Rugby Union: Delight of Tobin turns to distress

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Pontypool. . .20

Munster. . . .31

MUNSTER are three weeks away from facing the Wallabies in Cork and, on last night's relatively pleasing evidence at Pontypool Park, in reasonable form and spirits. If only the attrition rate had not been so high.

First Derek Tobin and then Billy O'Shea made a painful exit, though in both cases the damage is said to be less than it seemed when they departed, Tobin unable to walk on a bruised ankle and O'Shea on a stretcher with a neck strain.

A few minutes earlier Tobin had scored the first of Munster's tries, a delightful effort in which Ben Cronin drew the Pontypool defence at a scrum, allowing Tobin to dummy one way and then the other before scoring.

After that Munster pulled away - which made a pleasant change, considering they had already lost to Irish Exiles and drawn with Saracens this season. Nor are Pontypool, despite winning their last two Welsh League games, any great shakes, and only a half-dozen of the team who had beaten Bridgend last Saturday appeared again last night.

Munster steadily built their lead through George O'Sullivan's place-kicking and further excellent tries. Richard Wallace's scalding pace exploited a break by Charlie Haly, the 1990 Oxford University full-back, and Haly himself was the beneficiary when Brian Walsh gave the scoring pass.

This is the province which made itself famous with the 1978 win over the All Blacks in Limerick - the last year, incidentally, in which Munster took the Irish provincial title. Their hopes of doing the same to the Wallabies are done no harm by the match being in midweek but would have been still higher if Limerick rather than Cork were to be the venue.

Even the Corkmen on the Munster committee agree with that but because Argentina played in Limerick two years ago, Buggins' turn takes the game to Musgrave Park. Which is hard luck on Limerick, since New Zealand played in Cork in 1989. Irishmen, of all rugby men, should know the advantage of maximising your assets, especially when they are limited.

Anyway, it scarcely augurs well for the tour match that last night Munster's superiority slipped so far in the second half. Indeed, the only tries were scored by Pontypool, churning runs by Paul Hewitt and Frank Jacas creating a try for Paul Taylor and a length-of-the-field move culminating in another by the same player.

Pontypool: Tries P Taylor 2; Conversions Jonathan 2; Penalties Hanson 2. Munster: Tries Tobin, Wallace, Haly; Conversions O'Sullivan 2; Penalties O'Sullivan 4.

PONTYPOOL: W Taylor; M Taylor, P Taylor, L Jones, A Ward; S Hanson, C Jonathan; A Dibble, T Rogers, K Burke, C Crane, F Jacas, S Jackson, R Goodey (capt), P Hewitt. Replacement: A Pickering for Rogers, 21.

MUNSTER: C Haly (Constitution); R Wallace, P Danaher (Garryowen), B Walsh (Constitution), W O'Shea (Shannon); G O'Sullivan (Highfield), D Tobin (Young Munster); R Duggan (Old Crescent), T Kingston (Dolphin, capt), P Clohessy (Young Munster), M Galwey (Shannon), R Costello, P Hogan, B Cronin (Garryowen), G Earls (Young Munster). Replacements: I Barry (Garryowen) for Tobin, 19; J Clarke (Dolphin) for O'Shea, 34.

Referee: H Wilson (Port Eynon).