Ronan hat-trick keeps Munster sitting pretty

MUNSTER increased their lead in the Magners League with a big win over Glasgow Warriors at Firhill last night, with man-of-the-match Niall Ronan claiming three of his side’s four tries.

This was a confident display from a Munster side that was missing a number of their international contingent, but their strength in depth showed through with dominant forward play and the ability to manage the game when they were down to fourteen men on either side of the interval.

Skipper Mick O’Driscoll was at the heart of the Munster’s strong forward play, and Ireland scrum-half Peter Stringer’s second-half kicking secured the win for the visitors. The other player behind the scrum to contribute hugely was outside-half Paul Warwick, despite missing several goal kicks.

But on a night when all the goal kickers were off target, it mattered little. Crucially, Warwick had the edge on his opposite number Dan Parks in the running game, the Munster number ten creating a first half try for Keith Earls by beating Parks on the outside.

Munster were also well served by full-back Denis Hurley, who has made a successful comeback to the side. Hurley was secure in defence and in attack used his bulk to force holes in the Glasgow defence.

Munster coach Tony McGahan said: “This was a tremendous victory for us because it’s some time since an Irish team has won here. And all the more so, because Glasgow produced a good performance and had us on the rack for periods in the game.

“But we hung in well and defended well in the last few minutes when Glasgow pounded our line. This typified our performance throughout the game.”

Glasgow had struck first, when Max Evans rounded Keith Earls in midfield and delivered the scoring pass to winger Lomi Fa’atau, after a good burst from Johnnie Beattie.

Glasgow ’s lead was short-lived, as Munster turned up the heat with strong forward play in the build up to an excellent score, skipper O’Driscoll laying on a pop pass to give flanker Niall Ronan a clear run to the line for a try converted by Warwick.

Warriors, however, made an immediate riposte as Scotland flanker Kelly Brown ran a free kick before plunging over for a try to give the home side a 10-7 lead.

Munster roared back on to the offensive following a long touch-finder from Warwick, and only desperate defence from home full-back Bernardo Stortoni stopped a dangerous backline attack from Munster.

But following a period of forward dominance, Warwick skipped past Parks before slipping the ball to Earls, and he added the conversion for a four-point lead.

Glasgow had a chance to reduce Munster’s lead with a penalty attempt, only for Parks to miss for the fourth time. But when Munster number eight James Coughlan was sent to the sin-bin for slowing down Glasgow ball after Max Evans had cut through once more, Parks finally succeeded to narrow the lead to a single point.

Warwick spurned a chance to hit back for Munster, meaning his side were left holding on to a 14-13 lead at the break.

Munster, despite being a man short, had Glasgow under pressure after Peter Stringer used his skill and experience to kick for the corner. But it was the strength of the forwards that produced the dividend, a close-range try for Ronan to give the flanker his second score of the match.

The visitors then utilised the wind to good advantage with a long penalty touch-finder from Warwick to give his forwards a five metre line-out. It was the invitation for a typical Munster try, a clean take, the drive and then the ball dotted down over the line to give Ronan his hat-trick and his side a bonus point.

Scorers for Glasgow: L Fa’atau, K Brown try each; D Parks pen.

Scorers for Munster: N Ronan 3 tries; K Earls try; P Warwick 3 cons.

GLASGOW WARRIORS: B Stortoni; L Fa'atau, M Evans, R Jackson, C Shaw; D Parks, M McMillan; J Va'a, F Thomson, M Low, T Barker, A Kellock, J Eddie, J Beattie, K Brown.

Replacements: D Hall for Thomson (53), K Tkachuk for Low (60) , D Turner for Barker (56), C Forrester for Beattie (12), C Gregor for Stortoni (29), JM Nunez Piossek for McMillan (65), P Horne for Parks (59)

MUNSTER: D Hurley; D Howlett, K Earls, L Mafi, B Murphy; P Warwick, P Stringer; F Pucciariello, D Fogarty, T Buckley, M O'Driscoll, D Ryan, A Quinlan, N Ronan, J Coughlan.

Replacements: Lewis for D. Hurley (69), Manning for Mafi (77), D. Hurley for Pucciariello (48), Holland for O’Driscoll (77).

Referee: T Hayes (Wales)

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