Ronan secures bonus point win for Munster
Two tries by Niall Ronan secured a bonus-point win for Munster last night as they opened their Magners League account against Italian newcomers Aironi.
Tony Buckley and Felix Jones were also amongst the scorers whilst Paul Warwick capped a fine individual performance with a 13-point haul.
Aironi came to Musgrave Park as an unknown quantity but left having won the respect of the crowd. They proved strong in forward exchanges but also showed ambition in the backs, marshalled by outhalf Ludovic Mercier who scored three penalties.
They shocked the home crowd just before half time when French international Julien Laharrague crossed for a try. But Munster's experience was telling and a solid second half saw them pull away.
The opening exchanges were largely scrappy and uneventful but Munster managed to give themselves an early cushion thanks to two Warwick penalties.
The set-piece looked well-oiled and the Munster front row did well to win two scrums against the head.
Mercier kicked two quick penalties in succession to bring the sides level midway through the first half. Munster began to put some phases together and were rewarded with a try on 26 minutes when Jones cut a nice line off a Peter Stringer pass to burst through from close range, but Warwick failed to add the extras.
Aironi hit back with a brilliant team try, finished off by Julien Laharrague. Mercier missed with the conversion but Franco Bernini was undoubtedly the happier of the two coaches as the sides went into the break tied 11-11.
Munster drew first blood of the second half when Ronan crossed over for a try after a period of sustained pressure. Warwick converted and Aironi looked done when Buckley charged his way over the line four minutes later.
Still, they refused to lie down and Mercier tagged over two more penalties either side of a drop goal by Warwick. But Ronan secured the bonus point win with his second try after a lightening break by Doug Howlett. Warwick converted to leave the score 33-17.
Scorers -- Munster: Ronan 2 tries, Jones try, Buckley try; Warwick 2 cons, 2 pens, dr gl. Aironi: Laharrague try, Mercier 4 pens.
Munster: F Jones (S Deasy 78); D Howlett, J Murphy, S Tuitupou (D Barnes 76), I Dowling; P Warwick, P Stringer (D Williams 75); W du Preez (M Horan 55) , D Varley (D Fogarty 55), T Buckley (J Hayes 55) , M O'Driscoll (A Quinlan 64), B Holland; D Ryan, N Ronan (P O'Mahony 45-53, 75), D Leamy (capt).
Aironi Rugby: J Laharrague; G Rubini (G Pizarro 67), R Quartaroli, D Des Fountain, G Toniolatti; L Mercier, T Tebaldi (M Wilson 75); A De Marchi (A De Marchi 62), F Ongaro (R Santamaria 67), S Perugini; C Del Fava(M Bortolami 54), Q Geldenhuys; J Erasmus (L Milani 50-60), G Krause, N Williams.
Referee: Graham Knox (SRU)