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Keatley on song as Reds bounce back to win in Treviso

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Ian Keatley kicks an unsuccessful penalty in the last minute which would have won the game for Munster. Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Ian Keatley kicks an unsuccessful penalty in the last minute which would have won the game for Munster. Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

SPORTSFILE

Ian Keatley takes on the Treviso defence. Roberto Bregani / SPORTSFILE

Ian Keatley takes on the Treviso defence. Roberto Bregani / SPORTSFILE

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BJ Botha, Munster, runs at the Benetton Treviso defence. Roberto Bregani / SPORTSFILE

BJ Botha, Munster, runs at the Benetton Treviso defence. Roberto Bregani / SPORTSFILE

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BJ Botha, Munster, shakes hands with teammate Duncan Williams after the game. Roberto Bregani / SPORTSFILE

BJ Botha, Munster, shakes hands with teammate Duncan Williams after the game. Roberto Bregani / SPORTSFILE

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Duncan Williams, Munster, kicks a garryowen behind the Benetton Treviso defence. Roberto Bregani / SPORTSFILE

Duncan Williams, Munster, kicks a garryowen behind the Benetton Treviso defence. Roberto Bregani / SPORTSFILE

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Ian Keatley kicks an unsuccessful penalty in the last minute which would have won the game for Munster. Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE

Munster rediscovered some of their mojo to notch a first competitive win under Anthony Foley, thanks to a fine defensive display at a drenched Stadio Monigo last night.

Foley was hoping for a response from his charges after they opened their Guinness Pro12 season with a deflating 14-13 loss at home to Edinburgh - their third straight defeat at Thomond Park.

Having also lost on their last two visits to Treviso, Munster badly needed a pick-me-up and tries in either half from CJ Stander and Simon Zebo - plus Ian Keatley comfortably winning his kicking duel with Joe Carlisle - settled this one in their favour.

Stander and his back-row colleagues Robin Copeland, making his Munster debut, and Tommy O'Donnell ensured there was no repeat of the Edinburgh encounter where Munster were bested in the collisions, while Keatley gave a controlled kicking performance from 10.

Foley made eight changes to the side that had faltered last week, but with talismanic second row Paul O'Connell a late withdrawal due to personal reasons, the captaincy was handed to Ireland full-back Felix Jones.

Munster got off to an ideal start as Treviso went offside at a ruck after knocking the ball on in the second minute, and Keatley slotted the 35-metre penalty. Heavy showers and a cool day in Italy - the weather was, unusually, warmer and drier back in Limerick - led to handling errors on both sides in the early exchanges.

One such Treviso error gave them a scrum platform five metres out, only for a crooked feed from scrum-half Duncan Williams to be picked up by referee Andrew McMenamy.

The scrum was to prove a troublesome area in the first half, although Munster ruled the skies at lineout time through Dave Foley and Billy Holland, giving Williams plenty of opportunities to snipe.

But Treviso stunned them with a 17th-minute sucker punch when an inside pass off a long lineout engineered a line-break for Ludovico Nitoglia, and the hosts sent it through the hands for full-back Simone Ragusi to score wide on the left.

Out-half Carlisle added the tricky extras for a 7-3 advantage but Munster hit straight back as a collapsed scrum shortly after the restart allowed Keatley to kick his second penalty.

The visitors hit the front on 28 minutes when some good initial work from Williams and Keatley gave the forwards a platform in the red zone, marauding back row Stander eventually crossing for his third try in two games, converted by Keatley to push Munster into a 13-7 lead.

Treviso lost flanker Meyer Swanepoel to a serious-looking knee injury 10 minutes before the break, and things could have got worse as a Ragusi intercept prevented Andrew Conway and Zebo completing a one-two with the latter well-placed to score.

Munster took that six-point cushion into the break, but Treviso missed some fine chances to wipe that out as Carlisle was off-target with two penalty chances early in the second period.

Zebo punished those misses when he notched a counter-attack try in the 51th minute.

The Ireland wing burst through two tackles after Treviso had attempted some risky passing near their own line and only half-cleared the danger, and quick hands had set the wing free down the left.

Tough

After Keatley missed the tough conversion, Treviso rallied but BJ Botha to come off the bench and help secure a vital scrum that struggled to get a footing in the slimy conditions.

Carlisle did finally find his range to nail a 63rd-minute penalty after a lineout infringement, but Munster's aggressive defence was otherwise holding firm.

A scrum penalty 10 minutes from time signalled the death knell for the hosts, as Keatley blasted the kick from near halfway to restore the 11-point cushion.

Munster had to survive one hairy moment in the final minutes as Conway recovered a chip in behind with Treviso players hovering, but the danger was cleared.

After a trying start to his tenure as head coach, Foley can breathe a little easier with his duck now broken.

Treviso - S Ragusi (A Esposito 52); L Nitoglia, L Morisi, S Christie, M Campagnaro; J Carlisle, H Seniloli (J Ambrosini 60); M Muccignat (M Zanusso 71), D Giazzon, R Harden (S Manu 52); M Fuser, C van Zyl (capt); M Swanepoel (M Barbini 32), T Vallejos Cinalli, M Luamanu (M Lazzaroni 60).

Munster - F Jones (capt); A Conway, A Smith, I Dineen, S Zebo; I Keatley, D Williams (C Sheridan 65); J Cronin (J Ryan 73), D Casey (K O'Byrne 77), S Archer (BJ Botha 56); D Foley (D O'Callaghan 74), B Holland; CJ Stander, T O'Donnell (S Dougall 74), R Copeland.

Ref- A McMenamy (SRU)

Irish Independent