Edinburgh coach Michael Bradley could have been forgiven for getting his hopes up of another remarkable comeback on Saturday night but his native province know a thing or two about dramatic finishes as well and they closed out this game 34-17 at windswept Thomond Park long before the finish.
Bradley felt that Edinburgh did well to contain Munster in the opening half when the champions had the wind at their backs, but he was disappointed with their second-half performance.
There was to be no repeat of the comeback which floored Racing Metro as Munster, despite being shorn of their Irish internationals as part of the mandatory national player welfare programme, closed out the game. They won their two Heineken Cup games thanks to last-gasp Ronan O’Gara drop goals, but it was their young guns who did the damage this time round.
“At 13-10 I thought we had a good chance to get something out of the game, but we are disappointed really with our game management in the second half, we were poor,” said Bradley.
“We potentially should have been down a lot more at half-time, but we weren’t. At 13-5 it was reasonably okay. We had a strong wind and I think we got the first score of the second half, we were in a good position then but we lost our shape.”
Edinburgh’s cause was not helped by wayward goalkicking from Phil Godman, with Bradley confirming afterwards that a groin injury was the reason Chris Paterson was not called up to take the kicks. “He has got a groin injury so he is protecting that. It would have been great if he kicked them, it would have been marvellous,” he said.
Edinburgh’s hopes floundered when Scottish referee Neil Paterson sent tighthead Jack Gilding to the sin bin after 54 minutes and then loosehead Kyle Traynor four minutes later for persistent infringements and Munster, predictably, turned the screw.
Early on, Edinburgh did a good containment job on the champions when Munster had the elements at their backs.
Ian Keatley missed with a penalty after just two minutes but a minute later it was Keatley’s inventive running and a desperately poor tackle by Sep Visser on Denis Hurley that left Danny Barnes with the easiest of canters in behind the posts.
Keatley added the extras to give Munster a 7-0 lead, while his opposite number Godman failed with a simple penalty three minutes later.
Godman’s luck changed in the 12th minute as he got on the end of a breakaway after Kealtley’s poor attempt at a chip through was intercepted by tight-head Jack Gilding.
Sensing that he didn’t have the legs to make it all the way from halfway, Gilding found Netani Talei, who in turn freed Godman down the left, who did very well to touch down under pressure form Simon Zebo.
Keatley narrowly missed with another penalty from halfway after 20 minutes, but six minutes later he couldn’t miss from under the posts to give Munster a 10-5 advantage. And a minute before the break the fly-half — playing against the coach who gave him his break at Connacht — landed his second penalty to send the home side in 13-5 ahead at the break. It was the least that their enterprising play deserved.
Tom Brown pulled the visitors back within three of their hosts when he stretched superbly to cross the line for a try after 49 minutes. Godman once again failed with the conversion.
But in a four-minute spell of seven reset scrums that saw both Edinburgh props sent to the bin, Munster finally forced the penalty try, which Keatley converted.
And playing with 13 men Edinburgh were bound to struggle to stay in touch and Zebo capped an excellent display with Munster’s third try in the 66th minute as Greg Laidlaw’s late try failed to force a losing bonus point as O’Dea touched down late on to seal a memorable debut.
Edinburgh will now look to get back to winning ways when they host Aironi this weekend and Bradley is pleased with the way younger players are making their mark when they get the chance. “We have introduced a lot of young players and we are very happy with them. The balance of the side is pretty good at the moment. Like Munster when we roll out our top side, we are a dangerous side. There are elements of our game that are not perfect at the moment, we have to really concentrate on first phase and get that right. But once the ball is in play we are a dangerous side. The mentality in the defence is improving all the so that is important to us as well,” added Bradley.
Scorers: Munster: Tries: Barnes, Pen try, Zebo, O’Dea. Cons: Keatley (4). Pens: Keatley (2). Edinburgh: Tries: Godman, Brown, Laidlaw. Cons: Laidlaw.
Munster: D Hurley; L O’Dea, W Chambers, D Barnes, S Zebo; I Keatley, T O’Leary; M Horan, D Fogarty, S Archer, D O’Callaghan, M O’Driscoll (captain), B Holland, T O’Donnell, P Butler. Replacements: J Coughlan for Butler, 67; D Williams for O’Leary, 69; S Henry for Fogarty, 69; J Hayes for Archer, 69; J Ryan for Horan, 75; I Nagle for O’Callaghan, 76; T Gleeson for Zebo, 76; S Deasy for Keatley, 76.
Edinburgh: C Paterson; S Visser, J Thompson, J King, T Brown; P Godman, M Blair; K Traynor, S Lawrie (captain), J Gilding, S Cox, S Turnbull, Ni Talei, R Rennie, S McInally. Replacements: H Leonard for Thompson, 23; L Niven for Rennie, 54; R Hislop for King, 58; G Laidlaw for Godman, 64; E Lozada for Turnbull, 68; R Grant for Talei, 72; G Hunter for Paterson, 76.