Wednesday 13 December 2017

Bonus point win not enough for Munster as Ulster's knock-out dreams disappear

Treviso 5 Munster 28

Munster's Conor Murray scores his side's third try. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Munster's Conor Murray scores his side's third try. Picture credit: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Munster's Ronan O'Mahony scores his side's first try despite the tackle from Alberto Lucchese

Munster secured the expected bonus point win in Italy, but results elsewhere extinguished the feint hopes of Irish representation in the last eight of the Champions Cup.

Early tries from Ronan O'Mahony and David Kilcoyne looked to have seen-off the Italian challenge but, buoyed by the strength of their pack, Treviso got back in it thanks to a drive-over try from Marco Lazzaroni just before half-time.

But Conor Murray strolled through to score in the second half, before O'Mahony sealed the bonus point and a comfortable win for Anthony Foley's side, who were already out of the Champions Cup. Leicester’s 36-21 defeat away to Stade Francais scuppered Ulster's feint hopes and ensures no Irish province will be present for the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since 1998.

Stade's victory ensured Munster finished third with Treviso propping up Pool Four.

Munster's Ronan O'Mahony scores his side's first try despite the tackle from Alberto Lucchese
Munster's Ronan O'Mahony scores his side's first try despite the tackle from Alberto Lucchese

It took only five minutes for Munster to break the Treviso line. The Munster pack constructed a powerful drive and shunted the Italians back.

Scrum-half Murray darted off the back of a maul and found wing O'Mahony, who powered through the defensive line to break clear and score.

Ian Keatley converted for an early 7-0 advantage, and the Irish province were able to build on their lead 12 minutes later.

A Simon Zebo break forced the winless Italians to illegally slow the ball down at a ruck, and referee Alexandre Ruiz awarded a penalty.

Murray took a quick tap and go from deep inside Treviso territory and found prop Kilcoyne, who barged over to score a second converted try.

But the Treviso pack began to flex their muscles and they got their reward on 37 minutes.

Munster flanker Billy Holland went offside at a promising rolling maul, and was sent to the sin-bin, with the hosts making their man advantage count as they shunted the resulting lineout over the line for Lazzaroni to score.

Munster thought they had their third try three minutes into the second half when CJ Stander was driven over the line, but the referee called it back as Keatley was lining up a conversion and ruled the Ireland squad member had knocked on.

However, Murray made sure they had their score after 50 minutes. The scrum-half sold Lazzaroni with a dummy and ghosted through to score following a lineout on the 22-metre line.

And the bonus point finally came for Munster in the 66th minute thanks to a fantastic break from replacement Jack O'Donoghue.

The centre cut through in his own half and raced downfield before feeding O'Mahony, who crashed over at the corner to claim his second try of the match and a comfortable win.

Anthony Foley’s side, along with Ulster, began the day knowing that qualification for the knockout stages was still possible if results went their way, but Leicester’s 36-21 defeat away to Stade Francais ensures no Irish province will be present for the quarter-finals of Europe’s premier club competition for the first time since 1998.

Tries from Ronan O’Mahony and David Kilcoyne in the first half were followed by five pointers from the half back pairing of Conor Murray and Ian Keatley, but it was not to be for the men in red.

Ulster defeated Oyannax 56-3 yesterday at the Kingspan Stadium but will be left to rue the missed bonus point opportunity from their comeback victory over the same opposition.

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