Munster Academy 6, Cornish Pirates 10
THE Cornish Pirates took a massive stride towards the knock-out stages of the British & Irish Cup with a dramatic injury time try to beat Munster Academy at a windswept Clonmel RFC.
On a night when the stormy conditions frustrated the attempts of both sides to play an open game, the Pirates found themselves trailing 6-3 in the dying minutes after being in front at half-time.
But power and precision from the forwards right at the death, with the Munster pack trapped on their own line, earned a series of scrums from penalties. And as Munster infringed once too often, referee Ian Tempest ran to the posts to award a penalty try. Rob Cook converted to seal a notable victory.
Forwards coach Ian Davies was delighted with the result. He said: "It was a game of two halves because the wind was a major factor in how both teams played. There was a huge rain shower round about half-time too and it all made it difficult to control the ball.
"But that said, we bossed the scrum and the breakdown all game and that won us the match in the end.
"We allowed them to get field position in the second half but felt it was a bit tough on us at 6-3, although we knew that if we could get in their 22 we would win.
"Wardy's (Dave Ward) breakout did just that and after so many scrums right on their line the penalty call was the right one."
Munster coach Ian Costello named a strong side for the game including a host of players with RaboDirect PRO12 League experience and Ireland internationals Peter Stringer and Mick O'Driscoll.
Stringer, with 98 senior caps to his name, was up against Tom Kessell at scrum half, but the young Pirate put in a solid shift, keeping club skipper Gavin Cattle on the bench for the whole game.
His Irish opponent was withdrawn in the second half and Davies praised Kessell's contribution. He said: "He had a really good game. He bossed the forwards really well all night and gave us the luxury of not having to play Catts."
Davies also commended the efforts of debutant Matt Evans as the Canada international made his first start for the Pirates at full-back.
He said: "Matt was good out there. The wind howling straight down the ground made it tough for the backs but he was lively all night especially when counter-attacking."
Costello felt that his team should have won but conceded where it all went wrong for Munster.
He said: "I thought we were in control and had chances to finish off the game.
"What transpired should have been in our control but we lost more lineouts than we would have expected, threw away a couple of loose passes in attacking positions, and turned over a couple of vital scrums. But for all that we could still have won."
After playing with the gale at their backs in the first half the Pirates turned around with only a Cook penalty to show for their efforts despite dominating the set piece and the breakdown with a physically dominant display.
Two Nick Deasy penalties from right in front of the Pirates posts early in the second half shifted the momentum back in favour of the Irishmen and with Blair Cowan in the sin-bin the Pirates were forced to dig deep as chances came and went for both teams.
But with only minutes to go hooker Dave Ward was able to clear his lines with a kick deep into Munster territory and from the resulting lineout and drive the Pirates set up camp on the Munster line.
With the clock in the red zone Munster conceded the decisive penalty try and left the Pirates needing to beat Welsh side Cross Keys at home next month to book their place in the final eight of the tournament.