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Edinburgh 13 Munster 17: Earls score proves the key at Murrayfield again as Edinburgh lose out to Munster

Darcy Graham tries to breach the Munster defence at Murrayfield.
Darcy Graham tries to breach the Munster defence at Murrayfield.

A late try by Keith Earls – just as he did for Ireland last month – proved just enough for Munster to defeat Edinburgh in a gruelling Heineken Champions Cup battle at Murrayfield.

Edinburgh led 13-10 going into the final ten minutes of a dour struggle for the neutral but a compelling one for the 36,358 crowd, but had turned down an easy chance to stretch their lead to 16-10 before Earls struck with the key score, his second of the match.

The Scots will regard this as a glaring opportunity missed, as they turned down nine fairly simple kickable points in the match to test but fail to breach the blanket Munster defence in their own 22.

Edinburgh did build into a good try from centre Chris Dean in the first half after Earls’ quick wits had produced the first score, but despite the promptings of Darcy Graham they weren’t able to force scoreboard pressure despite the majority of possession and territory.

Munster were unambitious and built on forward power and not a little cynicism as usual, but they were resilient when it mattered and perhaps their slight advantage in big match experience told most at the end of the contest.

Edinburgh were twice turned over in the shadow of the Munster posts, failed to exploit a yellow card and surrendered a converted try when up a man, yet still managed to end the first half with a narrow lead.

Twice in the first 15 minutes the home side opted not to take a routine three points from penalties and kicked to the corner, only for their driving mauls to be stalled and the ball to be turned over by Munster jackals after a succession of short-range forward drives.

One swift move from spilled ball in their own half saw Dean rescue ball as it rolled towards touch and Tadgh Beirne cynically killed the ball in retreat, deservedly being given a yellow card for his troubles.

But Jack O’Donoghue won a key turnover right under his own crossbar to deny Munster and a Connor Murray bomb caused problems for Edinburgh’s defenders, Duhan van der Merwe adjudged to have carried the ball back in-goal.

With centre Chris Farrell in the scrum to make up the numbers, Henry Pyrgos crept offside and as Edinburgh hesitated, Keith Earls took a quick tap to himself and darted over the line from eight metres, Joey Carbery converting.

Edinburgh heads could have gone down after their early dominance still saw them trailing, but instead there were a couple of sparks from Darcy Graham and they crucially began to play slightly wider in their phases, which had an almost immediate effect.

Stuart McInally won a penalty on the ground and from the attacking lineout after the penalty, Graham almost darted in before Pyrgos’ quick fired pass found Dean hitting a gap for the try, Jaco van der Walt tying the scores with the penalty.

One thrilling counterattack run by Graham from his own 22 had the huge crowd on their feet but it was strong work from Damien Hoyland in attack that forced a Munster defender to come in from the side of a ruck in his 22.

This time van der Walt did go for the posts and kicked the penalty to have Edinburgh 10-7 ahead at the break.

Munster quickly drew level when Bill Mata was adjudged to have tackled high on Chris Farrell, Tyler Bleyendaal, a replacement for Joey Carbery, landing the penalty.

But Edinburgh regained the lead after just three minutes, a Pyrgos high kick putting pressure on Andrew Conway and Hamish Watson forced the holding on penalty, van der Walt kicking Edinburgh back ahead.

The home side thought they had the real turning point on the hour, with Munster pressing and choosing to scrum a penalty in the 22, but instead conceded one as the Edinburgh scrum put the squeeze on.

But they chose to scrum a penalty right under the posts on their next attack, and Munster easily swallowed up the wide attack that followed, forcing Hoyland into touch.

And a surely certain 16-10 lead turned into a 17-13 deficit  when Schoeman’s late hit on Tadgh Beirne was spotted by the TMO, and Munster kicked the penalty deep into the 22.

The lineout was overthrown, but Bleyendaal retrieved the ball and Murray changed direction superbly for Farrell to give Earls the run, the wing just getting the ball down in the corner for the try, converted superbly by Bleyendaal.

Edinburgh kept battling in the final moments but Munster held firm and finally forced a knock on in the third minute after the regulation 80 had expired to secure the victory.

Att: 36,358

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; G Gilchrist, B Toolis; J Barclay, H Watson, V Mata.

Replacements: R Ford for McInally 76, A Dell for Schoeman 76, S Berghan for Nel 55, M Bradbury for Barclay 55, J Ritchie for Watson 72, C Shiel for Pyrgos 76, S Hickey, M Bennett for Johnstone 72.

Munster: A Conway; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, R Scannell, K Earls; J Carbery, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, N Scannell, J Ryan; J Kleyn, T Beirne; P O’Mahony, J O’Donoghue, CJ Stander.

Replacements: J Louchman for Kilcoyne 66, S Archer for Ryan 56, B Holland for Kleyn 60, A Botha for O’Donoghue 28, T Bleyendaal for Carbery 36.

Ref: P Gauzere (FFR)

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