Friday 20 April 2018

Munster tame the Cheetahs in eight-try demolition

Munster 51 Cheetahs 18

9 September 2017; Ian Keatley of Munster kicks a conversion during the Guinness PRO14 Round 2 match between Munster and Cheetahs at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
9 September 2017; Ian Keatley of Munster kicks a conversion during the Guinness PRO14 Round 2 match between Munster and Cheetahs at Thomond Park in Limerick. Photo by Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Still we await the South African teams to bring something to the new Guinness PRO14 party as the Cheetahs were hunted out of Thomond Park with their tails between their legs.

Before a ball was even kicked this season, the Cheetahs warned that they were unlikely to be at full strength until January but even still, two abject performances is no way to try and make an impression.

Yes, they have the ability to strike from anywhere, as was proven by their first try but their execution of the basics left a lot to be desired.

Not that Munster minded a jot, but the home side never really had to get out of second gear as they cruised to their second consecutive bonus point win.

Balancing the PRO14 and the Currie Cup is problematic in itself and add to that the fact that the Rugby Championship is denying the Cheetahs of their key players, they really are up against it.

The South Africans were second best throughout what was an utterly one-sided contest as Munster dominated them in every facet.

Having conceded six tries and 42 points to Ulster in their opener last week, the Cheetahs shipped another eight tries and 51 points in Limerick. It makes for grim reading.

Two tries in either half from the hugely talented Alex Wootton set the hosts on their way to a 51-18 victory as they maintained their unbeaten start to the season to move back on top of Conference A.

The Cheetahs had no answer to Munster's electric back-three, while up front, their scrum was demolished by a second-choice front-row.

Ian Keatley had kicked Munster into an early 3-0 lead before the Cheetahs made a mess of a scrum five metres from their line after six minutes. Sean O'Connor was quickest to react and he fed Tommy O'Donnell who had the easiest of tasks to dot the ball down.

Keatley's conversion put the home side 10-0 in front before Robbie Petzer cut the gap with a penalty from in front of the posts.

Munster were punching holes in the Cheetahs defence far too easily, with Jack O'Donoghue carrying relentlessly all evening.

Midway through the opening half, they were rewarded for their pressure when Darren Sweetnam's beautifully weighted pass put Wootton over in the corner. Keatley bisected the posts with the touchline conversion and 12 minutes later it got even better for the Reds.

Andrew Conway again looked sharp from full-back and he darted into the line to collect Sweetnam's pass before finding Wootton who had cleverly kept his width to score his second.

With Keith Earls and Simon Zebo still to return to the starting back-three, Munster have real quality options. Plenty of tough selection decisions lie ahead for the coaching staff.

Munster took a comfortable 22-6 lead into the break but they were pegged back straight from the restart when they went to sleep and William Small-Smith ran 60 metres to score.

It was a snapshot of what the Cheetahs are capable of but any hope of them mounting what would have been the most unlikely of comebacks were dashed eight minutes later when Munster wrapped up the bonus point.

This time there was nothing flash about the score. The forwards made the hard yards before the outstanding Chris Farrell was stopped short. But there was no halting Jean Kleyn as the South African powerhouse crashed over for his third try in two games.

Munster's didn't take long to add to their 27-11 lead and this time it was Farrell who crossed for his first try for his new club. It was no more than his performance deserved. Keatley's conversion put Munster out of sight with a half an hour still to play and there was no let up.

Wootton then completed his hat-trick with another clever piece of play. The 23-year old certainly has a bright future ahead of him.

The Cheetahs interest levels had long been decimated and the sight of an all Irish front-row in Niall Scannell, Dave Kilcoyne and John Ryan coming off the bench was the last thing they wanted to see.

Kilcoyne was instrumental in Munster's seventh try as he made a big carry in midfield before the ball was spun wide for Sweetnam who again showcased his skills with another terrific skip pass for Wootton to score his fourth.

Keatley added the extras for a 46-11 lead as the artillery kept arriving from the bench. This time it was Zebo who returned to action and he wasted little time in announcing his arrival as he pounced on the ball in the corner to score his side's eighth try.

Henco Venter managed to get over for a consolation try that Petzer converted in the last play of the time but it failed to put any sort of respectability on the scoreline for the visitors.

The Cheetahs will be looking for home comforts in the coming weeks but based on what we have seen over the last two weeks, they have a huge amount of work to do if they are to compete at the business end of the season.

The outlook for Munster is altogether more positive but they won't be getting carried away, particularly with two tough away trips on the horizon. They are however already looking like a better oiled unit.


Munster - A Conway; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, J Taute (R Scannell 59), A Wootton (S Zebo 59); I Keatley, D Williams (J Hart 61); L O'Connor (D Kilcoyne 58), R Marshall (N Scannell 58), S Archer (J Ryan 58); J Kleyn (F Wycherley 71), B Holland (capt); S O'Connor, T O'Donnell, J O'Donoghue (R Copeland 65).

Toyota Cheetahs - C Blommetjies (R Benjamin 56); S Petersen, F Venter (capt), W Small-Smith, M Mapimpi; R Petzer, S Venter (T Meyer 73); C Marais (A Mgijima 59), J du Toit, J Coetzee (T Botha 68); R Bernardo(J Basson 76), R Hugo; P Schoeman, H Venter, N Jordaan (A Koster 28).

Ref - B Whitehouse (Wales)

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