MUNSTER U-19s were forced to give second best to Australia Schools, 16-13, in their glamour international fixture played at a windy Thomond Park this (Tuesday) evening, despite a gutsy final quarter comeback.
Munster U-19s rallied from 16-6 down with less than 20 minutes remaining to trail by just three points, thanks to a try from replacement Cormac Blake, of Crescent College Comprehensive, and conversion from out-half Tomas Quinlan, late on.
Indeed, the home side looked to have earned a decent shot at drawing level in the closing minutes when awarded a kickable penalty close to the Australian Schools’ side’s ‘22.
However, the home side turned down the opportunity of a kick at goal, opting instead to kick the ball to touch in the windy conditions.
The Munster side’s bravery wasn’t rewarded, however, when the ball was kicked ‘dead’ from the penalty and the Australians were relieved to be awarded a scrum back.
Australia had deservingly led 8-3 at half-time after the visitors dominated for much of the opening half.
The physically bigger and stronger Aussies got off to the best possible start, jumping into an early 8-0 lead with out-half Mitchell Third kicking a second minute penalty goal and full-back Adrian Henley crashing over for a well-worked try.
To their credit, Munster, with eight Limerick-based players in their starting line-up, remained well in the contest and a seventh minute penalty goal from out-half Tomas Quinlan kept the home side within five points, 3-8, at the break.
Aussie out-half Third and Quinlan traded further penalties in the third quarter, before a fine try from Australia winger Harry Jones helped the visitors move 16-6 clear.
Blake’s try gave Munster hope, but the home side ultimately ran out of time, despite emptying the replacements bench.
Afterwards Munster head coach, Keith Murphy said: “We are well proud of what the guys did tonight. They gave a very good account of themselves against a very strong, physical Australian side. I would never question the players’ decision (not to kick for goal late on) when they’re on the pitch.
“These players tend to back themselves a lot. There were some simple unforced, basic errors made in the second half, without which we could have had more advantage and momentum. They are the few things the players will rue tomorrow.”
SCORERS: Munster U-19: Cormac Blake try, Tomas Quinlan two pens, one con.Australia Schools: Adrian Henley, Harry Jones try each, Mitchell Third two pens
MUNSTER U-19: Stephen Fitzgerald (Ardscoil Ris); Greg O’Shea (Shannon RFC), Steven McMahon Capt (Garryowen FC), JJ O’Neill (Crescent College Comprehensive) Ben Murphy (Highfield); Tomas Quinlan (Cork Con), David O’Mahony (Rockwell); Liam O’Connor (CBC), Jack Boland (Dublin University), Michael O’Donnell (Crescent College Comprehensive); Frank Bradshaw Ryan (Shannon), Johnathan Keane (Crescent College Comprehensive); Ben Kilkenny (St Munchin’s College), Luke O’Leary (UCC), Michael Murphy (Cork Con). Replacements used: Luke O’Halloran (St Munchin’s College), Tobi Ademakin (Garryowen FC), Jack O’Halloran (Ard scoil Ris), Aaron Hogan (UCC), Cormac Blake (Crescent College Comprehensive), John Poland (PBC), Gearoid Lyons (Shannon RFC), Paul Kiernan (PBC).
AUSTRALIA SCHOOLS: Adrian Henley, Harry Jones, Andrew Kellaway Capt., Keith Morgan, James Todd; Mitchell Third, Mitchell Short; Fereti Sa’aga, Alex Mafi, Matt Gibbon; Lachlan Cannell, Maclean Jones; David Morris, Timote Tai, Rohboni Warren Vosayaco. Replacements used: Evander Guttenbeil, Vunipola Fifita, Josh Anderson, Lolo Faka’osilea, Jack McCalman, Andrew Deegan, Taane Milne, Henry Hutchinson.
REFEREE: Gary Conway (IRFU)