Edinburgh’s fall from grace continued apace at Thomond Park when last year’s semi- finalists saw their Heineken Cup dream evaporate for another season.
The 33-0 defeat by Munster leaves Edinburgh as the only side in the two European competitions without a score after two games and Michael Bradley with a huge task to lift his demoralised troops.
A bruised and battered Edinburgh have conceded 78 points without reply in this year’scompetition – last week, crashed 45-0 at home to Saracens – and, while the game was tight for long periods, Munster cut loose in the closing stages.
All four tries came in the last half an hour, before which Edinburgh trailed just 6-0, but they had no answer when Munster, beaten away to Racing Metro in their opening game, upped the tempo.
“It has knocked the confidence from us a bit,” said Bradley. “We were tighter this week against Munster in the first half, but we never put Munster under any pressure in the full 80 minutes. We actually created a lot more against Sarries.
“I am embarrassed again I am afraid. First-half, 6-0; we would have taken that; it didn’t flatter Munster. Our thought process was to get the ball down in their half and put the pressure on from there.
“But we weren’t really able to impose that game plan on them and they did their work better than us. In particular I thought they were very good at the breakdown. They dominated us, very much so in the second half after gaining an edge in the first half.
“We turned over a lot of ball in contact and lost a lot of ball as the second man or third man into the breakdown. You won’t win matches doing that, and then we finished poorly again, like we did last week.”
Bradley now faces the huge task of lifting the battered spirits of his squad ahead of Friday’s RaboDirect Pro12 clash against Scarlets, who themselves have lost both their Heineken Cup games.
But he must do so with a weakened hand after a bruising Thomond Park encounter took its toll. “It’s not so good,” he said. “I think Dimitri (Basilaia), Netani (Talei), Gregor Hunter and Ben Atiga are going to be out for the foreseeable future.
“Gregor has concussion, Dimitri has a hamstring and the other two lads have knee injuries. The extent of them I don’t know. But Tim (Visser) had a dead leg so he’ll be fine. That is not going to put him out.”
But Sunday’s display left Edinburgh fans perplexed as to how a side that reached the semi-finals six months ago could fail to impact the scoreline in their first two games in this year’s competition.
Conor Murray, Peter O’Mahony, Sean Dougall and Damien Varley all crossed for the home side, but the lethargic manner of this defeat will concern Bradley most.
His opposite number, Rob Penney, admitted his side smelled blood in the final quarter and went gung-ho for the five-point haul.
“With 20 to go they were out on their feet, hence our desire to play for the bonus point,” said Penney, after his first Heineken Cup win as Munster boss.
“I’d say it had more to do with the fact that they are in a dark place at the moment and finding it tough. When they got behind to a stage where the game was gone, their wheels fell off a bit.”
Yet despite all their frailties, Edinburgh still only trailed Munster by 6-0 in the 50th minute. But then, Conor Murray scrambled for Munster’s opening try, before three futher tries in the last nine minutes sealed the maximum haul for Munster.
Lining out without the influential duo of Tim Visser and Greig Laidlaw, Edinburgh rarely broke into the Munster 22, and any time they did a series of unforced errors saw the home side escape unscathed.
Munster hit the front after just four minutes when their traditional rolling maul earned them a penalty when Sean Cox entered from the side.
Keatley, in just his second Heineken Cup start for Munster and first at out-half, nailed the kick from the right to give Munster the start that their early endeavour deserved.
Bradley’s side were really struggling to compete with their hosts, with lineout, scrum and the breakdown all being bossed by Munster.
But despite struggling with the intensity of Penney’s side, Edinburgh still went in at the break trailing by just 6-0 after the home side were guilty of a high unforced error count of their own.
The closest either side came to the opening try in the first half came in the 13th minute when Donncha O’Callaghan came within a hair’s breadth of gathering Keatley’s crossfield kick.
Edinburgh continued to stay with their hosts after the restart, but once they got a sniff of the win, Edinburgh never looked like troubling Munster in this humour.
Munster: Tries: C Murray, P O’Mahony, S Dougall, D Varley.
Cons: I Keatley (2).
Pens: I Keatley (3).
Munster: D Hurley; D Howlett, C Laulala, J Downey, S Zebo; I Keatley, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, BJ Botha; Donncha O’Callaghan, P O’Connell; D Ryan, S Dougall, P O’Mahony. Replacements: B Holland for O’Connell (62), D Varley for Sherry (63), F Jones for Howlett (66), P Butler for O’Callaghan (72), JJ Hanrahan for Downey (72), M Horan for Kilcoyne (80).
Edinburgh: G Tonks; L Jones, N de Luca, B Atiga, T Brown; G Hunter, R Rees; J Yapp, R Ford, G Cross; G Gilchrist, S Cox; D Denton, S McInally, N Talei. Replacements: M Scott for Atiga (13), WP Nel for Cross (h-t), D Basilaia for Talei (52), D Fife for Hunter (64), R McAlpine for Cox (74), R Hislop for Yapp (77).
Referee: Wayne Barnes (RFU).