Tryless vs Treviso - Munster's huff-and-puff attack must improve ahead of semi-final clash with Leinster
Having relied on JJ Hanrahan’s 50-metre winner to save face and progress to a Guinness PRO14 semi-final away to Leinster in two weeks’ time, both Peter O’Mahony and Johann van Graan admitted Munster have much to improve on.
Tryless for 80 minutes, they survived a number of close calls to pounce on a controversial penalty award by Nigel Owens four minutes from time to squeeze past the Italians.
Hanrahan stepped up to deliver a booming 50-metre winner to the relief of the majority of the 10,042 at Thomond Park. The home side would acknowledge their opponents' efforts, but they will also be concerned at their own inability to break down the Treviso defence.
Much of the public discourse in the build-up to the game was spent reflecting on Munster’s need for an attack coach and the prospective candidates got a good indication of the job at hand as Kieran Crowley’s men kept the home side tryless for 80 minutes.
It goes without saying they will need to be a lot better to beat the Champions Cup finalists on their home patch, although the post-match news that Joey Carbery and Keith Earls should be fit to play will help.
"We certainly weren’t clinical enough in the first half, they took their chances incredibly well and have some seriously dangerous players — particularly on breaking ball," O’Mahony said.
"We can certainly make huge improvements, but we were under huge pressure.
"Poor skill execution, poor decision-making at times when we offloaded. We put ourselves in some great positions, we need to learn to be a little more patient at times and maybe play a phase or two.
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"But I thought they defended very well, they scrambled well. They’re a hungry side."
Despite owning the ball and spending most of the half in Treviso territory, the home team huffed and puffed. They had a number of opportunities to score in a dominant opening quarter, but couldn’t make their pressure pay.
So, Munster had to be content with a Tyler Bleyendaal penalty after Luca Bigi played Murray at a ruck. Having worked so hard to get a lead they coughed up the kick-off and O’Mahony committed a ruck offence to give Tommaso Allan the chance to level.
He obliged and his side drew confidence from the score and finished the half with a flourish. A quick throw-in and good work from winger Monty Ioane carried them into the ’22 and, after a couple of close-in carries, Allan swept it wide to Fijian Ratuva Tavuyara who rode Mike Haley’s tackle with wonderful athleticism to touch down one handed.
Allan’s conversion gave Munster a seven-point deficit to chase.
Bleyendaal narrowed the gap with a penalty, but Treviso refused to lie down and were a whisker away from a key second try when Bram Steyn couldn’t hold Jayden Hayward’s pass after a superb counter-attack.
Van Graan reacted by sending JJ Hanrahan into the fray, but his first act was a despairing tackle on Tavuyara who brilliantly left both Scannells and Haley for dead but couldn’t stick his pass to Toa Halafihi, who was in if he held on.
Allan and Hanrahan exchanged penalties as the game entered the final quarter with four points between the teams, before the Munster outhalf narrowed the gap to one when Treviso went off their feet after a fine Stander carry.
They were forced to defend through 14 phases in their own ’22 before Andrew Conway forced Tavuyara into touch, before they survived another 15 until John Ryan stepped in and made a big turnover after Dan Goggin did well to deny the powerful Fijian.
Munster hung on in and when Stander got over the ball to win a ruck penalty on their own 10-metre line and Duvenage petulantly threw the ball away, Owens moved the spot to the halfway line.
Replays suggested the award was harsh, but Hanrahan immediately demanded the kicking tee. As soon as he struck the ball, you knew why.
"Credit to JJ, as a No 10 that’s the moment you want," Van Graan said.
"If those moments arise you want to kick it. From the top I saw that as soon as the penalty came he walked straight forward and wanted the ball. That’s what you want from your goal-kicker.
"To actually nail it, that’s why you train for years and years for moments like this — to put your team in a winning position even when the performance was below par."
Scorers — Munster: Bleyendaal 2 pens; Hanrahan 3 pens. Benetton: R Tavuyara try; T Allan con, 2 pens.
Munster: M Haley; A Conway, C Farrell, R Scannell (D Goggin 69), D Sweetnam; T Bleyendaal (JJ Hanrahan 48), C Murray (A Mathewson 67); D Kilcoyne (L O’Connor 73), N Scannell (K O’Byrne 73), S Archer (J Ryan 51); J Kleyn, T Beirne (B Holland 48); P O’Mahony (capt), C Cloete (A Botha 63), CJ Stander.
Benetton: J Hayward; R Tavuyara, M Zanon (A Scarbi 67), L Morisi, M Ioane; T Allan (capt) (A Rizzi 79), D Duvenage (T Tebaldi 42-48, 79); N Quaglio (D Appiah 48), L Bigi (H Faiva 48), M Riccioni (T Pasquali 63); M Lazzaroni (I Herbst 51), F Ruzza; S Negri (D Budd 51), A Steyn, T Halafihi.
Referee: N Owens (Wales)