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Munster off to impressive start in United Rugby Championship

By Aidan Corr

in Thomond Park

United Rugby Championship:
Munster 42, Cell C Sharks 17

TONIGHT Thomond Park was almost back to normal. The presence of the limited number of supporters contributed to the atmosphere and, once again, by half time Munster had shown their superiority on their own patch. Tries by Simon Zebo, Craig Casey and Gavin Coombes and a conversion and penalty from Joey Carbery saw the sides go in with the home side leading 20-3. The South African visitors played a lot of good rugby but the sheer strength in the pack and desire to win proved too much for them.

The Sharks showed their teeth in the opening quarter and they should have taken the lead on three minutes, full-back Curwin Bosch missing the target from a close-in penalty at the Ballynanty end of the ground.

It took Munster only seven minutes to go into the lead and how the crowd loved it. The Sharks lost possession running the ball outside of their own 22, they  lost possession close to the touchline and Simon Zebo pinned back his ears to get the touchdown at the other end of the field. Joey Carbery added the conversion. There was not much between the sides for most of the half and a Joey Carbery penalty pushed Munster 8-0 in front. A superb break by the Sharks skipper and number eight Phepsi Buthelezi saw the visitors make a rare visit to home territory and they got reward with a penalty kick that Curwin Bosch converted with ease to make the score 8-3.

Munster finished the half in style with tries from Craig Casey and a trademark touchdown during a ruck from Gavin Coombes, Joey Carbery converting the second try.

Minutes into the second half, each side had a chance to score a try. Sharks left wing Thaakir Abrahams made a dazzling run from his own five metre line and it took a superb saving tackle by Joey Carbery to prevent a score. Andrew Conway went close when he broke clear on the right wing during the same piece of exciting action.

Munster’s ability to score from close-in set-pieces brought their fourth try after 51 minutes, touchdown expert Gavin Coombes once again dotting down and Carbery kicking the easy conversion to increase the lead to 27-3. The Sharks got a try on 56 minutes, Boata Chamberlin intercepting a wayward pass in midfield and Curwin Bosch kicking the conversion to make it 27-10.

One of the biggest cheers of the night greeted the arrival of RG Snyman on the field. He was making only his second appearance at the venue following a series of unfortunate injuries and accidents. Munster slowed things down a bit going into the last ten minutes, opting to go for the posts with a penalty inside their own half. Ben Healy got his points with a mighty kick to put his side 30-10 in front. The Sharks then replied with a super try from Raw Penexe, converted  by Bosch to put a better look on the scoreboard at 30-17.

Munster finished with a flurry, using the tried and trusted penalty to touch, win the lineout and maul over the line ploy. This time it was Chris Cluete who got over and near the whistle Simon Zebo finished where he started the game with his second try in the corner to bring the lead to 42-17, Ben Healy converting one.

This was a good start for Munster. They looked very fit, very hungry and even without the services tonight of Conor Murray and Damian de Allende they never looked like losing this game. The Sharks had some brilliant moments but not enough of them to cause concern for van Graan’s charges.

Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Simon Zebo; Joey Carbery, Craig Casey; Joey, Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, John Ryan; Jean Kleyn, Fineen Wycherley; Peter O’Mahony (C) Jack O’Donoghue, Gavin Coombes
Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, Jeremy Loughman, Keynan Knox, RG Snyman, Thomas Ahern, Rowan Osborne, Ben Healy, Chris Cloete.
Cell C Sharks: Curwin Bosch, Yaw Penxe, Werner Kok, Marius Louw, Thaakir Abrahams, Henry (Boeta), Chamberlain, Ruan Pienaar, Khwezi Mona, Kerron Van Vuuren, Thomas  Du Toit (Vice C)), Le Roux, Roets Gerbrandt Grobler, Dylan Richardson, Henco Venter, Phepsi Buthelezi (C).
Replacements: Mbatha Fez (FRR), Ntuthuko Mchunu (FRR), Khutha Mchunu (FRR), Mpilo Gumede, Ruben Van Heerden, Hyron, Andrews, Sanele, Nohamba Jeremy Ward.
Referee: Craig Evans (WRU, 23rd league game)
AR1: Marius van der Westhuizen (SARU), AR2: Dermot Blake (IRFU),
TMO: Jon Mason (WRU).

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