Compared to last week’s rollercoaster opening victory in Edinburgh, this was a straightforward and somewhat disappointing affair but the 10,261 supporters who decided to give this re-booted Munster set-up an early appraisal appeared to like what they saw, at least in the first half.
New captain Doug Howlett notched a try, fly-half Ian Keatley gave another assured performance at fly-half and the pack dominated to give Munster a 16-3 lead at half-time to earn them warm applause with an understrength Treviso side.
Yet the Italians returned with some spirit for the second half and, even when temporarily down to 14 men following the sin-binning of centre Alberto Sbargi, denied an unplugged Munster side even a sniff of the bonus-point victory their first-half performance had signalled.
“We dominated territory in both halves but just made errors at crucial times,” Penney said. “There were passages in both halves where we were excellent and passages in both halves where we were just a bit impatient or just a bit impetuous with our passing. So, we’ve just got to keep building on what we’re trying to do and get more accuracy.
“If half the opportunities had stuck it would have been a really nice performance I think, because we created so many.”
Treviso had indicated something of a surrender before they arrived in Limerick when they made eight changes to the side which defeated the holders Ospreys in the opening game, relegating potent Test back rowers Alessandro Zanni and Robert Barbieri to the bench, while for Munster, Donncha O’Callaghan was a late withdrawal. Dave Foley replaced him in the second row with Tommy O’Donnell drafted into the squad on the bench.
There was every sign the momentum started by the win at Murrayfield would continue when Keatley sent his kick off into a perfectly still evening in Limerick and saw Treviso fumble the ball, immediately putting Munster on the front foot.
Yet it was the Italians who opened the scoring when Treviso fly-half Alberto Di Bernardo slotted a penalty from 15 metres into the Munster half after four minutes.
Whereas Edinburgh had given their visitors a jolt with two early tries, there were none such fireworks from Treviso and the home side quickly reasserted their authority with a perfectly executed lineout move in the seventh minute, Damien Varley launching his throw way over the back to where a lurking Dave O’Callaghan collected and broke the gain line, offloading to captain Howlett for a try under the posts.
Keatley quickly converted and, showing his growing confidence with a new approach to his place-kicking, stretched Munster’s lead with three successive penalties to give Penney’s side a 16-3 lead.
Instead of the inspected flurry of tries after the break, Munster appeared to lose their swagger and impetus in a half that barely sparked to life. It was only Keatley and di Bernardo who troubled the scoreboard, with just one penalty apiece.
Munster did cross the tryline, with Howlett and Keatley combining well again after Billy Holland had stolen a lineout, Howlett’s offload in the 46th minute inside to his fly-half kicked on by the 10 who chased it over only for the ref to rule it a knock-on.
Had it been given it may have changed the course of the second half. Instead, a second win of the season was duly delivered for the Penney regime, but the new head coach will be hoping for much more in terms of performance as the campaign draws on.
MUNSTER: D Hurley; D Howlett (captain), C Laulala (I Dineen, 64), J Downey, L O’Dea; I Keatley (S Deasy, 70), D Williams (P Stringer, 67); W du Preez (D Kilcoyne, 57), D Varley (M Sherry, 57), S Archer (BJ Botha, 72); D Foley, B Holland; Dave O’Callaghan (T O’Donnell, 60), S Dougall (D Varley, 80), J Coughlan (P Butler, 54).
TREVISO: B Williams; L Nitoglia, A Sgarbi, L Morisi (F Semenzato, h-t), T Iannone; A Di Bernardo, E Gori (K Burton, 71); M Rizzo (A De Marchi, 47), E Ceccato (G Maistri, 64), L Cittadini (I Fernandez-Rouyet, 47); A Pavanello – captain (C Van Zyl, 47), V Bernabò; S Favaro (R Barbieri, 54), D Budd (A Zanni, 67), P Derbyshire.
Referee: A McMenemy (SRU)