Saturday 16 December 2017

Bleyendaal proves his worth in power-packed Munster display

Munster 28 Edinburgh 14

Conor Oliver gets away from Ben Toolis to score his side’s third try. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Conor Oliver gets away from Ben Toolis to score his side’s third try. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Munster's Dave O'Callaghan breaks away from Mike Allen of Edinburgh on is way to scoring his side's fourth try. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Conor Murray and Dave Kilcoyne of Munster in action during a scrum at the Guinness PRO12 Round 4 match against Edinburgh Rugb. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Declan Rooney

Tyler Bleyendaal showed Munster's supporters why the province has been so patient through his extended injury woes with his best performance in a red shirt.

This was Munster's first home win of the season, but their third victory overall sees them climb level with Leinster on 14 points as Rassie Erasmus' side showed their steely side.

Munster will point to a thoroughly dominant scrum as the main reason for their win, but Bleyendaal picked and probed his way through Alan Solomons' side and laid on the two second-half tries in a brilliant playmaking performance.

The New Zealander missed an early kick, but was flawless from there on and kicked four conversions from the tee to clinch this double-scores, bonus-point win.

Back in the centre after last week's hamstring strain, Keith Earls brought a calming influence alongside Cian Bohane in his first start, while a couple of first-half tries for Conor Murray saw Erasmus' side recover from some early sloppiness.

Replacement Conor Oliver and Dave O'Callaghan bagged Munster's other tries, but it was easy pickings for the home side.

Their visitors did kick back late on when John Hardie barged over for their second try - Chris Dean crossed in the first quarter - but there was never any chance that Munster would cough up their advantage and give the Scots any solace in defeat.

"I think first half we were playing some good rugby," said CJ Stander. "The second half was stop-start.

"I think the second half, there's a lot of work-ons. We need to stay in the game and finish them off. We were the dominant pack and we didn't use our chances in the second half."

Edinburgh came into the game with a reputation of having one of the fiercest packs in the Pro12, but in the opening action there was little evidence of that strength. Solomons chose to rest internationals Ross Ford and WP Nel from his front-row, a move he must have regretted long before half-time. In the second minute Munster showed their intentions when they won a penalty from an Edinburgh put-in at the scrum, a feat they repeated on their own ball ten minutes later as well, while Munster also did well to force a turnover from an Edinburgh throw in Munster territory to quell some early endeavour from the Scots.

Another powerful shove from the home pack saw them drive Edinburgh off their own scrum in the fourth minute and after Edinburgh broke the offside line moments later, Bleyendaal was wide of the mark from in front of the posts.

After 13 minutes Munster saw Jack O'Donoghue leave the game in a neck-brace and on a stretcher after Fraser McKenzie appeared to lead with his shoulder into a ruck where he connected with the Ireland under 20 international. McKenzie also left the field for ten minutes for a spell in the sin-bin.

A man down, Edinburgh were methodical in the ensuing ten minutes. They were tight in defence, kept Munster on the back foot and soon had a chance to level the scores when Duncan Weir forced a penalty on the ground, but his kick from his own half dropped narrowly wide after 20 minutes.

But three minutes later things got even better for Edinburgh as Munster failed to protect their own ball on halfway. With CJ Stander going to ground to recycle, the ball popped out of the ruck and Chris Dean had the easy task of outrunning the Munster pack to score in the corner.

Weir's conversion made it 7-0 as McKenzie's sin-binning concluded, but from there to the break, it was the home side that dominated. With Edinburgh struggling to keep their discipline - the conceded nine first-half penalties - Munster began to edge the territorial battle. And they soon pulled level after 27 minutes, and it was no surprise that the score came off the back of a scrum that crept towards the try-line, with Murray getting the vital touch.

And two minutes from the break Munster's scrum did the damage again. This time it was an Edinburgh put-in to a five-metre scrum, but they were devoured by the red pack again. Oliver did well to collar Sam Hidalgo-Clyne and when the ball spilled to Niall Scannell he popped a pass to Murray who scored his second try for a 14-7 half-time lead.

Oliver was an impressive replacement for O'Donoghue and he was rewarded with a try two minutes after the restart. With Ian Keatley popping up a couple of times at scrumhalf, Munster rolled through a few quick phases, and when Bleyendaal carried the ball into contact and offloaded, Oliver skipped in for the score down the left.

There was no secret as to how Munster would go in search of the bonus point win with such a dominant set piece. The concession of a penalty ten metres from goal saw them call for a scrum, and after two more penalties by the Edinburgh front-row, Allan Dell was sent to the sin bin.

With scrums now uncontested, Munster then turned to the maul, but Stander was held up after he breached the line. The pummelling continued from the next uncontested scrum as Stander knocked on with the line at his mercy.

But Munster were not to be denied a five-point haul from this dominant display and the inevitable score came when O'Callaghan crossed again for Munster three minutes shy of the hour mark, with Bleyendaal picking the lock once again.

With the heavy win secured by the home side they emptied the bench in the last quarter and as a result Edinburgh began to show some steel - just like they did in defeat to Leinster last weekend.

Thirteen minutes from full-time Hamish Watson sent John Hardie in for their side's second try, despite the best efforts of John Ryan, which put 14 points between the sides.

Solomons's troops were certainly boosted after the scrums went uncontested in the final quarter, but they were unable to add further to their score in a spirited conclusion.

Scorers - Munster: C Murray 2, C Oliver, D O'Callaghan tries; T Bleyendaal 4 cons. Edinburgh: C Dean, J Hardie tries; D Weir con, B Kinghorn con.

Munster: I Keatley; D Sweetnam, K Earls, C Bohane, R O'Mahony; T Bleyendaal (A Wootton 59), C Murray (D Williams 59); D Kilcoyne (J Cronin 58), N Scannell (D Casey 59), J Ryan; J Kleyn (D O'Shea 44), B Holland; D O'Callaghan (S Archer 65), J O'Donoghue (C Oliver 13), CJ Stander.

Edinburgh: G Bryce; D Hoyland, M Allen (R Scholes 72), C Dean, T Brown; D Weir (B Kinghorn 52), S Hidalgo-Clyne (S Kennedy 64); R Sutherland, S McInally (N Cochrane 59), K Bryce (A Dell 5); F McKenzie (L Carmichael 68), B Toolis; M Bradbury, H Watson (J Hardie 25-33, blood), C Du Preez (J Cosgrove 52) (J Hardie 59).

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU)

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