Leicester impress with victory over Munster
Published 12/12/2015 | 22:06
Leicester underlined their credentials as European Champions Cup contenders this season with a clinical 31-19 dismissal of Munster at Thomond Park.
Bringing back memories of their famous 2007 win at the old Limerick fortress, Tigers tightened their grip on top spot in Pool 4 thanks to tries from Vereniki Goneva, Mike Fitzgerald and Ben Youngs.
The visitors ruthlessly punished two individual errors before half-time to establish an 18-6 advantage, Goneva squeezing over in the left corner and Fitzgerald dotting down from an overthrown Munster lineout.
The margin was cut to four points courtesy of a James Cronin try and Ian Keatley penalty, but Leicester took the sting out of Marcos Ayerza's sin-binning and Youngs marked the signing of his new contract with a terrific solo score.
With 62 wins in their previous 66 European outings at Thomond, Munster rallied in typical fashion with a five-pointer from Mike Sherry. However, Leicester wrapped up the result with two closing penalties from replacement Tommy Bell.
Playing into a stiffening breeze, Munster leaked a soft penalty in the opening minute which Owen Williams clipped over, before Robin Copeland's rampaging run brought the hosts into scoring range.
Frustratingly, Anthony Foley's men emerged pointless from a dominant early spell that included a lineout maul near the right corner and a couple of attacks out wide that ended in handling errors.
A defence-splitting break from prop Cronin teed up Keatley for the levelling 13th-minute kick. Some superb footwork from Telusa Veainu had Leicester threatening just in front of the Munster posts, but Dave O'Callaghan won an important ruck penalty to relieve the pressure.
Keatley rewarded BJ Botha for a ruck poach, booting the province in front from the 10-metre line, before Tigers failed to profit from Youngs' classy counter from a tap penalty.
After Williams squared things up with a very well-struck effort from halfway, Keatley sent a poor penalty wide on the half hour and the Munster fly-half blotted his copybook again when his missed tackle allowed Goneva to power over in the left corner.
The game's first try owed much to a tremendous maul from the Tigers pack that took them right to the Munster line. Goneva had a lot of work to do when fed by scrum half Youngs on the left wing, but Keatley's slip invited the Fijian winger through for a brilliantly-finished score.
Williams missed the conversion but did add the extras to Kiwi lock Fitzgerald's first Champions Cup touchdown just four minutes later, as Munster were made to pay for a mistimed lineout.
But Foley's side clawed back eight points in a determined start to the second period, a lunge over a Leicester ruck seeing Cronin pinch an opportunist try and Keatley landing a straightforward penalty after Ayerza was binned for a late tackle on Conor Murray.
That good work was undone when Keith Earls, having fielded Seremaia Bai's chip kick, was turned over by the Tigers centre. Youngs grasped the opportunity to sprint through from the ruck, evading three defenders to dive over just to the right of the posts. Williams converted for an 11-point lead.
On the cusp of their third defeat in as many weeks, Munster hung in there with a jinking run from Earls and Mark Chisholm's flat pass putting replacement hooker Sherry over in the 66th minute. The tricky conversion was nudged wide by Keatley, though, and with man-of-the-match Lachlan McCaffrey increasing his influence at the breakdown, Bell's boot duly confirmed Leicester's third European victory on the trot.