Munster warmed up for next week's Heineken Cup semi-final against Stade Francais with an impressive 24-22 victory over a Rest of Ireland selection at Thomond Park this evening. Both sides served up an excellent display of attacking rugby under the watchful eye of Lions selectors Donal Lenihan and Graham Henry, and Brian O'Driscoll, Malcolm O'Kelly and Anthony Horgan did their chances of inclusion no harm with outstanding contributions in a hugely entertaining game in front of 10,000 buoyant fans.
Munster delighted the crowd by taking an eighth-minute lead when Anthony Foley went over for a try which Ronan O'Gara duly converted. Six minutes later, the Rest of Ireland XV were back in the game when scrum-half Brian O'Meara found Eric Miller on the left and the number six sped over. However, Munster stretched their lead on 25 minutes with an O'Gara penalty, but again the visitors drew level with a trademark Brian O'Driscoll try. The centre was released by Shane Horgan well inside his own half and took off down the left wing to cross in style.
Munster were soon back in front when Jeremy Staunton went over following a good passing move which involved flanker Dion O'Cuinneagain, who flew in from South Africa this morning to help their cause. O'Gara had a chance to stretch Munster's lead with an injury-time penalty, but he missed the target for the third time.
He began the second half on the same note, shooting wide from inside the Ireland half and the visitors capitalised with a try from David Humphreys after 45 minutes. Staunton put Munster back in front with a try four minutes later and this time O'Gara made no mistake. Ireland managed to narrow the gap to just two points midway through the second half when Tyrone Howe went over in the corner and Humphreys converted again. Ireland continued to press for a winner, but Munster held firm for an encouraging win, in a valuable workout with the semi-final just one week away.
Filed by Shane Murray