Munster maul Australia again
Munster 15 Australia 6: Munster boys became men last night on a magical night in a month when the relationship between Irish rugby and its supporters has chilled. In horrendous conditions, trust Munster to put the soul back into Irish rugby.
Still unbeaten in Thomond Park against Australia, Munster have now won four of six meetings with the Wallabies as this enchanted evening joined those previous wins in Musgrave Park and, of course, the unforgettable '78 All Blacks success.
This was a night when the next generation maintained the glorious traditions of their forebears.
The treacherous conditions were immediately apparent, as Munster coughed possession from their first rumble, turning over and affording Berrick Barnes an unlikely punt.
Barnes had grubbered his opening restart, but the conditions favoured his early loosener from far out on the right hand side, judging the swirling wind to the millimetre, to give the visitors an early lead.
Back came Munster though, Duncan Williams thieving Barnes' second restart.
Ian Nagle, all 6' 6” of him, secured two throws deep in territory and Munster's maul had Australia in heaps of difficulty; from his second, Paul Warwick launched his first incision against the old country, deftly chipping a drop goal to level matters.
Sensing blood, Munster launched a series of punishing phases from the subsequent five-metre put-in, eking out a penalty advantage, but after being held up, they carelessly lost their second scrum and Barnes' boot returned them to whence they started.
Instead of a possible seven points, they had none.
Minutes later, Niall Ronan was pinged on the floor and Barnes stabbed home his second penalty.
Munster began to master the conditions while Australia struggled to extract maximum benefit from the wind behind them.
Referee Bryce Lawrence carded Anthony Faingaa for holding on in the tackle as Munster pressurised, the binning a legacy of Munster's earlier siege when captain Barnes had been delivered a final team warning.
This time, Warwick gambled audaciously that his side should profit this time. Incredulously, he did so into the teeth of the gale blowing into the Ballynanty End; 6-6 against a hurricane.
Australia sent on Pat McCutcheon for the second-half and he immediately repaid the favour by holding on to the restart for too long under pressure from Damian Varley. Warwick converted for 9-6.
Faingaa returned and Australia were restored to their full complement. It was looking like they would need them.
Another 49th minute penalty from Warwick doubled the lead as Munster sought to turn the screw in the third quarter.
Warwick then slotted another drop goal and just failed to make it 18-6 right at the death.