Mathewson puts seal on rousing rally as stand-ins do Munster proud
Benetton Rugby 28 Munster 37
Munster came from 11 points down to earn a bonus-point win at Stadio Monigo to head into their Champions Cup showdown with Saracens on a high.
Their understrength side came good when it mattered most to dent Benetton's hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the PRO14 for the first time.
The hosts deservedly led 21-17 at the end of an opening half where the lead changed hands five times in a cracking contest in front of a capacity home crowd of 7,000.
With Fijian winger Ratuva Tavuyara showing off his array of skills, Benetton raced into a 10-0 lead, with centre Tommaso Benvenuti getting the try.
Munster side did not panic and hit back with Rhys Marshall getting over for a try after a driven lineout. The visitors hit the front when Dan Goggin intercepted a pass to score - JJ Hanrahan converted both tries.
Two penalties from Tommaso Allan edged the Italians back in front before a penalty from Hanrahan restored Munster's lead, but Monty Ioane's fine try made it 21-17 at the break.
Benetton laid siege to the Munster line for four minutes after the restart and were rewarded with a penalty try after Darren Sweetnam deliberately knocked-on, earning a yellow card in the process as the Italians pushed 28-17 clear.
Again Munster stayed calm impressively and two penalties from Hanrahan cut the gap, with Benvenuti picking up a yellow card for a high hit on Stephen Archer.
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Goggin put Shane Daly over for his first Muster try on 61 minutes, with Hanrahan's conversion edging them 30-28 in front from the left touchline.
Then the out-half combined with Alby Mathewson for the scrum-half to race through for the bonus-point try. The conversion pushed the lead out to 37-28 and Munster were never troubled after that.
Benetton Rugby: J Hayward; R Tavuyara, T Benvenuti (A Rizzi 69), M Zanon, M Ioane; T Allan, D Duvenage (T Tebaldi 62); N Quaglio (C Traore 51), L Bigi (H Faiva 51), M Riccioni (S Ferrari 51); I Herbst (M Lazzaroni 56), F Ruzza; G Pettinelli (M Barbini 58), A Steyn, T Halafihi.
Munster: M Haley; D Sweetnam, S Arnold (A McHenry 78), D Goggin, S Daly; JJ Hanrahan (B Johnston 78), A Mathewson (N Cronin 72); J Loughman (L O'Connor 62), R Marshall (K O'Byrne 62), S Archer (C Parker 52); F Wycherley (D O'Shea 62), B Holland; J O'Donoghue, C Cloete, G Coombes (D O'Callaghan 62).
Ref - B Whitehouse (Wales).