly sent down the line while their pace and agility immediately put the pressure back on the Munster defence. Damien Hoyland kicked the ball back down into the Munster half, and while the men in red gathered, they were soon penalised for holding on with Watson receiving the plaudits of his teammates. Van der Walt kicked Edinburgh back into a three-point lead.

Edinburgh continued to dominate possession but a Pyrgos miskick went out on the full and the advantage was handed back to the visitors. Stander, Kleyn and Beirne all made excellent carries and Munster eventually began to eat up the metres. As the edged towards the line, the advantages began to flow and when an Edinburgh hand knocked on the ball as John Ryan attempted to ground the ball, the referee brought the play back for the penalty. Munster opted to go for the scrum but it proved the wrong option as a powerful Edinburgh surge sent Munster retreating and Pascal Gauzere awarded them a penalty.

Buoyed by the decision, Edinburgh furiously searched for their next score of the game. Munster were no match for their pace and quick offloads and, again, Graham’s dancing feet brought them closer to the line. Edinburgh moved through the phases before play was eventually halted for a Munster knock on. Edinburgh were awarded the five-metre scrum and Pyrgos quickly shifted the ball to the far win where van der Merwe was lurking. Munster scrambled across and Conway made a superb last-ditch tackle to put the winger out of play.

Yet with every positive play that Munster made, an error soon followed. Darren Sweetnam came roaring into the game and he and Earls brought Munster into the Edinburgh half. However, Munster failed to commit enough bodies to the lineout and they were penalised for not releasing the ball, again coughing up decent territory to Edinburgh.

They were gifted another opportunity when Pierre Schoeman was deemed to have interfered with Beirne off the ball and Bleyendaal sent a thundering kick down the line. Just as the Munster lineout seemed to go astray, the Kiwi was there to clear up and secure possession for the visitors. The Munster handling was fantastic as Murray offloaded to Beirne who showed quick hands to get the ball to Earls on the wing and despite the attention of two Edinburgh defenders, the Limerick man accelerated and touched down in the corner. Bleyendaal sent a stunning conversion between the posts to bring their lead to four points.

The Munster fans made themselves known with a rousing rendition of ‘Fields of Athenry’ as Munster looked to grind down the clock. Edinburgh brought play back into the Munster half. The experienced heads stood up for Johann van Graan’s side as Billy Holland stole a lineout and Murray and Bleyendaal expertly slowed up play. Edinburgh were given one final opportunity with the clock in red as Graham and Bennett desperately looked for that winning score. After two dramatic and tense minutes, the ball was eventually knocked on signalling jubuliant celebrations from the Munster men.

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Edinburgh: Darcy Graham, Damien Hoyland, James Johnstone (Bennett 72), Chris Dean, Duhan van der Merwe, Jaco van der Walt, Henry Pyrgos; Pierre Schoeman (Dell 76), Stuart McInally (Ford 76), WP Nel (Berghan 57), Ben Toolis, Grant Gilchrist, John Barclay, Hamish Watson, Viliame Mata.

Replacements: Ross Ford; Allan Dell; Simon Berghan; Magnus Bradbury; Jamie Ritchie; Charlie Shiel;  Simon Hickey; Mark Bennett.

Munster: Andrew Conway, Darren Sweetnam, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell (Goggin 77), Keith Earls, Joey Carbery (Bleyendaal 35), Conor Murray, Dave Kilcoyne (Loughman 61), Niall Scannell (Marshall 64), John Ryan (Archer 57), Jean Kleyn (Holland 59), Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (c), Jack O’Donoghue (Botha 28), CJ Stander.

Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Jeremy Loughman, Stephen Archer, Billy Holland, Arno Botha, Alby Mathewson, Tyler Bleyendaal, Dan Goggin.

Referee: Pascal Gauzere.

About Marisa Kennedy

Marisa is a Digital Journalist with Pundit Arena. She is a former reporter with Sporting Limerick and is a huge fan of the GAA. You can contact her at marisa@punditarena.com or on Twitter