O'Gara states his case with masterful display
Treviso 14 Munster 35
Ronan O'Gara issued Declan Kidney a gentle reminder of his worth by steering Munster to a bonus-point victory away to Treviso yesterday.
Starting his first game in over a month, the Corkman showed few signs of rustiness as he contributed 15 points from the kicking tee against the hapless Italians.
Danny Barnes, Johnny Murphy and Simon Zebo (two) also touched down for tries on a day when Felix Jones made his first appearance in red since damaging his ankle last August.
Also in the spotlight was Tomás O'Leary, who was reported on French TV to have signed for Perpignan.
Munster confirmed that there is an offer on the table from the Top 14 side, but stressed that O'Leary had yet to make up his mind one way or the other.
O'Leary, at any rate, seemed focused on the job at hand, and performed reasonably well as the reigning champions ran up a score in the Venetian suburb.
The result was Munster's first win on the road since last September, and sees them climb their way back into the Pro12 top four, while simultaneously making up for defeat in last season's corresponding fixture.
A year on, and a repeat result never seemed remotely likely as McGahan's men dominated from the start. Munster, in fact, were a try to the good within four minutes, Barnes charging down a dreadful clearance kick from Willem de Waal and reclaiming the ball to score beside the posts.
O'Gara added the extras, and Munster had to wait just five more minutes before adding their second try, a move started and finished by Zebo. The red-hot winger turned the Treviso defence inside out with a perfectly weighted through ball that fell into the lap of Barnes, and was then on hand to collect the return pass before barging his way over the line.
Again, O'Gara converted before adding another penalty midway through the half. Munster were 17-0 to the good after just 19 minutes, and cruising, and the match already seemed beyond a Treviso side caught in the headlights of the visiting attack. In fact, just about everything seemed to be going against the home side, who were being bossed by Munster up front.
In effect, the backs had an armchair ride throughout, though their finishing was nevertheless clinical and composed.
Try number three arrived 25 minutes in, O'Gara this time the architect finding Murphy with a sublime grubber kick five metres out.
His angled conversion from wide on the touch line was equally impressive.
Treviso, by this stage, were being jeered and whistled at almost every juncture by their normally partisan home supporters, though they did rally shortly before half-time, forcing Munster to defend for a sustained period.
The visiting defence finally buckled six minutes into injury-time after Mick O'Driscoll was sent to the bin after a series of offences, and diminutive scrumhalf Fabio Semenzato took full advantage, pouncing for a close-range try, which was converted by De Waal.
At 24-7, Munster were still looking good for a bonus-point victory, but the prospects of an unlikely comeback gained momentum early in the second half after Zebo was binned for a relatively innocuous tackle offence.
With a two-man numerical advantage, Treviso upped the ante and scored another try through Corniel van Zyl, converted by De Waal.
O'Gara responded immediately with two quick-fire penalties, however, taking the sting out of the home side's revival, and pushing Munster 30-14 ahead.
That remained the scoreline until two minutes from time when Zebo finished the rout with a well-taken try, securing the bonus-point win for Munster.
Scorers -- Treviso: Semenzato, Van Zyl try each; De Vaal 2 cons. Munster: O'Gara 3 pens, 3 cons; Zebo 2 tries; Barnes, Murphy try each
Treviso: L Nitoglia; T Iannone, E Galon (G Garcia 56), A Sgarbi, B Williams; W de Waal, F Semenzato; Muccignat (A Allori 70), F Sbaraglini (E Ceccato 50), P Di Santo (I Fernandez-Rouyet 50); A Pavanello (capt), C Van Zyl; P Derbyshire (V Bernabo 41), B Vermaak (G Padro 32), M Filippucci.
Munster: D Hurley; J Murphy (F Jones 60), D Barnes, L Mafi, S Zebo; R O'Gara (S Deasy 75), T O'Leary (D Williams 56); W du Preez (M Horan 50), D Varley (D Fogarty 75), BJ Botha (S Archer 70); D Ryan, M O'Driscoll (capt) (B Holland 70); D O'Callaghan (T O'Donnell 68), P O'Mahony, J Coughlan.
Referee: N Hennessy (Wales)
Sunday Indo Sport