Munster back at the top

08th Mar 2009, 08:15

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Munster went back to the top of the Magners League with a hard-fought 20-9 success over Dragons at a rain-sodden Rodney Parade on Saturday.

Munster went back to the top of the Magners League with a hard-fought 20-9 success over Dragons at a rain-sodden Rodney Parade on Saturday.

They scored the only two tries of the match and aided by some excellent kicking from Paul Warwick and some strong running from centre Lifeimi Mafi they held the spirited Dragons at bay.

It was a typical Munster performance, a strong defensive effort overcoming the loss of two men to the sin-bin in the second half - Alan Quinlan and Darragh Hurley - and scoring at vital times.

The Dragons had their chances but ultimately were guilty of poor ball retention and were devoid of attacking ideas in the difficult conditions.

Jason Tovey and Wayne Evans did make some progress with some incisive running but the tactical nous of Munster ensured their deserved win.

The Dragons were defeated 50-6 by Munster in Cork in September so against a much weakened Munster side they were hoping for much better fortunes.

The Irish were without nine of their best players including such notables as Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell and Doug Howlett, whereas The Dragons were able to include prop Rhys Thomas who is set to line up for Wales next Saturday in Italy.

Munster took an early lead when the Dragons lost the ball in midfield.

Tovey did well to get back to save but he conceded a penalty which Warwick kicked.

James Arlidge brought the scores level with a simple penalty but then Munster scored the try of the game.

They spun the ball along the three-quarter line for Dennis Hurley to burst into the line and send wing Ciaran O'Boyle on a 20-metre unopposed run to the line.

Warwick converted from near the touchline and kicked a penalty to give Munster a 10-point lead after 23 minutes.

Arlidge reduced the arrears with another penalty but immediately on doing so Richard Parks was sin-binned for a deliberate offside.

Rhys Thomas was lucky not to follow him for taking out an opponent minutes later but surprisingly Warwick was unable to take advantage missing both resulting penalties, the second of which, the last kick of the first half, was a virtual sitter.

As if inspired by that let-off, the Dragons had much the better of the opening quarter of the second half.

With Parks returning and two Irishman sent to the bin, they should have capitalised.

Arlidge missed a very kickable penalty and Tom Willis was denied a try as he was forced into the corner flag.

Arlidge did reduce the arrears to 13-9 with 15 minutes to go and the Dragons appeared to have every chance of overhauling Munster, but crucially Arlidge had a clearance kick charged down.

Munster saw their opportunity and from a scrum and a drive enough space was created for replacement Anthony Horgan to dive over in the corner for the crucial try 11 minutes from the end, with Warwick notching the extras thanks to a superb touchline conversion.

The scorers:

For the Dragons:
Pens:
Arlidge 3

For Munster:
Tries:
O'Boyle, Horgan
Cons: Warwick 2
Pens: Warwick 2

Dragons: 15 Jason Tovey, 14 Kevin Morgan, 13 Rory Sidey, 12 Ashley Smith, 11 Martyn Thomas, 10 James Arlidge, 9 Wayne Evans, 8 Grant Webb, 7 Richard Parks, 6 Bearman Joe, 5 Andrew Hall, 4 Sean Tomes, 3 Rhys Thomas, 2 Tom Willis (c), 1 Hall Nigel,
Replacements: 16 Steve Jones, 17 Gethin Robinson, 18 Lewis Evans, 19 Danny Lydiate, 20 Phillip Dollman, 21 Gareth Maule, 22 Robert Lewis.

Munster: 15 Denis Hurley, 14 Kieran Lewis, 13 Keith Earls, 12 Lifeimi Mafi, 11 Ciaran O'Boyle, 10 Paul Warwick, 9 Peter Stringer, 8 Nick Williams, 7 Denis Leamy, 6 Alan Quinlan, 5 Donnacha Ryan, 4 Mick O'Driscoll (c), 3 Tony Buckley, 2 Denis Fogarty, 1 Darragh Hurley.
Replacements: 16 Michael Essex, 17 Timmy Ryan, 18 Billy Holland, 19 Niall Ronan, 20 Duncan Williams, 21 Jeremy Manning, 22 Anthony Horgan.

Referee: Alan Lewis (Ireland)
Touch judges: Gwyn Morris (Wales), David Jones (Wales)
Television match official: Tony Rowlands (Wales)