Munster suffer heavy defeat in South Africa as Sharks notch 50 points in Champions Cup demolition
Sharks 50 Munster 35
Munster’s Heineken Champions Cup dream is over for another season after they wilted in the Durban heat, and were dumped out of the last 16 by a ruthless Sharks outfit.
If this was a statement result from the dominant South Africans, then it served as another sobering reminder of how much work is required before Munster will be dining at the top table again.
Despite trailing by just three points at the break, a second-half collapse from Munster, saw the Sharks run riot.
A high-scoring encounter that saw the home side cross for seven tries to Munster’s five, ended with Graham Rowntree having to reflect on many of the same old problems.
Munster’s set-piece was poor, their breakdown work was awful at times, their defence was picked apart with alarming ease, while poor discipline repeatedly gave the Sharks a foothold into the game.
The atrocious playing surface at Kings Park didn’t help matters, yet the Sharks still managed to run in tries from all angles, with Munster unable to withstand their relentless pace and power.
Munster’s issues up front are not an overnight fix, even if RG Snyman impressed for the 48 minutes he was on the pitch for what was only his second start since joining the province.
The Sharks, spearheaded by several of South Africa’s key players, dished out a harsh lesson in terms of the power game needed at this level.
Jack Crowley showed flashes of his quality, certainly enough to suggest Munster should stick with him, but with his pack on the back-foot all afternoon, it was difficult for the out-half to stamp his authority on the proceedings.
The Sharks laid down an early marker by disrupting a Munster ruck before Curwin Bosch fired over a third-minute penalty.
That sparked Munster into life, however, as the visitors hit back with a brilliantly created try that saw Craig Casey, Crowley and Antoine Frisch work the ball into space for Gavin Coombes, whose perfectly timed flat pass released Shane Daly. The winger still had plenty of work to do, but he stepped inside for a smart finish.
Crowley added the extras to put Munster into a lead that was short-lived as the Sharks quickly hit back.
Bosch missed a long-range shot at goal, as Munster’s breakdown and scrum struggles continued, but the Sharks out-half was on target with his conversion of Jaden Hendrikse’s 15th minute try.
The Springboks scrum-half injured himself in the act of scoring, while Munster tighthead Roman Salanoa soon followed him off with a knock.
The powerful hosts were dominating up front, and when they won a scrum penalty, it set the platform for Eben Etzebeth to crash his way over for a second Sharks try, which Bosch again converted.
Trailing 17-7, Munster needed a score before half-time, and it duly arrived on the back of a scything break from Calvin Nash. Rowntree’s men stayed patient, working their way through the phases until Dave Kilcoyne crossed from close-range.
Crowley, whose influence on the game was growing, tacked on the extra two to leave his side trailing by three points at the break.
The Sharks were dealt a further blow when Etzebeth failed to emerge for the second-half, having picked up an issue in what was a draining opening 40, while his replacement Emile van Heerden only lasted eight minutes before exiting with an arm/shoulder injury.
Having lost one World Cup winning Boks star, it was left to another to pick up the slack, as Bongi Mbonambi broke off a maul and dived over, as the same old issues came back to haunt Munster. Bosch’s conversion pushed the Sharks into a 24-14 lead.
Mbonambi repeated the trick four minutes later, as Munster were pulverised at another maul, and there was no stopping the rampaging South African hooker.
Bosch’s kick came back off the post, much to the relief of Munster, who were required to produce something special with half an hour still left.
The game should have been dead and buried when the Sharks sliced their way through the Munster defence again, only for Bosch to ignore a three-man overlap on his outside but it mattered little as within a minute, they made amends.
Munster were at sixes and sevens and Sharks took full advantage, with Werner Kok scoring a fifth try for his side.
It went from bad to worse for the visitors, as Bosch pounced on a loose Munster pass to run clear unopposed from the half-way line.
Munster hit back with a consolation try courtesy of Diarmuid Barron from a maul, but even as the clock ticked by the hour mark, and Crowley had converted the score, they still trailed 43-21.
Whatever slim hope of mounting an unlikely comeback was immediately dashed when another Springbok star got in on the try-scoring action, Makazola Mapimpi picking off Malakai Fekitoa’s loose offload.
Mike Haley finished off a training ground move off a lineout and Fineen Wycherley followed him over the whitewash late on, but it was too little too late.
By that stage, the Sharks had already turned their attention to next week’s quarter-final, as they await the winners of tomorrow’s clash between Toulouse and the Bulls.
Scorers – Sharks: Mbonambi 2 tries; Hendrikse, Etzebeth, Kok, Bosch, Mapimpi 1 try each; Bosch 1 pen, 6 cons. Munster: Daly, Kilcoyne, Barron, Haley, F Wycherley 1 try each; Crowley 5 cons.
Sharks – B Chamberlin (T Abrahams 69); W Kok, L Am, R Janse van Rensburg (T Tapuai 62), M Mapimpi; C Bosch, J Hendrikse (G Williams 18); O Nché (M Mchunu 60), B Mbonambi (E van Vuuren 59), T du Toit (C Sadie 61); E Etzebeth (E van Heerden h-t) (P Buthelezi 48), G Grobler; S Kolisi (capt), V Tshituka, S Notshe.
Munster – M Haley; C Nash, A Frisch, M Fekitoa (J Carbery 66), S Daly; J Carbery, C Casey (C Murray 48); D Kilcoyne (J Wycherley 60), N Scannell (D Barron 50), R Salanoa (S Archer 19); J Kleyn, RG Snyman (F Wycherley 48); P O’Mahony (capt) (J O’Donoghue (54), J Hodnett, G Coombes (A Kendellen 54).
Ref: W Barnes (England)