A LAST gasp try from South African winger Gerhard van den Heever helped Munster ‘A’ secure a dramatic, 30-15, bonus point win over a plucky Nottingham side in their British and Irish Cup tie played at St Mary’s RFC, Grove Island, this Friday night.
Munster A skipper Barry O’Mahony put van den Heever clear down the right touchline and the winger showed a good turn of pace to score his second try with the final play of an entertaining game.
The maximum five-point haul ensures Peter Malone’s Munster ‘A’ side remain deadlocked with Plymouth Albion at the top of Pool 4 with 18 points ahead of next weekend’s final series of pool fixtures.
While Munster A travel to Scotland to take on basement side Stirling County at Bridgehaugh on Saturday at 3pm, Plymouth Albion face a trip to Meadow Lane to face Nottingham. Munster ‘A’ need to better Plymouth’s result in order to finish ahead of the English side in the table as Albion currently top the pool on points difference. As well as the six pool winners, the two best runners-up also qualify for the quarter-finals of the British and Irish Cup this season, so all may not be lost for Malone’s charges if they cannot beat Plymouth’s result next weekend.
Munster ‘A’ head coach, Peter Malone said: “There were good and bad aspects to our play tonight. We faded massively at the end of our first half and allowed them back into. They capitalised on our mistakes and errors mostly to kick their way back into the game.
“We were looking to win this game and hoped for a bonus point to keep the pressure on Plymouth. To finish like we did with those two tries after being pegged back to 15-15 was massive for us. It really keeps us in the frame in the competition. We were going to be under massive pressure if we didn’t get that fourth try. It was up and down, but I must commend the heart and the commitment the lads showed right to the end. It mirrors what is going on with the senior squad at the moment. There is a never-say-die attitude and hopefully it is filtering down to the whole squad.”
Munster ‘A’ produced a mixed bag before a sizeable crowd at St Mary’s RFC on Friday night. Early tries from Denis Hurley and an intercept from van den Heever helped the home side build a significant 15-3 lead after 23 minutes. However, Munster ‘A’, who lost centre Ivan Dineen to an ankle injury early on, also lost their way somewhat through the second quarter and the visitors had drawn level, 15-15, early in the second half. Nottingham’s points came courtesy of five penalty goals from the boot of former Garryowen and Connacht out-half, Matt Jarvis.
The second half was held up for almost 12 minutes due to an unfortunate injury to Nottingham lock Tom Price who was stretchered off the pitch and replaced by Neilus Keogh, brother of former Munster and Leinster back-row Stephen.
A scrum penalty to Munster on the hour mark provided Johnny Holland with the chance to put the home side in front, 18-15, before full-back Ronan O’Mahony pounced on a neat grubber kick from the out-half to score Munster A’s third try on 70 minutes.
Holland converted and van den Heever’s late, late touchdown ensured Munster ‘A’ collected all five points on offer.
SCORERS - Munster: Gerhard van den Heever two tries, Denis Hurley, Ronan O’Mahony try each, Johnny Holland two pens, two cons. Nottingham: Matt Jarvis five pens.
MUNSTER ‘A’ - Ronan O’Mahony; Gerhard van den Heever, Ivan Dineen, Denis Hurley, Darren Sweetnam; Johnny Holland, Gerry Hurley; Alan Cotter, Ger Slattery, John Ryan; Ian Nagle, Darren O’Shea; Dave O’Callaghan, Barry O’Mahony (Capt), Paddy Butler. Replacements: Cian Bohane for Dineen (injured, 23 mins), Brian Haugh for Gerry Hurley, Shane Buckley for O’Callaghan (both 58 mins).
NOTTINGHAM - Andrew Savage; Olly Woodburn, George Catchpole, Joe Munro, Ryan Hough; Matthew Jarvis, Sean Romans; Ryan Bower, Alun Walker, Harry Williams; Tom Price, Dan Montagu; Kiefer Laxton, Brent Wilson (Capt), Tom Calladine. Replacements: Neilus Keogh for Price (injured, 49 mins) Harry Thacker for Walker, Finlay Barnham for Romans (both 55 mins), Campese Ma’Afu for Bower, Michael Holford for Williams (both 60 mins).
REFEREE - Vlad Iordescu (Romania)