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Rugby | Heineken Cup

Ronan O Gara © Gallo Images

Munster keep hopes alive

Munster remain in the hunt for a place in the knockout stages of the Heineken Cup after a laboured 26-17 win over a lacklustre Edinburgh side that only sprang to life in the final 10 minutes at Murrayfield.

A penalty try and a touchdown by Conor Murray plus 14 points from the boot of Ronan O'Gara sealed the victory for the visitors, while the home side's points came through two tries from Dougie Fife, both converted by Greig Laidlaw, who also landed a penalty.

The win leaves Munster in second place in Pool One on 15 points, three behind leaders Saracens and three ahead of Racing Metro. Edinburgh remain bottom without a point.

Munster charged out of the blocks and took the lead after just over a minute when O'Gara stroked over a penalty from in front of the posts after Stuart McInally was penalised.

The hosts enjoyed a spell in the ascendancy and stretched the Munster defence although the Scots, who were looking for their first try in this year's competition, failed to capitalise on their pressure.

Having weathered that 10-minute storm, Munster were soon back on the offensive and their next sortie into Edinburgh territory yielded another penalty. However, O'Gara was off target with his effort from left of the posts.

He was handed an opportunity to atone for that miss when Willem Nel was adjudged to have collapsed a scrum inside the home 22. This time, O'Gara made no mistake. And he repeated the dose a couple of minutes later after the Scots committed a similar offence.

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Laidlaw cut the deficit with a straightforward three-pointer after Munster offended at the breakdown in front of their posts but O'Gara quickly restored the nine-point gap after Edinburgh's woes at the scrum again handed the number 10 a simple kicking opportunity, which he converted to complete the first-half scoring.

Edinburgh centre Ben Cairns made a rare incisive run into opposition territory immediately after the restart, but his effort foundered on lack of support.

Munster responded with a renewed spell of pressure but failed to unlock the home defence and the hosts eventually earned reward for their efforts with a penalty.

However, as Richie Rees attempted to run the ball out of defence, he was blocked by Dave Kilcoyne whose indiscretion earned him 10 minutes in the sin bin.

A forward pass by Dave Denton in the shadow of the home posts handed Munster a scrum that was to prove pivotal in the game. After failing to unlock the home defence with a renewed series of phases, Munster resorted to the boot of Conor Murray whose chip ahead was palmed clear by Laidlaw. After calling for assistance from the video official, the referee yellow carded the Edinburgh captain for a deliberate knock-on.

The Scots then collapsed the ensuing scrum, handing Munster a penalty try which O'Gara converted to hand the visitors a 19-3 lead they still held entering the final quarter.

With the match apparently won against a poor Edinburgh side that had offered little threat in attack, the task for Munster was to chase a bonus point.

They moved a step closer to achieving that objective when Murray capped a renewed series of phases by plunging over from close range. O'Gara's successful conversion was his final contribution before being replaced.

However, despite numerous opportunities to add to their tally, the visitors paid the price for a lack of composure within sight of the line when Edinburgh struck on the counter-attack - Matt Scott carrying the ball into contact before it was moved wide where Fife dived over. Laidlaw thumped over the conversion.

And the skipper again added the extras after Fife crashed through two tackles to go in for a second time three minutes from the end of the match.


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