Depleted Munster see off Dragons
Despite having a dozen players in Japan, Munster did all that was required of them to get their season up and running with an emphatic 39-9 victory over Dragons in dreary conditions at Thomond Park yesterday.
The wealth of young talent coming through in Munster was apparent with winger Shane Daly again posting an impressive display which he crowned with an excellent try.
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The hosts recovered from a sluggish opening to take charge against the Welsh outfit and lead 22-9 at the break. They made the most of a yellow card to hooker Richard Hibbard for a high tackle on Jack O'Donoghue after half an hour.
Munster had led 10-6 at that stage thanks to an opening try after 16 minutes from Arno Botha with a penalty to the left corner yielding a big dividend after several phases. JJ Hanrahan converted and added a penalty with Sam Davies responding with two penalties for Dragons.
Munster turned the screw with the extra man, O'Donoghue got their second try under the posts after another penalty to touch was followed by several good drives. Then the promising Daly continued his superb pre-season form down the left wing to gather his own chip and score his second PRO14 try.
Davies pulled back a penalty for Dragons before the break to cut the gap to 13 points.
Hanrahan extended Munster's lead with a penalty after 42 minutes but three minutes later full-back Mike Haley was binned for a high tackle on Owen Jenkins.
Daly came close to getting his second try after 58 minutes when he covered a lot of ground and blocked a clearance from Ashton Hewitt, but the ball went dead before the Corkman could touch down.
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However, Munster wrapped up the bonus point after 61 minutes when Tyler Bleyendaal finished under the posts.
All that remained to be decided after that was the margin of victory and Munster finished in style with another superb drive off a lineout yielding a first try for Academy hooker Diarmuid Barron. Hanrahan converted from the left to wrap up an encouraging start before the Reds head for the sunshine in South Africa over the next two weekends.
Meanwhile, Dave Kearney scored a hat-trick of tries as Leinster got the defence of their title off to a 32-27 winning start against Benetton.
Kearney scored each side of half-time, and after Luca Sperandio touched down and gave Benetton the lead with 20 minutes to go, the Ireland winger rescued Leinster with his third 14 minutes from time. The home side played the last 31 minutes with 14 players after Ratuva Tavuyara saw red for taking Kearney out in the air.
Connacht's season started on a low note as they slipped to an 18-10 defeat against an understrength Scarlets side in Llanelli. With the Scarlets missing 15 players, as opposed to Connacht's two, this was a golden opportunity to claim a first victory at Parc Y Scarlets.
But tries from Steff Evans and Paul Asquith along with eight from the boot of Dan Jones was enough for the hosts to get over the line. All Connacht could muster was a single try from Eoghan Masterson and five points from Conor Fitzgerald's boot.
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