- Munster A - Tries: Coombes, O’Byrne, Johnston, Wootton. Conversions: Johnston 3. Penalties: Johnston
- Jersey Reds - Tries: Scott, Buckle, Hardy. Conversions: Sheedy 2. Penalties: Sheedy 3
Jersey Reds suffered the narrowest of defeats as Munster A produced a sterling comeback to win the British & Irish Cup in a thrilling encounter at Irish Independent Park.
The Reds – who secured an impressive fifth-place finish in the Greene King IPA Championship last weekend – were looking for a first major trophy in their history but instead the Irishmen triumphed 29-28 to lift the cup for the first time since 2012.
A scintillating start, including tries from Nick Scott and Joe Buckle, handed Jersey an 18-0 lead but Gavin Coombes and Kevin O’Byrne went over either side of half-time to narrow the gap to four points.
Kieran Hardy’s brilliant score put Jersey back in control, yet four minutes of magic from David Johnston and Alex Wootton, and a coolly-taken penalty from Johnston helped Munster A seal victory.
Fast start and scrum dominance
Jersey flew out of the blocks on foreign soil in their first-ever British & Irish Cup final and the 18-0 advantage they established by the end of the first quarter was no less than they deserved due to their complete dominance at scrum-time.
The opening try – their 31st of the competition – came when full-back Ross Adair demonstrated his searing pace to slice through the Munster A defence and offloaded to Scott to scoot over in the corner before Callum Sheedy converted a scrum penalty and another three-pointer for an 11-0 lead.
A second scrum penalty won by prop powerhouses Jake Woolmore and Simon Kerrod, gave the Reds an attacking line-out on 18 minutes and a clever dummy saw Gary Graham slip down the blindside before feeding Buckle and Sheedy duly slotted the conversion.
To their credit, the hosts started to get a foothold and their territory dominance was rewarded on the stroke of half-time when Coombes powered over from close-range and Johnston’s conversion closed the gap to 18-7.
Irish eyes smile in comeback
If the first half entertained, then the second period enthralled as O’Byrne barrelled over the whitewash in the early stages before Jersey scrum-half Hardy responded with a moment of brilliance.
He picked up just inside the Munster A half after another scrum was won against the head and scythed all the way through a back-pedalling home defence for the long-range score and a 25-14 lead.
All over. Munster win. Heartbreak for the Reds— Jersey Reds (@jerseyrfc) April 21, 2017
Yet two home tries in four minutes turned the game on its head as firstly Johnston dived over in the corner before winger Wootton’s quick feet saw him step three Reds defenders and dart in from distance – and Johnston’s composure from the tee gave Munster A their first lead of the night at 26-25.
The fly-halves then traded penalties to leave the Irishmen one point to the good and Jersey could not find the late points they needed as Munster A held on to lift the British & Irish Cup for the second time in their history.
Munster A: 15. Fitzgerald; 14. Goggin, 13. Arnold, 12. Bohane (capt), 11. Wootton; 10. Johnston, 9. Poland; 1. McCabe, 2. O'Byrne, 3. Scott, 4. Chisholm, 5. D O'Shea, 6. Coombes, 7. Oliver, 8. Copeland.
Replacements: 16. Casey, 17. L O'Connor, 18. Burke, 19. Wycherley, 20. S O'Connor, 21. Griesel, 22. G O'Shea.
Jersey Reds: 15. Adair; 14. Watkins, 13. Davies, 12. Ma'afu, 11. Scott; 10. Sheedy, 9. Hardy; 1. Woolmore, 2. Buckle, 3. Kerrod, 4. Phillips, 5. Voss, 6. Freeman (capt), 7. Graham, 8. Haining.
Replacements: 16. Selway, 17. McCarthy, 18. Armstrong, 19. Kolo'ofa'i, 20. Argyle, 21. Dudley, 22. Robling.
Referee: Craig Maxwell-Keys