Saturday 18 January 2020

Murray hat-trick fires Munster

Conor Murray ran in a hat-trick of tries as Munster hammered the Newport Gwent Dragons 50-27 at Irish Independent Park to book a home Guinness PRO12 play-off.

Anthony Foley's men finished second in the table to set up a semi-final clash with third-placed Ospreys at Thomond Park next Saturday afternoon.

Munster took only 24 minutes to register their bonus point, with tries from Andrew Smith, CJ Stander and man-of-the-match Murray (2). Paul O'Connell added a fifth on the stroke of half-time for a 33-10 advantage.

The Dragons, who had actually led 10-7 thanks to an early Ashton Hewitt score, were much more competitive in the second period when they went try for try with the hosts, as Tyler Morgan, Rhys Buckley and Jack Dixon cancelled out touchdowns from Keith Earls, Murray and Ronan O'Mahony.

Munster fell behind to an early Jason Tovey penalty after a loose Keatley pass had put Andrew Smith under pressure, however the latter duo soon combined for the game's opening try. Keatley attacked in midfield and Smith, appearing on his shoulder on the Dragons' 10-metre line, breezed through a gap to go over unopposed with Keatley converting.

Taulupe Faletau inspired the visitors' response, collecting a clearance kick and charging into an Earls tackle before releasing late call-up Hewitt for a simple finish in the left corner.

Tovey's conversion made it 10-7, but Munster answered back in equally swift fashion, Earls threatening initially before a penalty set up a lineout maul which saw number eight Stander plunge over in the eighth minute.

Keatley converted and also added the extras to Murray's 16th-minute effort, the maul again doing the damage before the scrum half scored from the base of a ruck.

Following Hugh Gustafson's sin-binning for a maul infringement, Munster bagged the bonus point when Murray spun away from his opposite number Jonathan Evans to dot down and Keatley made it another seven-pointer.

The Dragons went unrewarded for a bout of pressure in the 22 before Gustafson's return, however Munster finished the first half on a high when O'Connell broke off a maul to go over near the right corner.

Foley's side opened the second period with a bang as slick running and hands from Denis Hurley, Smith and Felix Jones supplied Earls with his sixth try in seven PRO12 games.

An excellent run and offload from Dorian Jones teed up centre Morgan for a well-worked second Dragons try which Tovey converted, with the Welsh side threatening again after Munster openside Paddy Butler was binned for bringing down an advancing maul.

Normal service was resumed when Murray completed his hat-trick by sniping past Richie Rees from close range. Munster did add an eighth and final try thanks to a terrific weaving run from winger O'Mahony, but that was sandwiched by Buckley's try off a maul and Newport centre Dixon scored in the same left corner in the final seconds.

PA Media

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