It was a woeful performance by the visitors as their Welsh nightmare continued with a fourth consecutive loss in the principality, allied to back-to-back losses against the Dragons.
With sub-zero conditions crippling south Wales, the game was postponed for 15 minutes after Italian official Alan Falzone was unable to make the kick-off after becoming stuck in traffic. David Bodilly took over the refereeing duties.
Munster welcomed back Tomás O’Leary and John Hayes to the starting line-up, while Lifeimi Mafi made his comeback from suspension on the bench. But the trio could do nothing to stop the clinical Welsh region.
The Dragons dominated territory and possession while ill-discipline cost Tony McGahan’s men dearly, with Sam Tuitupou and James Coughlan both spending first-half time in the sin-bin.
Coughlan was bitterly disappointed with the result but is hoping his side can bounce back for the visit of Cardiff Blues, to Thomond Park next week.
He said: “It was an opportunity for us with the internationals away and there are no excuses but it was very disappointing.
“If we had executed our opportunities a bit better we could have come out on the right end of the result.
“It didn’t matter who was referee, I don’t think it had an effect on the game, but I don’t know why I was sent to the sin-bin.
“We are still top of the league but will sit down and review it with clear heads. I don’t think it will make for pretty viewing but we will move on and look to bounce back next week.”
Munster head coach Tony McGahan added: “It wasn’t a good performance.
“The Dragons’ attitude at the break-down was superb, they kicked well, controlled the game and put us under immense pressure.
“We have to improve our attitude ahead of next week as Cardiff will bring a similarly physical game.”
The Dragons opened the scoring after 22 minutes as Jason Tovey put Tom Riley through the cover to score.
Toby Faletau that did all the hard work, breaking four tackles before being hauled down. The ball was recycled and Tovey put Riley away.
Tovey converted the effort and things got worse for Munster when Tuitupou was sent to the sin-bin for a dangerous tackle. The Dragons kicked to touch and looked to have got their award when Gavin Thomas crashed over. But O’Leary, making his first start since breaking his thumb at the beginning of October, got underneath the ball to deny the hosts.
But minutes later, the open side flanker crossed again to extend the hosts’ lead, Tovey adding the extras.
Things got even worse for Munster when Coughlan joined Tuitupou in the sin-bin on 30 minutes after killing the ball at the breakdown.
But Munster survived and Paul Warwick hit back with Munster’s first points from a penalty after 36 minutes. Tovey struck a penalty to give the Welsh region a 17-3 half-time lead.
Munster came out firing with Warwick’s penalty on 45 minutes. But Tovey nudged the hosts 20-6 ahead with a drop-goal on 67 minutes.
A late surge may have yielded a bonus point for Munster, and full-back Scott Deasy, in for the injured Johne Murphy, went close but a superb cover tackle from opposite number Pat Leach denied the try.
Scorers for Dragons: T Riley, G Thomas try each; J Tovey 2 cons, pen, drp gl.
Scorers for Munster: P Warwick 2 pens.
DRAGONS: P Leach; A Hughes, T Riley, A Smith, A Brew; J Tovey, W Evans; P Price, T Willis, N Hall; L Charteris, R Sidoli; L Evans, G Thomas, T Faletau.
Replacements: L Burns for Evans (55-62) and for Willis (73), A Jones for Sidoli (61).
MUNSTER: S Deasy; D Howlett (cpt), B Murphy, S Tuitupou, D Hurley; P Warwick, T O’Leary; D Ryan, M Sherry, J Hayes; B Holland, I Nagle; T O’Donnell, N Ronan, J Coughlan.
Replacements: W du Preez for Ryan (h/t), P Borlase for Hayes (h/t), P O’Mahony for O’Donnell (53), L Mafi for Hurley (55), T Gleeson for Tuitupou, S Henry for Sherry (both 71), B Hayes for Nagle, C Murray for O’Leary (both 78).
Referee: D Bodilly (WRU)