Ronan O'Gara risks citing ban before cautious Munster's day of destiny

Edinburgh 17 Munster 26

Murrayfield

That Munster are a team in transition was clear to see here in the east end of the Scottish capital today. Whether they are a side in the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup is something hanging tantalisingly in the balance after their failure to put Edinburgh fully to the sword.

The Scots were the swashbuckling surprise package of the season last term, running in a bucketful of tries and racking up the scalps en route to the semi-finals. Twelve months on, Michael Bradley's men have yet to get a point in their pool after five rounds. They were there for the bonus point taking yesterday but the Munster of 2013 are not the clinical Munster of old.

They were never in danger of failing to gain the victory they required to reach the final weekend still in the hunt for a quarter-final spot but they are now joint third in line for one of the two best pool runner-up qualifying places – level on 15 points with Leinster, behind Montpellier (18) and Leicester (16). They paid the price for affording Edinburgh too much respect in the first half and could only manage two of the four tries they needed after the interval for what would have been a vital bonus point.

As it is, the two-time champions have Racing Metro at home next Sunday, a day after Leinster travel to Munster. "I suspect we'll need a bonus-point win," Rob Penney, Munster's Kiwi head coach, said. "Any team coming to Thomond Park is going to be in for a battle. It should be a really exciting Sunday afternoon with so much at stake in the one fixture."

Whether Ronan O'Gara will be free to join in the excitement remains to be seen. The veteran outside-half escaped punishment for an off-the-ball tussle with Edinburgh lock Sean Cox but a citing could yet deprive Penney of the services of the Munster points machine for next Sunday's decider.

It did not take O'Gara long to get the scoreboard ticking yesterday, on the occasion of his 108th appearance in the continent's premier club competition. With two minutes on the clock, the 35-year-old launched a centimetre-perfect Garryowen than had Greig Tonks, the home full-back, pinned to the floor and Edinburgh conceding a penalty at the ruck.

O'Gara landed the three points and followed up with a kick to the right corner that earned Munster a prime attacking platform. Still, hooker Damien Varley failed to find Donncha O'Callaghan with his throw to the back of the line-out and the chance went begging.

A similar mess up from a defensive line-out put Munster under pressure, Edinburgh No 8 Dave Denton almost barging his way through for a try. There was also a penalty miss from O'Gara as the contest ticked into the second quarter with Munster just the three points ahead.

The stand-off made amends with a second penalty success in the 25th minute, but as half time loomed the visitors were under increasing pressure to get a try on the board.

There were groans of surprise and disappointment from the Irish contingent in the crowd when Munster captain Doug Howlett instructed O'Gara to go for the posts rather than the corner from a scrum penalty on the half-hour.

The Corkman was on the mark but the points were almost immediately cancelled out when Greig Laidlaw landed his first pot at the posts at the other end.

Four minutes before the interval Munster again spurned the opportunity to go for the corner, O'Gara's right boot furnishing them with a 12-3 cushion. Not until the final minute of the opening half did they go for broke from an attacking penalty. The Edinburgh defence creaked but managed to hold out.

All of which left Munster facing an uphill struggle on the bonus point front. And that was before they were reduced to 14 men nine minutes into the second-half, loosehead prop Dave Kilcoyne being yellow carded for stopping Laidlaw taking a quick tap penalty.

Still, in the 54th minute Laidlaw himself was sent to the sin bin – rather harshly, having had little option other than to palm the ball out of play while trying to prevent Keith Earls from getting to a chip into the in-goal area from scrum-half Conor Murray. From the resulting penalty, the back-pedalling home pack rose to concede a penalty try award.

That left Munster 26 minutes to get three more five-point scores. The second arrived in the 62nd minute, Murray following up a charge by centre James Downey to dive over from close range. There were two more tries in the last eight minutes, but both were claimed by the Edinburgh wing Dougie Fife.

The red army of Munster fans could not hide their disappointment but Penney insisted he had no regrets about going for points rather than tries before the interval.

"It was critical that we got the win first," he said.

Edinburgh: Tries Fife 2; Conversions Laidlaw 2; Penalty Laidlaw. Munster: Tries Penalty try, Murray; Conversions O'Gara 2; Penalties O'Gara 4.

Edinburgh: G Tonks; D Fife, B Cairns (B Atiga, 55), M Scott, T Visser; G Laidlaw (capt), R Rees; R Hislop (A Allan, 71), S Lawrie (A Titterrell, 49), W Nel (G Cross, 71), G Gilchrist (N Talei, 71), S Cox, S McInally, D Basilaia (R Grant, h-t), D Denton.

Munster: F Jones; D Howlett (capt), K Earls, J Downey (C Laulala, 64), S Zebo; R O'Gara (I Keatley, 65), C Murray (D Williams, 71); D Kilcoyne, D Varley, BJ Botha, D O'Callaghan (B Holland, 71), D Ryan, P O'Mahony, T O'Donnell, J Coughlan (W du Preez, 51-59, P Butler, 65).

Referee: G Garner (RFU).

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future