Munster find bonus points

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Munster find bonus points

With a third win from four secured and the previous week’s defeat by Treviso consigned to memory, Munster skipper Peter O’Mahony declared the hard work starts now.

“Yeah, happy to get the points on the board, but we’ve plenty of work to do and not that long to do it,” he said.

“I thought some of the rugby we played was very good, but sometimes we were average so we have to have a good look at it and get some positives before kicking on.

“Leinster next weekend is a big challenge. Everyone loves a derby and it’s a great way to get stuck in before the Heineken as well. We’ll take it one game at a time because we have a number of big games over the next month or so. We’ll have to batten down, keep kicking on with our learning and detail. We certainly will have to go up a couple of gears.”

Amongst the positives this season and again on Saturday night has been the emergence of local front row produce in the form of James Cronin. Both he and John Ryan were more than comfortable in the set piece and Cronin embellished a particularly fine display with his second try of the season. Munster’s dominance continued when the entire front row was replaced into the fourth quarter by vastly experienced Dave Kilcoyne and Stephen Archer.

Of even more significance for Rob Penney was the successful return after injury of talisman Paul O’Connell and Felix Jones, who has made yet another remarkable comeback. However, Penney will be concerned Conor Murray is still struggling to overcome a toe injury and might miss the early Heineken Cup duty.

His selection policy these last four weeks should help Munster deal better with injuries and, clearly happy with the progress of Cronin and scrum half Cathal Sheridan, Penney believes the rationale is simple.

“We’re trying to expose people to football,” he said.

“We’re going to need a lot of rugby players when the international boys are gone so we’ve got to allow for the fact that up to 12 players are in the camp [international] and if they all go then we’ve got to have guys capable of replacing them. They can only get that through time at the park.

“We have a good grasp about where we are at. It is about creating depth. We’re going to need to go to the well and the well better be deep if we want to have success.”

JJ Hanrahan and Kristopher Burton kicked two penalties each in the opening quarter of Saturday’s game before Cronin showed his promise outside of the scrum by dotting down the game’s opening try after 34 minutes. Hanrahan added the conversion to secure a well-deserved 13-6 half-time lead.

Burton narrowed the gap with a 45th minute penalty but that was merely a consolation score for the visitors as Munster continued to dominate the game up front and prospered as a result of that dominance. Skipper O’Mahony got the second try while Hanrahan added the conversion and then kicked a penalty to push the lead out to 23-9.

Munster finished the game on the defensive and while Penney will feel his side should have kicked on and secured a winning bonus point at one stage, he will surely be pleased with the resolve they displayed close to their own line in those last few minutes.

MUNSTER: J Murphy, A Conway, K Earls, I Dineen, S Zebo, JJ Hanrahan, C Sheridan, J Cronin, D Varley, J Ryan, D O’Callaghan, D Foley, P O’Mahony (captain), P Butler, S Dougall.

Replacements: P O’Connell for Foley (50), D Kilcoyne for Cronin, S Archer for Ryan (both 57), F Jones for Murphy (60), I Keatley for Hanrahan (62), M Sherry for Varley (64), CJ Stander for Butler (67), D Williams for Sheridan (70).

NEWPORT GWENT DRAGONS: D Evans, M Pewtner, R Wardle, J Dixon, T Prydie, K Burton, J Evans, P Price, H Gustafson, F Chaparro, A Coombs (captain), M Screech, J Groves, N Talei, L Evans.

Replacements: O Evans for Price, D Way for Chaparro (both 49), I Jones for Groves (54), R Rees for Jones (injured, 60), S Parry for Gusafson (63), R Sidoli for Screech, A Hughes for Prydie (both 63), J Tovey for Burton (68).

Referee: N Paterson (Scotland).

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