Saturday 24 August 2019

Munster cruise past Dragons in Guinness PRO14

Simon Zebo was among Munster's tryscorers
Simon Zebo was among Munster's tryscorers

Munster's record tryscorer Simon Zebo pocketed his 57th provincial try in a dominant 49-6 Guinness PRO14 win over Dragons at Irish Independent Park.

Impressive debutant Chris Cloete, Alex Wootton and Chris Farrell made consistent yards as Munster led 14-3 at the interval, their tries coming from Rory Scannell and Zebo.

Angus O'Brien clipped over a penalty in each half for Dragons, who have not won in Ireland in three years.

The sell-out 8,008 Cork crowd celebrated the arrival of the bonus point in the 57th minute after well-taken scores from Jack O'Donoghue and Darren Sweetnam.

Three more tries followed in the final quarter, shared out by replacements Sam Arnold (2) and Kevin O'Byrne, with man of the match JJ Hanrahan taking his conversion tally to a perfect seven.

It was a memorable send-off if, as anticipated, it was Rassie Erasmus' final game in charge before his South African compatriot Johann van Graan takes over the Irish province.

Although Dragons had an early maul opportunity, it was mostly Munster on the front foot as they looked to bounce back from derby defeats to Leinster and Connacht.

Errors from both sides made for a scrappy and scoreless opening quarter until Hanrahan, on his first start of the season at fly-half, sent centre Scannell racing over for a try which the Kerryman converted from the touchline.

O'Brien clawed back three points with a well-struck penalty from inside the Munster 10-metre line, but with the hosts continuing to probe with the boot and bank on a solid maul set-up, bruising South Africa flanker Cloete paved the way for Zebo to strike in the same left corner.

Hanrahan expertly delivered the extras again from out wide to put 11 points between the sides, that gap staying in place until O'Brien split the posts early in the second half.

Munster conjured up a top-class response, Robin Copeland using turnover ball to break downfield and link with the supporting Sweetnam who brilliantly fed O'Donoghue outside him for the try of the night.

Hanrahan swept over his third conversion and then lofted over a pass for Sweetnam to seal the bonus point by the hour mark, the initial pressure coming from another storming run by Copeland.

Hanrahan turned provider for the next try, spotting a gap and feeding centre Arnold who notched his first Munster score on his return from injury.

O'Byrne also opened his PRO14 try account from a powerful 69th-minute maul and Arnold completed his brace with five minutes left, crossing in the right corner after the fast-breaking Ian Keatley had set the wheels in motion.

PA Media

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