Albion's unbeaten home run is ended by clinical Munster
PLYMOUTH Albion were given a lesson in how to be clinical by Munster's young guns at Brickfields on Saturday.
Although Albion enjoyed more possession and territory, particularly in the first half of Saturday's opening British & Irish Cup fixture, it was holders Munster who returned home to Ireland with four points in the bag and condemned Nat Saumi's side to their first home defeat of the season.
In the opening 40 minutes, Munster scored points on virtually every foray into Albion's half.
Albion, on the other hand, wasted a host of good positions in the opening period, including turning down five kickable penalties.
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That failure to turn early pressure into points came back to haunt them in the end after a late Aaron Carpenter try left them just one score behind going into the final few minutes.
However, had Albion scored a last-gasp try to win the game then Munster would probably have gone home criticising the behaviour of a couple of so-called Plymouth fans.
Four minutes from time Munster were awarded a penalty that would have put them seven points in front, but just as centre JJ Hanrahan went to strike the ball an air horn sounded from the crowd and missed.
It was not the first time in the game it had happened. However, before Hanrahan had not been affected.
Albion officials had warned their supporters over the PA system not to do it after the first time it had happened, but it did not stop whoever was doing it and it nearly proved crucial.
It is something that never normally happens at Brickfields and Albion, whose fans have a good reputation, will be hoping it was just a one-off.
Albion have now tasted back-to-back defeats for the first time this season, after losing 55-17 the week before at Bedford in the Championship.
It is hard to say just how good Munster were in terms of the Championship. However, they did win the B&I Cup last year and any top European club are going to have a strong reserve team.
There were certainly some positives for Albion from their performance against Munster.
They made less errors than they had done at Bedford the week before, they were a lot more physical and they also scrummed well.
But it was that lack of a clinical edge that cost them.
How they did not score any points in the opening 10 minutes is still a mystery.
After turning down kicks at goal, Albion, keen to prove a point after their hammering at Bedford, had four line-outs close to Munster's line in the opening six minutes but they could not force their way over. Munster did very well at stopping their driving mauls.
It only looked like a matter of time before Albion would score, but, in the end, it was Munster who took the lead against the run of play in the 12th minute.
The try was reminiscent of a number Bedford scored against them last week. Albion got turned over in the opposition half and Munster counterattacked at pace with Hanrahan and Felix Jones involved before the ball came out to winger Corey Hircock, who dived over in the right corner.
Within minutes Munster had scored a second try. Albion gave a penalty away from the restart and then gave another away deep in their own half. Munster took the second one quickly and eventually the ball found its way to Hircock again and he powered over. Hanrahan, having missed the first conversion, did find the mark on this occasion to put Munster 12-0 up.
Those two tries were a sucker punch to Albion after they had dominated the early play.
The home side did get a lifeline in the 19th minute when Munster had lock Ian Nagle sin-binned and Paul Roberts put over the penalty.
But Munster did not let having a man less upset them and they restored their 12-point lead with a Hanrahan penalty three minutes later.
Albion had two more five-metre line-outs while they had a man advantage but again they could not force their way over.
However, Saumi's side did get the breakthrough they needed on 36 minutes.
Munster stupidly gave away a penalty in their own half for offside and Albion took it quickly. It looked like Albion had wasted the penalty until Roberts put in a hopeful grubber kick.
It appeared the visitors were going to get back to ground it ahead of Henry Slade, but at the last minute the young Plymouth full-back speeded up and it seemed like both players got to the ball at the same time.
Both sides claimed they had touched the ball down. The referee was not sure, but after talking to his touch-judge he awarded Albion the try, which Roberts brilliantly converted to put Albion just five points behind.
Photographic evidence (page left, top right) later appeared to show Munster had in fact got the first touch on the ball, but Albion were happy to accept the good fortune.
However, the home side gave away another penalty from the restart and Munster went for touch and pressed. Eventually fly-half Scott Deasy put a cross-field kick in and there was lock Nagle waiting at the corner flag to collect and flop over the line to make it 20-10.
In an exciting finish to the half, Albion hit back with a try from Canadian lock Brett Beukeboom from close range from a line-out after a great kick for touch from a penalty on halfway by Roberts.
Going in at the interval just five points behind gave Albion a great chance.
But after the break Beukeboom was sin-binned for blocking a Munster player and Hanrahan kicked the resultant penalty to put his side two scores in front.
There were fewer chances second half.
Munster thought they had scored a fourth try in the 60th minute when Hircock dived over the line for a third time, but the effort was ruled out for a forward pass.
After a quiet spell, where both teams made replacements, the game suddenly came to life again in the final 10 minutes.
Hanrahan looked to have secured the game for Munster when he kicked a third penalty in the 70th minute to make it 26-15, despite the distraction of a couple of air horns.
But Albion dug deep and set up a thrilling finish when Canada captain Carpenter, back in Albion's starting line-up, scored from close range four minutes later.
Roberts, having a good day with the boot, brilliantly converted to make 26-22.
Hanrahan might have made it 29-22 in the 76th minute had another air horn not gone off just as he was about to strike another penalty.
Both teams had late efforts, but neither could add to their scores, so Munster picked up four points and Albion one in the first of six pool matches this term in the cup.