Tuesday 21 November 2017

Stress-free Munster crush Cheetahs

Munster 51 Cheetahs 18

Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Sportsfile
Rassie Erasmus. Photo: Sportsfile
Brendan Fanning

Brendan Fanning

A week on from the shellacking in the evening sun at Kingspan, the Cheetahs arrived in Limerick expecting rain - and a bit more of the same on the match front. The weather was a bit better than they hoped, and the game was done and dusted by the time the clouds rolled in. But the darkness on other side of the equation was right on the money. Between Ulster and Munster their Irish adventure has seen them concede 93 points.

We still dredge up the memory of Mick Galwey, standing under his own posts in Toulouse, imploring his teammates to keep it below 50. Did Springbok Francois Venter urge his lads to stay the right side of the ton? Better than that, they got the last score of the game, for a try count of 8-2 in Munster's favour.

Dave Kilcoyne of Munster is tackled by Ox Nche of Cheetahs. Photo: Sportsfile
Dave Kilcoyne of Munster is tackled by Ox Nche of Cheetahs. Photo: Sportsfile

Spring rather than autumn will be a more appropriate time to judge the value of the South African input to the Guinness Pro14, but given the amount of time these lads have been on their feet already this year, it's hard to see a great upswing in fortunes when that time comes. Certainly they will be more comfortable on home spoil - for the Cheetahs there is the attractive prospect of having Zebre in Bloemfontein next weekend - but even with that they will have a country mile to make up.

Their third string got battered in the Currie Cup yesterday so it's not as if there is a horde of replacements coming over the hill. Pity, because already they are in need of assistance.

At half-time here, in front of a crowd of 15,144, they were 22-6 down at the break, and lucky to be within a few scores of their hosts. Sometimes the stats in these things are skewed. Or at least misleading. So it was hard to reconcile the one that said they had enjoyed more territory; or that they were equal on the penalty count; and that they trailed only by 10-7 on turnovers.

At times they were so bad it was hard to watch. Between passes to nowhere, passes to fellas whose minds were elsewhere; or tackles missed, it was poor fare. As for Munster, they had budgeted for two bonus-point wins to kick off their campaign and they delivered on that target without any great stress. And their supplier-in-chief has been Alex Wootton. Operating an Exiles system when England's academies are funded by the RFU limits your scope a bit, but still there is talent to be had over there if you know where to look - and Wootton is evidence of that.

Simon Zebo of Munster scores a try despite the efforts of Torsten van Jaarsveld. Photo: Sportsfile
Simon Zebo of Munster scores a try despite the efforts of Torsten van Jaarsveld. Photo: Sportsfile

Five tries over the opening two rounds - he got four here in just over an hour before being replaced by Simon Zebo - is at the very least, long-odds stuff. It will be interesting to see how he goes against opponents keen on going toe to toe with him - which was not the case with the Cheetahs - but he did everything asked of him last night. In the circumstances, picking up the man of the match award was a formality.

Otherwise for Rassie Erasmus, it was about giving some game-time to other new heads. Academy lads Liam O'Connor and Seán O'Connor made league debuts, at loosehead and number six respectively, in the handiest circumstances imaginable. And centre Chris Farrell got another bit of time under his belt with Jaco Taute.

Farrell's try in the second half illustrated perfectly the lack of interest in the Cheetah ranks for keeping things respectable. He will be glad to be out of France and settling in to an ambitious set-up whose resources are deeper now than they have been since the glory days of European successes.

Only once over the 80 minutes did Munster look really uncomfortable, and that was when centre William Small-Smith left a few people for dead - including Ian Keatley who will be equally disappointed with only 50 per cent off the tee - on a startling run and score from 60 metres.

You could picture him doing the same thing more often at altitude. And boy do the Cheetahs need a bit of that.

Scorers - Munster: T O'Donnell, A Wootton 4, J Kleyn, C Farrell, S Zebo tries; I Keatley pen, I Keatley 4 cons. Cheetahs: W Small-Smith, H Venter tries; R Petzer 2 pens, con.

Munster: A Conway; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, J Taute (R Scannell 60), A Wooton (S Zebo 62); I Keatley, D Williams (J Hart 62); L O'Connor (D Kilcoyne 58), R Marshall (N Scannell 58), S Archer (J Ryan 58), J Kleyn, B Holland, S O'Connor, J O'Donoghue (R Copeland 65), T O'Donnell

Cheetahs: C Blommetjies (R Benjamin 57; A Mgijima 77)); S Petersen, F Venter (capt), W Small-Smith, M Mapimpi; R Petzer, S Venter (T Meyer 73); C Marais (O Nche 60), J du Toit, J Coetzee (T Botha 68), R Bernardo (J Basson 78), R Hugo, P Schoeman, N Jordaan (A Koster 28), H Venter

Referee: B Whitehouse (Wales)

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