Clinical Munster top again
PRO14 REPORT: Munster surged back to the top of the Conference A table with a powerful second-half display away at play-off-chasing Benetton.
The Italian outfit, with an excellent chance of qualifying themselves from Conference B, started strongly with Tommaso Benvenuti’s try but were pegged back as Rhys Marshall and Dan Goggin touched down.
Monty Ioane stormed in before the break and a penalty try just after it but Benetton in control, before Shane Daly crept into the corner and JJ Hanrahan made it 30-28 with a conversion out wide.
The flyhalf then made a stunning break to set up Alby Mathewson for the killer try, sending Munster to the top of Conference A.
The Friday encounter in Italy began with the hosts on the front foot, first via a Tommaso Allan penalty and immediately followed up by Iliesa Ratuva impressively breaking from his own half and passing to outside centre Benvenuti to speed away unopposed.
Munster wasn’t down for long though and hooker Marshall continued his good try-scoring season as he burrowed over from short distance after a line-out in the corner.
On 14 minutes Munster went ahead through a freak try, with Sammy Arnold hacking through after Benetton had spilled and somehow managing not to knock-on, before a loose pass found a waiting Goggin to collect and score.
The Treviso-based outfit took a 16-14 lead through two more Allan penalties, before it swayed back the other way owing to a Hanrahan strike.
Benetton would have the last say in the half though as No.15 Jayden Hayward found space down the left and passed out to Ioane, proving typically uncatchable when given space to open up his legs.
Munster trailed 21-17 at the break and soon found themselves further behind after a penalty try was awarded and wing Darren Sweetnam saw yellow for a deliberate knock-down out wide.
Benvenuti was then also sin-binned to level up the sides, with Hanrahan kicking a penalty to reduce the deficit to 28-23.
Momentum swung the way of the Irish province and they grabbed their third try as Goggin broke down the left side and flung a speculative offload that Daly seized upon and pounced in the corner.
Hanrahan kicked the tough conversion to take a 30-28 lead and then played a huge part in the next try, taking the ball flat to the line around halfway to storm through the opposition defence and offload to Mathewson for a simple finish.
With Munster leading 37-28 heading into the final ten minutes Benetton desperately tried to find a way back into the match, but their experienced opponents kept play in the right areas of the pitch to see the game out.
Tries: Benvenuti, Ioane, Penalty try
Cons: Allan, penalty try does not require a conversion
Pens: Allan 3
Tries: Marshall, Goggin, Daly, Mathewson
Cons: Hanrahan 4
Pens: Hanrahan 3
Yellow cards: Darren Sweetnam (Munster, 44), Tommaso Benvenuti (Benetton, 52)
Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Ratuva Tavuyara, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Marco Zanon, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Tommaso Allan (captain), 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Toa Halafihi, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Sebastian Negri, 5 Federico Ruzza, 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Marco Riccioni, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio.
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Cherif Traore, 18 Simone Ferrari, 19 Marco Lazzaroni, 20 Giovanni Pettinelli, 21 Tito Tebaldi, 22 Antonio Rizzi, 23 Tommaso Iannone.
Munster: 15 Mike Haley, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Sammy Arnold, 12 Dan Goggin, 11 Shane Daly, 10 JJ Hanrahan, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Gavin Coombes, 7 Chris Cloete, 6 Jack O’Donoghue, 5 Billy Holland (captain), 4 Fineen Wycherley, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Rhys Marshall, 1 Jeremy Loughman.
Replacements: 16 Kevin O’Byrne, 17 Liam O’Connor, 18 Ciaran Parker, 19 Darren O’Shea, 20 Dave O’Callaghan, 21 Neil Cronin, 22 Bill Johnston, 23 Alex McHenry.
Referee: Ben Whitehouse (Wales)
Assistant referees: Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy), Rhys Jones (Wales)
TMO: Stefano Roscini (Italy)