Tadhg Beirne put in a man of the match display as his Munster side dug in for a gritty 9-7 win over Exeter Chiefs in the Champions Cup, a result that saw them safely through to the competition’s quarter-finals.
Beirne, who was named in Joe Schmidt’s 38-man Guinness Six Nations squad on Thursday, was an ever-present in the tackle for Munster as they prevented the Chiefs from dramatically pipping them to the top of Pool 2 and sealed a home draw in the last-eight.
The big lock made a solid case for a starting berth in Schmidt’s side come February 2 when Ireland host England in the opening round of the Guinness Six Nations, as his irrepressible defensive effort helped Munster to a record 18th Champions Cup quarter-final.
Beirne’s leadership qualities stood out as he stepped up in what proved a war of attrition, marshalling the province’s defensive line as he took up the mantle of lieutenant-general, barking orders throughout.
The 27-year-old broke through into the senior Ireland set-up in May of last year, starring in Ireland’s unbeaten Autumn Internationals and will look to make his Guinness Six Nations bow against England.
The former Scarlets man made seven tackles, missing none, before he was replaced by Billy Holland on 66 minutes, and forced two turnovers with characteristic vigour to boot.
Three penalties from the boot of Joey Carbery – also in Schmidt’s squad – were enough to turn the tide after Exeter went ahead through Don Armand’s try.
And it quickly became apparent that it would be a low-scoring affair, with defences prevailing as attacking threats were repeatedly nullified.
How Beirne and co would love for the result to foreshadow their Guinness Six Nations opener against England in a fortnight’s time.