Saturday 15 June 2019

Munster earn home comfort

Munster 50-27 Dragons

Paul O’Connell burrows his way over for Munster’s fifth try against Dragons. Photo: Diarmuid Greene
Paul O’Connell burrows his way over for Munster’s fifth try against Dragons. Photo: Diarmuid Greene

Daragh Small

A rampant Munster devoured Dragons at Irish Independent Park and sealed a vital home semi-final against Ospreys next Saturday along the way.

The eight tries scored - including Conor Murray's hat-trick - and the four conceded are irrelevant. History tells us having a home venue is the only possible route into the Pro12 final. Munster fans will hope Thomond Park continues the trend.

Late efforts from Dragons' Rhys Buckley and Jack Dixon left Munster fans with a brief sourness in their mouths, but that soon disappeared after Ronan O'Mahony raced in from his own half and news of Ospreys' failure to take a bonus point from Connacht emerged.

Munster had already put five tries past Dragons once this season and this time around they had that done by half-time.

Murray was the star for the hosts and he dotted down on three occasions and Munster ran in eight tries in all.

Andrew Smith, CJ Stander, Paul O'Connell, Keith Earls and O'Mahony got the other tries for Anthony Foley's men, with Ashton Hewitt, Tyler Morgan, Buckley and Dixon hitting back for Dragons, who trailed 33-10 at half-time.

Munster didn't get off to the best start but after Jason Tovey sent over a penalty Smith got their first try when he raced through a gaping hole in the defence in the third minute.

Keatley's conversion gave them a 7-3 lead but Hewitt's try silenced the Cork faithful.

Despite their defence leaking, Munster attack was on form and Stander got their second try in the ninth minute from the back of a rumbling maul - Keatley's conversion made it 14-10.

Ireland scrum-half Murray added Munster's third try in the 17th minute - he spotted another gap and dived over to give the home side a commanding 21-10 lead, with Keatley's conversion once more successful.

When Hugh Gustasfson got yellow card, Munster capitalised and it was Murray who came good again to give Munster their crucial bonus point just seven minutes later and they eased the pressure from here.

O'Connell added a fifth try just before the break as Munster took a 33-10 lead at half-time and Earls made it six just two minutes into the second half.

Morgan hit back for Dragons in the 51st minute; the Welsh were way out of it but another try from Buckley was worrying for Munster.

There was still time for replacement forward Jack O'Donoghue to set up O'Mahony late on before Dixon dotted down at the death for Dragons.

Scorers - Munster: C Murray (3), A Smith, CJ Stander, P O'Connell, K Earls, R O'Mahony tries; I Keatley 5 cons. Dragons: A Hewitt, T Morgan, R Buckley, J Dixon tries; J Tovey pen, 2 cons.

Munster: F Jones; K Earls (A Conway 66), A Smith, D Hurley (capt), R O'Mahony; I Keatley (JJ Hanrahan 55), C Murray (D Williams 67); J Ryan (D Kilcoyne 51), E Guinazu (N Scannell 51), BJ Botha (S Archer 66); B Holland, P O'Connell (J O'Donoghue 70); D Ryan, P Butler, CJ Stander (S Dougall 70).

Dragons: J Tovey (G Rhys Jones 71); T Prydie, T Morgan (B Nightingale 63), J Dixon, A Hewitt; D Jones, J Evans (R Rees 51); B Stankovich (P Price 66), H Gustafson (R Bukley 63), B Harris (L Fairbrother 66); C Hill (M Screech 58), R Landman (capt); N Crosswell (R Buckley 22-32) (J Benjamin 66), N Cudd, T Faletau.

Referee: B Whitehouse (Wales)

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