Munster A 25-9 Ealing Trailfinders
Ealing Trailfinders’ British and Irish Cup run came to an end at the semifinal stage against an emphatic Munster A side, who underlined their status as first seeds and who had the match’s outstanding individual in flanker Conor Oliver.
He scored two of the home sides three tries and was a constant thorn in the side of Ben Ward’s team, whose points came from three Rory Clegg penalties.
Victory means the Irish province can now look forward to a final against either London Irish or Jersey Reds on the weekend of 22-23 April.
Early in the match Oliver had already shown a sign of what was to come when he raced deep into the Ealing Trailfinders half from a tapped penalty, but his teammates’ over-eagerness cost them when they were penalised for going off their feet at the ensuing ruck.
It also cost them at a lineout soon after when one of their pack was pinged for blocking just as their maul was beginning to roll.
Having spent a week training with the senior Munster squad, the A side were very much a team in the province’s traditional image. Rock-solid defence, rampant breakdown play, powerful pack and a fullback and wings comfortable under the high ball.
They also had a tricky fly-half in Bill Johnson and it was he who opened the scoring with a penalty before Oliver brought his influence to bear once more. His charge from the tail of a lineout set up great field position and after quick recycling centre Sam Arnold powered over.
Unfortunately, Bill Johnson’s night and season were brought to a premature end when he was stretchered off on the half-hour mark with a dislocated ankle and broken leg. It was a shame as he was enjoying a fine night and had already suffered a number of serious injuries in his nascent career that has featured a number of caps for Ireland’s U20 side.
By then Clegg had opened Ealing Trailfinders account after the pack had forced their opposite numbers to offend from a rolling maul.
David Johnson moved forward from fullback to replace his brother at pivot. He also took over kicking duties, which included converting their second try that came from a swift exchange between Oliver and scrumhalf John Poland that set the flanker free to score his first.
As half-time approached two Clegg penalties brought the visitors to within touching distance, but Oliver’s second soon after half-time gave Munster A control of the match and they were in no mood to let it slip.
David Johnson added another penalty, but from then on they were content to play the percentages, kick to the corner and apply pressure as Ealing Trailfinders tried to find a way through their well-drill defensive line.
Ealing Trailfinders Willie Ryan was held up over the line late in the match, but once again Munster A’s defence held out to underline why they were ranked as first seeds.
Tries (Arnold 20, Oliver 35, 44), Conversions (Bill Johnson 20, David Johnson 35), Penalties (Bill Johnson 16, 62)
Penalties (Clegg 26, 38, 40)
David Johnston, Dan Goggin, Sam Arnold, Cian Bohane (captain), Alex Wootton, Bill Johnston, John Poland; Peter McCabe, Kevin O’Byrne, Brian Scott, John Madigan, Darren O’Shea, Sean O’Connor, Conor Oliver, Robin Copeland
Duncan Casey, Liam O’Connor, Rory Burke, Mark Chisholm, Gavin Coombes, Jack Stafford, Stephen Fitzgerald
Will Harries, Curtis Wilson, Lewis Jones, Luke Peters, Phil Chesters, Rory Clegg, Luke Carter; Will Davis, Alun Walker, Lewis Thiede, Llewelyn Jones, Glen Townson, Willie Ryan, Rayn Smid, Mark Bright (captain)
Matt Cornish, James Gibbons, Sam Rodman, Harry Casson, Arthur Ellis, Josh Davies, Aaron Penberthy
Referee – Rhys Thomas
Attendance – 732