Friday 17 August 2018

Murray leads fightback to tame Cheetahs

Cheetahs 17 Munster 19

Munster's Conor Murray in action against the Toyota Cheetahs at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Photo: Johan Pretorius/Sportsfile
Munster's Conor Murray in action against the Toyota Cheetahs at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Photo: Johan Pretorius/Sportsfile

John Fallon in Bloemfontein

Johaan van Graan's first visit back to South Africa since taking charge of Munster could hardly have gone much better as they chalked up a second win where only Glasgow Warriors have triumphed this season.

Four of the last five teams to lose at the Toyota Stadium have fallen in the last five minutes, so it was pleasing when Munster held off a late onslaught to claim a home quarter-final in the Guinness PRO14 and send them to Bordeaux to face Racing 92 next week on a high.

Conor Murray, not for the first time, was the hero as Munster came from 14-0 behind to win.

Murray scored a try straight after coming on as a 36th minute replacement for James Hart and then delivered the winner 14 minutes from time with a monster penalty from inside his own half.

Munster's John Ryan in action during the match at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein. Photo: Johan Pretorius/Sportsfile
Munster's John Ryan in action during the match at Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein. Photo: Johan Pretorius/Sportsfile

Cheetahs forced a succession of scrums inside the 22 in the final minutes, but after two resets Munster won a penalty and claimed the win.

A heavy pitch after overnight rain, combined with the thin air in the Highveld, ensured this was going to be a tough test for Munster and the task became even more difficult when they fell 14-0 behind after 28 minutes.

Fulll-back Clayton Blommetjies got the opening try after 11 minutes and then he set up scrum-half Tian Meyer for their second after 28 minutes, just as Simon Zebo's spell in the bin was coming to an end.

Johan Goosen, back for his first competitive game since walking out on Racing 92 in December 2016, landed both conversions as he chalked up some game-time before his controversial summer move to Montpellier.

Jack O'Donoghue looked to have opened Munster's account seven minutes from the break, but the score did not count as Robin Copeland was adjudged to have knocked-on in a scrum, even though it was more than two phases previously.

It took Conor Murray less than half a minute to make a telling impact when he was introduced for the injured Hart, skipping around from a scrum to score, with another unnecessary visit to the TMO to confirm what everyone in the ground already knew.

Munster's Andrew Conway is tackled during the match in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Photo: Johan Pretorius/Sportsfile
Munster's Andrew Conway is tackled during the match in Bloemfontein, South Africa. Photo: Johan Pretorius/Sportsfile

JJ Hanrahan converted to cut the gap to seven, but the Cheetahs led 17-7 at the break when Goosen landed a penalty from distance.

It was all Munster in the second-half and they took control from the restart. Three Hanrahan penalties cut the gap to 17-16 after 62 minutes and then Murray edged them in front with a penalty from 51 metres four minutes later - the ball cleared the bar by at least 10 metres.

All that had to be done then was survive the late onslaught and with Sammy Arnold, Gerbrandt Grobler and Jack O'Donoghue leading the way, Johaan van Graan's South Africa trip could hardly have ended on a better note.

Cheetahs - C Blommetjies; W Small-Smith, F Venter, N Marais, S Maxwane; J Goosen (C Swart 68), T Meyer; O Nche (C Marais 58), T van Jaarsveld, J Coetzee (T Botha 58); C Wegner, R Hugo (R Bernardo 66); P Schoeman, O Mohoje (H Venter 59), U Cassiem

Munster - S Zebo (I Keatley 48); A Conway, S Arnold, D Goggin (R Scannell 58), D Sweetnam; JJ Hanrahan, J Hart (C Murray 36); B Scott (D Kilcoyne 44), N Scannell (R Marshall 44), J Ryan (S Archer 40); G Grobler, B Holland; P O'Mahony (D O'Callaghan 55), J O'Donoghue (C Oliver 75), R Copeland.

Ref - M Adamson (Scotland).

Irish Independent

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