Injuries are mounting as Munster book a home semi
Treviso 14 Munster 34
It's a bit cruel on the Guinness PRO12 organisers that the grand finale of six derby clashes next Saturday is going to be a bit of a damp squib, with only the bottom of the table clash between the two Italians having a 'winner takes all' tag.
Munster joined Leinster in wrapping up a home semi-final with Saturday's win in Treviso, with Ospreys and Scarlets, who meet in Llanelli, squaring up to decide which one goes to the RDS or Thomond Park.
Ulster, barring a series of freak results, are out, while Cardiff and Connacht secured the Champions Cup play-off spots last week. Glasgow were guaranteed entry to that competition regardless of where they finished, once they were above Edinburgh.
So, match of the day on Saturday will be in Parma, where the two bottom sides - level on points and with 35 losses between them - slug it out, as Zebre and Treviso battle for the Italian Champions Cup spot.
Treviso, bidding for a third home win on Saturday evening, were well out of their depth against a largely second-string Munster side. Munster, having lost skipper Billy Holland to illness prior to the match, had to make further changes when lock Dave O'Callaghan and winger Ronan O'Mahony suffered what seemed to be serious injuries.
Coach Rassie Erasmus is awaiting medical reports to establish the extent of the injuries, which forced the pair out in the opening quarter at Stadio Monigo.
"I think Ronan is pretty serious, and David is also pretty serious. We will have to make a few plans there. Obviously, the guys that came in did the job. But they will be big losses for us if it's long-term," said the South African.
His men recovered and despite a weakened side they romped home in a bonus point win to wrap up a home semi-final against either Ospreys or Scarlets.
"Yes, job done, especially with all of the changes that we made. Treviso had been on a bit of a run. At the end of the day the result wasn't too bad," said Erasmus.
He also took great hope from the quality of the young players he drafted in, with seven of the side which won the B&I Cup a week earlier featuring.
"If we can keep that trend going, it's well done to the academy system. The guys slot in really well. Technically they are not 100pc there, but physically they are, which is wonderful."
Two tries from academy product Darren Sweetnam were decisive for a Munster side who only needed two points to secure a semi-final at Thomond Park.And with Tyler Bleyendaal, Francis Saili, Rhys Marshall and Conor Oliver impressing, Munster led 15-0 at the break thanks to tries from Sweetnam and Simon Zebo.
Treviso rallied after the break and full-back David Odiete broke for a try.
Munster resumed control again with Alex Wootton, one of the B&I Cup players to make the step up, crossing for his first senior try, before Jack O'Donoghue intercepted to secure the bonus point and Sweetnam wrapped it up with his second touchdown.
Munster will warm up for their semi-final with a dead rubber against champions Connacht next Saturday afternoon at Thomond Park, in a much less glamorous fixture that the competition organisers might have envisaged when drawing up the schedule.
"It will probably be a bit of juggling, match fitness for some guys, and form of other guys and getting some of the other guys back," admitted Erasmus.
He can afford to experiment next weekend, buoyed by the impact of so many B&I Cup winners, coupled with handling the injury situation.
However, having now won 14 of their last 15 league outings - the only blot, perhaps significantly, was a 30-21 loss to Scarlets in Thomond in February - Erasmus is keen to keep winning.
"That's it, overall just try to win the game against a team which like to run the ball from all over the park," he added.
Treviso: D Odiete (A Pratichetti 59); A Esposito, T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, L Sperandio; I McKinley (T Tebaldi 63), E Gori (G Bronzini 70); F Zani (A Porolli 68), L Bigi (D Giazzon 50), S Ferrari (T Pasquali 58); M Fuser (JF Montauriol 48), D Budd; F Minto (M Lazzaroni 48), B Steyn, R Barbieri.
Munster: S Zebo; D Sweetnam, F Saili, J Taute (I Keatley 48), R O'Mahony (A Wootton 19); T Bleyendaal, D Williams (A Lloyd 68); J Cronin (B Scott 71), R Marshall (K O'Byrne 66), S Archer (R Burke 68); D O'Shea, D Ryan; D O'Callaghan (CJ Stander 12), C Oliver, J O'Donoghue.
Ref - I Davies (WRU)