By John Fallon
Cheetahs 17 Munster 19
A superb display off the bench by Conor Murray and JJ Hanrahan’s accuracy off the kicking tee helped Munster complete their South African tour with an impressive victory over Cheetahs at Bloemfontein.
This win means Munster will be at home in the PRO14 quarter-finals and was a confidence booster ahead of their huge Champions Cup semi-final against Racing 92 next weekend.
Simon Zebo got yellow in the first-half, while Clayton Blommetjies and Tian Meyer gave Cheetahs an advantage but Murray’s try meant it was 17-7 at half-time.
Hanrahan kicked three penalties after half-time and then Murray’s brilliant penalty, from inside his own half, secured victory.
Cheetahs looked to use the difficult Highveld conditions to their favour in the opening quarter and they pressurised Munster from the off.
Their first try arrived in the tenth minute when Blommetjies was set up by a long pass from Francois Venter, before he side-stepped Dan Goggin to finish in the right corner.
Former Racing 92 out-half Johan Goosen was starting his first game for the South Africans and he scored the difficult conversion.
Zebo got yellow eight minutes later for a professional foul when Munster looked outnumbered out wide again, and Sam Arnold’s heroic last-ditch tackle on Uzair Cassiem prevented a second try.
But that try did arrive just before the half hour when Blommetjies drew the last defender before a pass to Meyer, who scored.
Munster finally got some territory once Zebo arrived back on the pitch, and Hart went off injured, before his replacement struck.
Murray stepped up to score from the back of a scrum seconds after his arrival onto the field.
Goosen’s first penalty gave Cheetahs a 17-7 half-time lead but Munster took complete control after the interval, and it was the early impact of their replacements that made the difference.
Hanrahan kicked penalties three penalties to bring the deficit back to 17-16 and then a 51-metre penalty from Murray put Munster ahead in the 66th minute.
Scorers for Cheetahs: C Blommetjies, T Meyer tries, J Goosen 2 cons, pen.
Scorers for Munster: C Murray try, JJ Hanrahan con, Hanrahan 3, C Murray pens.
Cheetahs: C Blommetjies; W Small-Smith, F Venter, N Marais, S Maxwane; J Goosen, T Meyer; O Nche, T van Jaarsveld, J Coetzee; C Wegner, R Hugo; P Schoeman, O Mohoje, U Cassiem
Replacements: C Marais for Nche (58), T Botha for Coetzee (58), H Venter for Mohoje (59), R Bernardo for Hugo (66), C Swart for Goosen (68)
Munster: S Zebo; A Conway, S Arnold, D Goggin, D Sweetnam; JJ Hanrahan, J Hart; B Scott, N Scannell, J Ryan; G Grobler, B Holland; P O’Mahony, J O’Donoghue, R Copeland.
Replacements: C Murray for Hart (36), S Archer for Ryan (40), R Marshall for N Scannell (44), D Kilcoyne for Scott (44), I Keatley for Zebo (48), D O’Callaghan for O’Mahony (55), R Scannell for Goggin (58), C Oliver for O’Donoghue (75).
Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland).