Munster achieved their essential aim of taking all five Guinness Pro 14 points from the visit of the lowly Southern Kings by the half-time whistle at Musgrave Park and after that, it was little more than a romp for a bang-in-form home side who thrilled the appreciative Cork crowd of 6,854 with ten tries on a delightful evening for attacking football.
Coach Johann van Graan made no secret of his satisfaction with much of the fine rugby served up by his side in the course of a record 68-3 victory. And while deep down he must wonder what exactly his own players can learn from such a one-sided affair, the result means that their bid to lead Conference B by the end of the group stages is now very much back on track.
The vocal Cork crowd were treated to just the start they wanted when after six minutes, the 20-year-old Rosscarbery debutant John Hodnett produced the kind of exhilarating 50-metre burst that has typified his burgeoning career with the Ireland U20s and UCC in the AIL.
It was finally checked by the Kings full-back Andell Loubser but his illegal challenge was deemed worthy of a yellow card by Georgian Nika Amashukeli, refereeing his second game in a week at the venue having also handled the Ireland-Wales Six Nations U20 game a week earlier. And it came as little surprise when Munster number eight Arno Botha rumbled over for the game’s first try from the resultant scrum.
The second on 22 minutes illustrated the speed and skill of right-wing Calvin Nash as he raced over in the corner for another beauty. The splendour of Munster’s rugby highlighted by some outstanding football from the team as a whole along with the individual pace and guile of the entire back division. The likes of Mike Haley, Nash, Chris Farrell and Shane Daly, offered the promise of further tries the longer the game went on.
The fourth and all-important bonus arrived on the stroke of the half-time whistle when JJ Hanrahan’s little chip through bounced kindly for Jack O’Donoghue. Hanrahan maintained his 100% conversion record to leave Munster cruising at the break by 28-3.
The biggest cheer of the night came on 49 minutes when Hodnett, later to be honoured with the man of the match award, spectacularly finished off a flowing movement and when Neil Cronin got in on the try-scoring act, it was time for van Graan to empty his bench. By the time he gave way to Ben Healy, JJ Hanrahan had converted all six tries with the score at 42-3
Tries by Daly and Botha, their second each, and Dan Goggin brought the tries tally to a record ten, as three conversions by Ben Healy took the total points total to 68.
Munster- M Haley; C Nash, C Farrell, D Goggin, S Daly; JJ Hanrahan, N Cronin; J Cronin, N Scannell, J Ryan; F Wycherley, B Holland capt; J O’Donoghue, J Hodnett, A Botha.
Replacements - K O’Byrne for N Scannell59, J Loughman for J Cronin 59, K Knox for Ryan 59, G Coombes for Wycherley 62, C Cloete for Hodnet 59, N McCarthy for N Cronin 55 mins, B Healy for Hanrahan 55, R Scannell for Daly 67.
Southern Kings: A Loubser; C Hollis, S Sithole, E Cronje, E Ludick; D Catrakalis, S Ungerer; S Ferreira, J du Toit, R de Klerk, J Sexton, JC Astle capt, L Badiyana, B de Wee, R Lerm.
Replacements: A Van Rooyen, X Vos, I Prinsloo, A Fortuin, T Bholi, L Dapula, J Alderman, C Winnaar.
Referee – Nika Amashukeli (Georgia).