Ryan the Munster hero
Munster restored their nine-point advantage at the top of the table with a hard-fought victory over Aironi at the Stadio Luigi Zaffanella yesterday.
The province led 6-3 at the break courtesy of two penalties from Paul Warwick before pulling clear in the third quarter with a Donnacha Ryan try and a penalty try.
Former Munster player Nick Williams forced his way over in the dying minutes but the bonus point eluded Aironi.
The Italians had only themselves to blame. Fly-half James Marshall missed three of his four kicks at goal, and Aironi failed to register a score while Munster were down to 14 following the sin-binning of Ryan on 29 minutes.
By contrast, Munster twice capitalised on temporary numerical advantages in the second half. Guilio Toniolatti was in the sin bin for taking Warwick out in the air when Ryan crashed over.
Shortly after Toniolatti's return, Gareth Krause saw yellow for killing the ball and Munster promptly forced a penalty try with a fearsome scrum that Aironi collapsed.
Munster lost momentum as the game progressed, allowing Williams to score late on, but of greater concern to team manager Shaun Payne was an knee injury which forced Denis Hurley off early in the second half.
"We won't know more until we get a scan done but it does look relatively serious," the South African said.
Aironi -- D Demas; K Robertson, G Pavan (G Pizarro 69), M Pratichetti, G Toniolatti; J Marshall (R Bocchino 57), P Travagli (G Bronzini 76); Al De Marchi (An De Marchi 62), T D'Apice (R Santamaria 49), F Staibano (L Redolfini 59); J Furno (G Biagi 72), M Bortolami (capt); J Sole, G Krause (N Cattina 72), N Williams.
Munster -- J Murphy; D Hurley (D Howlett 45), L Mafi, S Tuitupou, S Zebo; P Warwick (D Cusack 65), D Williams (C Murray 53); W Du Preez (M Horan 60), D Varley (D Fogarty 60), T Buckley (S Archer 65); I Nagle (A Quinlan 60), M O'Driscoll (capt); D Ryan, T O'Donnell, J Coughlan (B Holland 72).
Ref -- D Jones (WRU).