Munster ease to opening win against Dragons

Munster ease to opening win against Dragons

Munster sewed up an opening 39-9 Guinness PRO14 bonus-point win over the Dragons without too much difficulty at a wet and windy Thomond Park.

Dean Ryan’s first competitive outing as Dragons director of rugby started well but Munster cranked it up in the second quarter, scoring two of their three first half tries while experienced hooker Richard Hibbard was in the sin-bin.

Scores from Arno Botha, Jack O’Donoghue and man-of-the-match Shane Daly made it 22-9 at half-time, with Dragons debutant Sam Davies kicking three penalties.

Tyler Bleyendaal scored a 60th-minute bonus point try and young replacement hooker Diarmuid Barron also crossed from a late maul. JJ Hanrahan finished with 14 points from the tee.

New fly-half Davies opened the scoring in the second minute, the Welsh region having the benefit of the elements behind them.

Munster ease to opening win against Dragons

However, Mike Haley’s regathering of his own kick on the quarter-hour mark got the Munster attack firing and O’Donoghue and Kevin O’Byrne, on his 50th appearance, gained ground closer in.

The Munster pack forced the issue with successive penalties won and number eight Botha was able to plunge over from a close-in ruck, 16 minutes in.

Hanrahan converted and also added a well-struck penalty in response to a long-range miss by Davies.

The former Osprey was soon back on target from the right wing, closing the gap to 10-6, but Hibbard’s 32nd-minute shoulder charge on O’Donoghue left the visitors down a man.

Munster responded with two tries in five minutes, O’Donoghue firstly burrowing in under the posts for Hanrahan to convert.

Winger Daly then cleverly chipped ahead and won the race to the touchdown in the left corner, although Botha was punished for not rolling away before the interval as Davies fired over his third successful penalty.

His opposite number cancelled out that kick with a 42nd-minute penalty, pushing the margin out to 16 points.

Munster ease to opening win against Dragons

Dragons failed to profit from Haley’s yellow card for a tackle around Owen Jenkins’ neck, their best opportunity foiled by Munster captain Billy Holland and Tommy O’Donnell who forced turnover possession from a maul just a few metres out.

Daly threatened to score from his own charge-down, but there was no denying Bleyendaal from close range following a Rory Scannell break and an inviting pass from hooker O’Byrne.

Hanrahan converted and also added the extras to Barron’s 78th-minute effort, with Academy duo Keynan Knox and Jack O’Sullivan joining Nick McCarthy in making their competitive bows for the province.

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