Munster cement top spot
March 27, 2009
Centre Keith Earls grabed one of Munster's four tries against Glasgow © Getty Images
Munster strengthened their grip at the top of the Magners League with a 26-13 victory over Glasgow at Firhill.
Flanker Niall Ronan emerged as the destroyer in chief for the visitors with a hat-trick of touchdowns to knock the stuffing out of the hosts who had not lost at home to Irish opposition for almost three years.
In the wake of a scrappy start, the contest burst into life with a three-try burst in a frantic seven-minute spell. Glasgow surged ahead with a touchdown which featured the vision of Johnnie Beattie, the brilliance of Max Evans and the pace of Loma Fa'atau. Beattie caught the Munster defence on the hop with a quick tapped penalty before Dan Parks linked with Evans, who left his markers for dead with a slight jink inside and remarkable change of speed.
His elusiveness created the time and space for Fa'atau to celebrate his return from injury by cruising to the line. As so often happens, the side who scored let their concentration level drop and almost immediately the Irish side snatched the initiative.
Ronan took advantage of a sloppy tackle attempt by Kelly Brown and powered to the line, giving Paul Warwick a simple conversion. Brown the villain became Brown the hero as he made instant amends with a gutsy solo try - awarded on the advice of the video referee. However, another piece of slack defending allowed Munster to retake the lead with Keith Earls the man who finished in style - Warwick again slotting the goal.
At the other end, Parks was having a wretched time with the boot, missing four straightforward attempts. But he rediscovered his touch a couple of minutes from the interval with the penalty that closed the gap to a single point.
Munster were a man down at the restart, having had James Coughlan yellow-carded for killing the ball in the incident which led to the Parks kick. Then came the moment of cruel luck which set Glasgow back on their heels. A freak ricochet enabled Munster to claim a scrum five metres from the line, and again it was Ronan who wriggled through the tight gap to notch his double.
And even better was to come from Ronan as he completed his treble when the pack rumbled over, with Warwick converting to make the final gap 13 points.
Elsewhere, Edinburgh heaped woe on basement side Connacht with a 32-5 triumph at Murrayfield.
Ally Hogg snatched a precious bonus point for the Scots as they kick-started their quest to earn a top three finish. Andy Robinson's men were in control for the bulk of the contest at Murrayfield - but they had looked as if they would fail to turn their superiority over the basement boys into a full haul. However Hogg galloped over just 20 seconds from time to make sure that justice was done.
The opening quarter was a jittery and disjointed affair with both sides committing a spate of basic errors. Edinburgh eventually settled into a rhythm and broke the deadlock with a drive-over try from Kyle Traynor and the conversion and two penalties from Chris Paterson cemented their lead.
The home side sealed their success with a burst of two tries in quick succession. First, Test hooker Ross Ford used his strength to bulldoze his way over after a slick handling sequence. Then winger Andy Turnbull showed an impressive turn of speed to leave the Connacht defence in his wake with Paterson converting.
Edinburgh became careless and following a penalty for backchat, winger Troy Nathan pounced for a consolation try. Then came Hogg's counter, goaled by Paterson.
In the final match of the weekend Leinster play host Ulster in Dublin on Sunday in our Game of the Week
"The only thing that will stop this England team from becoming a great team is themselves. They need to ask themselves 'what can we be?'" The Phil Vickery column
The latest Monday Maul looks at the hectic final weekend, the Lions hangover, the superb Mike Brown and the 'selfie'
"At the crux of this England team is a lack of fear, they are not afraid to throw playbooks out of the window." Tom Hamilton reports from Twickenham
"These little deft touches, the nuances O'Driscoll has perfected are what Ireland will miss most." Tom Hamilton on Brian O'Driscoll's final Test in Dublin