Sport Rugby

Thursday 22 February 2018

Old-school Munster dish out lesson

Munster 23 Dragons 9

Munster’s James Cronin scores his side’s first try against the Dragons at Musgrave Park last night Photo: Diarmuid Greene
Munster’s James Cronin scores his side’s first try against the Dragons at Musgrave Park last night Photo: Diarmuid Greene


Paul O'Connell made his Munster seasonal debut, but it was a return to old fashioned Munster rugby that was the notable news of the evening.

Munster ground Dragons into submission by dominating at the scrum, line-out and the maul and it wasn't until O'Connell arrived in the 51st minute that a forward appeared on the touchline.

By that stage Munster had the win wrapped up thanks to tries from James Cronin and Peter O'Mahony – both two yard dashes – but after last week's disaster against Treviso a win was gratefully accepted on Leeside.

And with Leinster coming to Thomond Park next week and Heineken Cup action on the horizon, Rob Penney will be thrilled to see O'Connell, Felix Jones and O'Mahony all get vital game time under their belts.

In just his second start of the season, JJ Hanrahan gave Munster a sixth-minute lead when he slotted a tricky penalty from outside the 10-metre line after Dragons failed to release the ball in the tackle.

But three minutes later skipper O'Mahony was punished for the same offence in front of his posts and Burton drew Dragons level at 3-3.

Munster's early dominance was also evident in their attacking mauls and Hanrahan edged Munster into the lead again with his second penalty after Dragons tried on a couple of occasions to collapse a rolling maul.

But immediately from the restart Munster conceded a penalty when an isolated Ivan Dineen was forced to hold onto possession in the tackle, and Burton made it 6-6.

But Munster continued to attack the visitors and five minutes from the break the pressure told when James Cronin crashed over from close range for Munster's first try, after both Dineen and Cathal Sheridan made useful yards close to the line.

Hanrahan slotted the conversion to give Munster a 13-6 lead at the break and shortly after the restart he turned down a kick at goal and went for the corner instead.

And after they left Dragons' territory empty handed, Munster were left to rue that decision when Burton reduced the deficit to four points with a penalty from the halfway line in the 46th minute.

Two minutes later Dragons skipper Andrew Coombs was yellow carded for dangerous use of his boot on the advice of the TMO, and less than a minute Dragons were reduced to 13 men when Jevon Groves was also sin-binned after trying to collapse a powerful maul.

But Munster's probing finally paid off and O'Mahony crowned his first start of the season with a close range score, after the Welsh defence bought his dummy pass on the tryline.

The arrival of O'Connell earned an even bigger roar moments later, but with both teams ringing the changes the game fizzled out.

However Dragons pressed hard in the closing minutes for the converted try that would have rescued a losing bonus point for Davies' side, but after several forays towards the try-line, a knock on denied them the score that their second-half recovery deserved.

Scorers – Munster: J Cronin, P O'Mahony try; JJ Hanrahan 3 pens, 2 cons. Dragons: K Burton 3 pens

Munster: J Murphy(F Jones 61); A Conway, K Earls, I Dineen, S Zebo; JJ Hanrahan (I Keatley 62), C Sheridan (D Williams 70); J Cronin (D Kilcoyne 58), D Varley (M Sherry 66), J Ryan (S Archer 58); D O'Callaghan, D Foley (P O'Connell 51); P O'Mahony, S Dougall, P Butler (CJ Stander 68).

Dragons: D Evans; M Pewtner, R Wardle, J Dixon, T Prydie(A Hughes 64); K Burton (J Tovey 69), J Evans (R Rees 57); P Price (O Evans 50), H Gustafson (S Parry 58), F Chaparro (D Way 50); A Coombs, M Screech (R Sidoli 64); J Groves, L Evans, N Talei.

Referee: Neil Patterson (SRU).

Sunday Independent

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