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Chris Stirling saluted his Cornish Pirates after they broke down Munster’s vaunted defence to lift the inaugural British and Irish Cup with a 23-14 victory.
Tries from centre Steve Winn and wing Rhodri McAtee – coupled with Jonny Bentley’s boot – put the Cornishmen 20-6 ahead against a side that had only conceded three tries in six games on the way to the final.
And despite a late raid by the Irishmen, Pirates held out to send the Rec crazy, with High Performance Manager Stirling saying: “What a fantastic day. The guys performed and the exciting part is to have an 11-month campaign – we started in the first week of June last year – and for it to come to a climax like this. That’s a testament to the players and both the Championship and the British and Irish Cup.
“We stretched Munster in the first half and there were a couple of times when we came within a whisker of scoring a couple more. The work-rate was high and in the second half Munster came out firing but our defence stood up.”
Man-of-the-match Dave Ward added: “To win at home in front of such a great crowd is the end to an excellent season. We knew how strong they would be defensively but we took it to them right from the off.”
Danny Barnes scored a late try for Munster but manager Mick Galwey conceded: “In fairness Cornish Pirates came at us very strongly and deserved their lead at half time. It was a big learning experience for our young guys – the average age was 22. We’ve had great success in the British and Irish Cup but it was just a step too far.”
Declan Cusack missed two early penalties for Munster and Bentley was equally off target with one of his own. However, he easily added to Winn’s 17th-minute try when the centre took Gavin Cattle’s pass and slipped his tackler to score behind the posts.
Pirates scored the try of the match five minutes before the break, Blair Cowan driving from the scrum and then Cattle moving the ball wide for Wes Davies to offload to McAtee in the corner. Bentley converted and then added a penalty for a 14-point halftime cushion.
Cusack and Bentley traded penalties as Munster got into gear but the Pirates’ defence held out until Barnes’ score.
Final Score Cornish Pirates 23 Munster 14
Tries – Winn, McAtee;
Cons – Bentley (2);
Pens – Bentley (3)
Try – Barnes;
Pens – Cusack (3)
Referee: L Hodges (WRU)
Cornish Pirates: W Davies; R McAtee, M Ireland, S Winn, N Jackson; J Bentley, G Cattle; (capt); C Rimmer, R Elloway, A Paver, L McGlone, B Gulliver, C Morgan, D Ward, B Cowan.
Replacements: M Myerscough (rep McGlone 52) , S Betty (for Elloway 57), P Andrew (for Rimmer 61), M Evans (for Cowan 77), J Doherty (for Cattle 77), T Luke (for Davies 77), R Storer (for Paver 77)
Munster: S Scanlon; D Barnes, T Gleeson, J Manning, S Zebo; D Cusack, D Williams; D Kilcoyne, M Sherry, S Archer, D Foley, I Nagle, W Holland, T O’Donnell, P O’Mahony (capt).
Replacements: D Ryan (for Kilcoyne 41), D O’Callaghan (for Nagle 61) P Butler ( for O’Donnell 61, C Murray (for Williams 66), R O’Mahony (for Cusack 66). Not used: S Henry, M Kelliher.
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