Munster. . . . . 13
WHEN Munster's ring-rusty, though all-capped, front row was sent reeling by an exuberant trio of self-styled exiles at Sunbury the shock waves spread back through the whole team and a gentle smile played over the face of a former leading exponent of the art, Ireland's coach, Ciaran Fitzgerald.
In between guarded comments on the overall significance of Britain's first appearance as the fifth player in the Irish Inter-provincial championship, Fitzgerald did find time to say: 'Munster didn't expect that,' and add, 'it was good to see Gary Halpin (the Exiles tight-head prop) having such a good afternoon and clearly wanting his place back.'
Fitzgerald, and his fellow-selectors were also aware that, not unexpectedly, there was more track fitness than match fitness so early in the season. But he has only six weeks to settle an Ireland side to meet the world champions, Australia. On this showing the Wallabies will bounce all over them.
The Exiles captain, Jim Staples, perhaps the classiest act on the field, said they had expected Munster to come at them all guns blazing from the kick-off. Instead the urgency and initiative came from the nearly home side: 10 of the 15 starters were from London Irish.
But, apart from strength up front, they had also negated what should have been lock Richard Costelloe and No 8 Barry O'Mahony's superiority for Munster in the line-out. And they had a surprise trump card in the alert and creative open-side flanker Denis Kelly.
The Exiles coach, John O'Driscoll, who occupied the same position for Ireland, has promoted the Kiwi physiotherpist who plays his club rugby as captain of Manchester in Northern Division Two. 'If he played flank for Southlands when he was 19 then he had to be some player,' O'Driscoll said.
His only fear had been that his Exiles should have let the game slip midway through the second half. By then the fleet-footed Corcoran had kicked three penalties and converted the bulldozing try of the slightly unfit Western Samoan, Matt Keenan.
Not to be outdone, the rival lock, Costelloe, had profited from a charge upfield which began 15 minutes of unaccustomed ball starvation for the Exiles before they settled the win. 'It would have been a psychological blow that could have affected our game against Leinster in 10 days,' said O'Driscoll, who can now look forward to fielding not only a settled, but a winning team in Dublin.
Exiles: Try Keenan; Conversion Corcoran; Penalties Corcoran 4. Munster: Try Costelloe; Conversion O'Sullivan; Penalties O'Sullivan 2.
IRISH EXILES (London Irish unless stated): J Staples (capt); S Geoghegan, D Dooley (Saracens), D Curtis, M Corcoran; B Wellens (Orrell), R Saunders; N Donovan, J McFarland, G Halpin, J Etheridge (Northampton), M Keenan, D Cleary (Orrell), P Collins, D Kelly (Manchester). Replacement: D Lynagh (Paris University) for Wellens, 43.
MUNSTER: C Haly (Constitution); R Wallace (Garryowen), B Walsh (Constitution), J Clarke (Dolphin), W O'Shea (Shannon); D Larkin (Garryowen), O Kiely (Shannon); J Fitzgerald (Young Munster), T Kingston (Dolphin, capt), P McCarthy (Constitution), M Galwey (Shannon), R Costelloe (Garryowen), P O'Hara (Constitution), B B O'Mahony (UCC), G Earls (Young Munster). Replacements; G O'Sullivan (Highfield) for Larkin, 16; P Wallace (UCC) for Fitzgerald, 59; D O'Mahony (UCC) for Kiely, 81.
Referee: B Stirling (Ulster).Reuse content