Munster secured back-to-back wins on Welsh soil for the first time since November 2014 with a powerful display against an improving Dragons outfit at Rodney Parade. A strong scrum and line-out platform allowed Munster to go ahead through Jean Kleyn’s first try for the club in the first half and a second-half score from Cian Bohane proved to be the difference between the two sides.
“We are coming on from last season, we had a poor season and we need to build because we have already seen that the league is getting very competitive,” said man-of-the-match Ryan. “There are no automatic four or five point victories like maybe there were in previous seasons.
“We’ve seen in the last three games we are trying to be pretty physical and beat teams up front in the scrum and the maul, it’s the Munster way and we are trying to go back to our roots. This week we were a bit more ruthless but there’s still work to be done. We are playing the way we want to play, we are getting there and I think it’s going to click.”
Munster’s victory will go some way to making up for the narrow defeat at home to Cardiff Blues in round two and with consecutive home fixtures against Edinburgh and Zebre to come there’s a real chance to build some momentum under new head coach Erasmus.
Edinburgh have so far failed to impress at the start of the new campaign and their attritional style under South African Alan Solomons has won few admirers but their physicality could provide a stern test for Munster.
Zebre continue to improve and their 22-10 lead over defending champions Connacht before the game was abandoned at half-time due to poor weather should make Munster think twice before underestimating the Italians. Erasmus was reasonably pleased with his side’s display in Newport, having overcome the loss of Keith Earls from the starting line-up due to a late hamstring injury. But he will know the game hinged on two moments that could easily have gone the wrong way and left Munster with nothing to show for their dominance.
The first was Munster’s second try, when wing Darren Sweetnam finished off a well-worked Munster move by crossing in the corner but when he tried to get closer to the posts rather than touching the ball down he was hit by a tackle from the Dragons’ first-half try-scorer Hallam Amos.
Luckily for Munster the ball went backwards and centre Bohane was quickest to react to dive on the ball for Munster’s second try.
The second pivotal moment came right at the death when with less than a minute to play the Dragons kicked a penalty to the corner to set up a driving maul. But they failed to control it properly and a rushed pass from the back of the maul saw James Thomas knock the ball on and the Dragons’ chance of snatching an undeserved victory was lost.
Erasmus said: “The game was mighty close but we can’t ignore where the team is coming from and where it’s going. It wasn’t pretty, there was a lot of guts involved but you can’t go too far on just guts. There is a lot of things that needs to be sorted out.”
Tries – Amos Cons – Pens – O’Brien (3).
Tries – Kleyn, Bohane Cons – Bleyendaal (2) Pens - Bleyendaal (2).
Meyer, Howard, Morgan, Dixon (Warren 77), Amos, O’Brien, Pretorius (C Davies 68); Hobbs (T Davies 52), Buckley, Harris (Mitchell 52), Crosswell (Hill 55), Landman, Evans, Griffiths (Cudd 58), Jackson (Thomas 71) .
Conway (Keatley 54), Sweetnam, O’Shea (Bohane 32), Goggin, O’Mahony; Bleyendaal, Murray; Cronin (Kilcoyne 54), Scannell (Casey 66), J Ryan; Kleyn (O’Callaghan 54), D Ryan; Holland, O’Donoghue (Oliver 73), Stander.