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Holland keeps rampant Munster in chase for glory

 

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Billy Holland applauds the award of a scrum in Edinburgh

Billy Holland applauds the award of a scrum in Edinburgh

Billy Holland applauds the award of a scrum in Edinburgh

Wildly differing agendas on a wet and wild night in Edinburgh. For the home side, coach Richard Cockerill must be sick of the sight of Irish provinces making his life a misery over the last two seasons.

This latest collision has left him trailing Cardiff by five points in the Guinness PRO14 but with two games in hand, so qualifying for Europe is not off the table yet.

“We had an opportunity to take a losing point. Anything would have been good, but we couldn’t manage it,” Cockerill said.

“We know we’ve got to beat teams around us, so Scarlets and Benetton in the next two weeks are going to be very important games. Then we face Connacht, Cardiff and the Dragons.”

The problem for Cockerill is his team are a mile off the pace, so beating anyone is a mountain they have to climb. Once they had blown themselves out in this game after a bright start they were second best to Munster in everything. For man of the match Billy Holland, becoming the second most-capped Munster player, on 240, alongside Ronan O’Gara, it was a great night despite the horrible conditions.

“We’re delighted,” he said. “We played well. We controlled the set-piece and you have guys like Jack O’Donoghue and Craig Casey, picking and going from half a yard, it was a good performance.

“We’ve come away with the four points and I’m very happy with that.”

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That endgame went on for an age because of an injury to Edinburgh second-row Andrew Davidson. Earlier the same man had found his height a disadvantage when defending the line against Munster’s driving forwards, coaxed by Craig Casey. The scrum-half didn’t have to go too far to find the whitewash with a try that, improved by JJ Hanrahan, gave Munster a 17-3 half-time lead despite playing into the teeth of the wind. There was no way back for Edinburgh from there.

Once Munster had stopped giving away penalties — four in-a-row in the opening phases of play — they settled into a power game where their forwards were comfortably ahead at the scrum. The lineout too was a source of go-forward for the Reds, who opened with a try from Jack O’Donoghue on the half-hour mark.

Edinburgh, largely through Bill Mata at No 8, were better after the break with the Fijian scoring early, but they couldn’t escape from under the cosh of the Munster forwards. When Gavin Coombes got over midway through the half it left Edinburgh needing to score twice to win. Back-row is not a barren area for Munster or Ireland, but at the rate Coombes is motoring he’ll be getting a call from Andy Farrell.

In the end Edinburgh were left chasing one of those two scores, just to get a losing bonus point, but came up short. They have won just four of 11 games in a miserable campaign.

Meantime, Munster drive on, with all the bits and pieces functioning well. By the time this competition comes down to the argument over silverware, they should be in prime moving order.

Belfast Telegraph


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