Edinburgh Miss Out on European Semi-Final As Munster Snatch a Close Win
It was a heartbreaking end to their Champions Cup campaign as Richard Cockerill’s Edinburgh fell just four points short of Munster at BT Murrayfield as the Irish province progressed to the semi-finals with a 17-13 win in the capital.
Chris Dean celebrates scoring what would be Edinburgh’s only try in the match against Munster. (Photo: Edinburgh Rugby twitter)
In the first Champions Cup quarter final of the weekend, Edinburgh and Munster emerged from the tunnel to a near 37,000 strong crowd at BT Murrayfield on Saturday afternoon for the earlier than usual 12:45pm kick-off.
Almost immediately, the crowd waged its own battle as the ‘Fields of Athenry’ came up against the Scottish bagpipes. Meanwhile, on the pitch, both scrum halves – Pyrgos for Edinburgh, and Murray for Munster – had to combat some serious defensive pressure whilst trying to provide ball to their attacking line.
Edinburgh showed belief in their own abilities as the first two penalties they were awarded in the Munster half – and within kicking distance of the posts – they chose to kick to touch instead and hedge their bets against the Munster forwards at the lineout.
In the resulting play from the lineout, they also looked determined to effectively use both forwards and backs, putting the ball through the recycled phases rather than chip-kicking ahead, which would run the risk of forfeiting possession.
Throughout the first quarter, the box kick and high ball take were key for both sides. Edinburgh’s key men in the battle were Duhan Van Der Merwe who looked completely comfortable under the ball and Hamish Watson who was determined to make nuisance of himself to any opposition back attempting to take the ball.
Another Edinburgh flanker, John Barclay had a moment outwith a forward’s comfort zone as he found himself breaking the Munster line with ball in hand but with no support, so the veteran chose to kick ahead.
The resulting scramble for the ball was pure chaos as both sides grappled to claim it before it could bob into touch. Keith Earls attempted to gather but the ball slid from his grasp, Chris Dean lunged for it, managing to flick it back to Watson who handed off to Barclay but Munster’s Tadgh Beirne demonstrated cynical play for staying on the ball to hinder Edinburgh’s chance to take ball from the ruck.
For his efforts, Beirne was shown a yellow card by referee Pascal Gauzere and so, Munster were one man down for the proceeding ten minutes, right in the middle of a serious Edinburgh attack. Cockerill’s men were inches from the line on repetitive phases, but just as they thought themselves to be over the line under the posts, the ref deemed they had not released on the ground, so Munster took the penalty opportunity to clear their lines.
Ultimately, it was Munster who were to score first in the match. Having made their way all the way down to the Edinburgh 22, the Irish visitors were awarded a scrum on the 5m line. Henry Pyrgos tried desperately to steal the ball as Murray looked to take it from the feet of CJ Stander. However, he knocked it down, in what looked to be a knock on, and so the referee awarded Munster a penalty.
Before Edinburgh could even blink, Earls had taken the tap quickly and went on a jet course through the remnants of the scrum to soar over the line for his side’s first try. Joey Carberry then stepped up to add the conversion points to the board.
Edinburgh immediately were on the hunt for retribution as the patiently went through the attacking phases, eventually arriving in the Munster 22 with a penalty which allowed them to utilise their set piece at the lineout once more.
Having won the jump contest, Edinburgh put the ball through its phases – but it was not an easy task for them. First James Johnstone thought he was through but was smashed in a tackle by his opposite number Chris Farrell. Darcy Graham then broke the line but his heal was caught and the young Hawick man was unable to crawl for the line. Eventually though, it was fan-favourite centre Chris Dean who managed to put Edinburgh on the score board. Jaco Van Der Walt converted in order to level the scores.
One point of debate that will emerge from this game was whether the referee’s decision to only give a penalty for the tackle Andrew Conway made on Graham was the right decision. Graham was in the air contending for the high ball with Conway who looked to take Graham by the shirt collar – whilst still in the air – forcing Graham to the ground with no care taken to make sure he landed safely.
The last points of the half went to Edinburgh as Van Der Walt kicked an easy three points after Munster were penalised for playing the scrum half at the breakdown.
The teams emerged for the second half, with all of them surely realising just how close a game they were embroiled in and how much things could change for either of them in the proceeding 40 minutes. Munster equalised with a penalty of their own after six minutes of the half played as Tyler Bleyendaal slotted a penalty kick through the posts. The scores were thus even at 10-10, and everything was still to play for.
Edinburgh would see their last points of the game on 50 minutes when Van Der Walt kicked a penalty after Munster were penalised for a not releasing infringement at the breakdown.
Ultimately, the last score of the whole match would go to Munster – a score which has its origins back at a moment of adrenaline filled overprotectiveness by Pierre Schoemann. Van Der Walt was taken slightly late in a tackle, with Schoemann lightly barging Tadgh Beirne in retribution.
The referee then overturned what would have been an Edinburgh penalty, allowing the Irish side to kick to touch for the lineout in Edinburgh’s 22 which they took fast ball from, which eventually came to Earls who went over for his second of the day. Bleyendaal converted, taking the Irishmen four points ahead of the home side.
Despite a last minute, 30 plus phase drive from Edinburgh in desperate hope of a chance at crossing the whitewash, it was Munster, in their record 18th knockout appearance in Europe who took the win, and will proceed to the semi-final against Saracens.
Edinburgh: D Graham; D Hoyland, J Johnstone, C Dean, D Van Der Merwe; J Van Der Walt, H Pyrgos; P Schoeman, S McInally, WP Nel, B Toolis, G Gilchrist, J Barclay, H Watson, V Mata. Subs: R Ford, A Dell, S Berghan, M Bradbury, J Ritchie, C Shiel, S Hickey, M Bennett.
Munster: A Conway; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, R Scannell, K Earls; J Carberry, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan, J Kleyn, T Beirne, P O’Mahony, J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander. Subs: R Marshall, J Loughman, S Archer, B Holland, A Botha, A Mathewsoh, T Bleyendaal, D Goggin.
Referee: Pascal Gauzere.
Edinburgh: Tries: Dean. Cons: Van Der Walt. Pens: Van Der Walt 2.
Munster: Tries: Earls 2. Cons: Carberry, Bleyendaal. Pens: Bleyendaal.
Scoring Sequence (Edinburgh first): (0-0), (0-5), (0-7), (5-7), (7-7), (10-7) HT (10-10), (13-10), (13-15), (13-17) FT.
Yellow card: Tadgh Beirne (Munster).