Friday 22 September 2017

Reds collapse as Berquist pulls strings

Treviso 29 Munster 19

Simon Zebo in action against Treviso
Simon Zebo in action against Treviso

Ian Bransfield

Munster suffered a spectacular collapse in Italy, surrendering a 10-point lead to leave empty-handed against Benetton Treviso.

Keith Earls and Stephen Archer both crossed the chalk for Rob Penney's men, who also registered a penalty try, but it was not enough to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

For Benetton, Ludovico Nitoglia was the hero of the night with a brace of tries, while former Leinster out-half Matt Berquist kicked 19 points to hand Treviso their first victory of the season on the same night that Zebre won their first ever game.

Having been beaten out the gate at the same venue last season, Munster needed no reminding about the size of the task ahead of them in the Venetian outpost.

However, they couldn't have got off to a better start, Earls dotting down for a superb try after just seven minutes. The Ireland star was making his first appearance since sustaining a shoulder injury against Clermont in April, but he showed no signs of rustiness as he combined with Simon Zebo to sprint home from distance.

INTERPLAY

The try owed much to the clever interplay between Casey Laulala and James Downey, who both started well in a Munster backline oozing confidence.

However, despite bossing the play early on, Munster lost their way as Benetton upped the pace. Under pressure in the forward exchanges, Niall Ronan compounded matters when he was sin-binned for throwing a punch.

New Zealand born out-half Berquist knocked over two quick-fire penalties to nudge Benetton ahead, but they were unable to capitalise further on their one-man advantage. Instead, Munster regrouped, and almost bagged another try when Earls again slipped the cover defence to apparently dot down, only for the TMO to rule against him.

Undeterred, the visitors hammered away at the line and eventually forced a penalty try after a series of powerful scrum drives. Keatley converted, and with his next contribution found Earls with a cross-field kick which would have resulted in a try were it not for an outstanding tackle by Luke McLean.

Indeed, had Munster taken all of their first-half chances, they might well have been home and hosed by half-time. As it was, they coughed up a penalty just before the break, and went down the tunnel with a 12-9 lead, scant reward for their first-half application.

Munster stole a march seven minutes into the second half when prop Archer, festooned by Italians, barged his way over the line for try number three, converted by Keatley.

Benetton hit back immediately, however, with a try of their own, Nitoglia going over and Berquist converting to once again reduce their deficit to three points.

Berquist then went one better with a long-range penalty to even up the scores midway through the half, before Nitoglia got in for his second try of the evening, Munster by now a pale shadow of their first-half selves.

Berquist converted and then added another penalty to leave Munster trailing 29-19, with both their scrum-halves – Duncan Williams and Cathal Sheridan – now sitting in the bin, and everything going down the drain.

Munster threw everything at Treviso during the closing stages but never looked remotely close to turning the game around, and left without so much as a losing bonus point.

Treviso – L McLean; C Loamanu, M Capagnaro, A Sgarbi, L Nitoglia (F Semenzato 77); M Berquist, E Gori; M Rizzo (I Fernandez Rouyet 65), E Ceccato (G Maistri 50), A De Marchi (P Di Santo 74); A Pavanello (capt), M Fuser (D Budd 59); S Favaro (V Bernabo 73), A Zanni, M Vosawai (R Barbieri 51).

Munster – D Hurley (JJ Hanrahan 66); K Earls, C Laulala, J Downey (C Sheridan 62), S Zebo; I Keatley, D Williams (I Dineen 72); D Kilcoyne (J Cronin 70), M Sherry ( Varley 62), S Archer (J Ryan 74); D Ryan, B Holland (D O'Callaghan 62); P O'Mahony (capt) (CJ Stander 55), N Ronan, J Coughlan.

Ref – L Hodges (WRU)

Irish Independent

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