A second successive five-pointer has kept Munster close to the top of the Guinness PRO12 table but Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus and his squad of players know sterner tests await with a derby clash with Leinster next weekend followed by back to back European ties against Racing 92 and Glasgow.
This was a non-contest from the third minute when the outstanding Sweetnam sprinted over for the first of seven Munster tries.
Others followed at regular intervals from Conor Murray, CJ Stander (2), Simon Zebo, a penalty try and Stephen Archer with six conversions coming from Tyler Bleyendaal and another by Ian Keatley. The Italians managed a try late on from Gabriele DiGiulio. Sweetnam was voted man of the match and Zebo was quick to heap praise on his colleague in the aftermath.
“It’s great to see, we haven’t had so many young Munster players exciting the crowd as much as ‘Sweets’ has in a long time”, said Zebo. “He’s just a class player. He has exceptional feet. He’s great in the air where his GAA background has shone through. He’s an exciting player who has a bit of momentum at the moment and the others around him need to make sure that continues.”
Zebo admits the upcoming schedule could prove crucial to their hopes on two fronts: “What happens then is going to set the tone for the rest of our season. We really need to attack them and lay down a marker.”
Erasmus dismissed suggestions that his men learned little from such a one-sided tie. “You need to work hard to make it easy and so I think anybody who saw the first 20 minutes saw that we had to do that.
“There are a few sore bodies and a few with niggles so it was definitely physical. We played some nice rugby and I think we took the chances that were on a platter last week and we didn’t take. At least the guys were trying things and if you make mistakes trying things, that’s ok. If you’re not trying things, that’s a problem.
“We saw ‘Sweets’ when he chased down that guy after the intercept. We were only 7-0 at the time so it was a big moment and it could have been very tight for a while except that ‘Sweets’ made a bigger moment.
“Deservedly, I think he was man-of-the-match not just for that moment but his workrate was very good.”
Former Springbok Jaco Taute made his first appearance for Munster and looked a potential answer to the side’s problems caused by injury in the centre.
“He only got his all clear yesterday and it’s always tough when you go into the captain’s run on the Friday not knowing who your centres are going to be”, said Erasmus. “ I thought Jaco had a solid, steady start. And getting Peter O’Mahony back is a massive boost, his competitiveness, his leadership.
“Even though it wasn’t a big crowd, there were a lot of passionate fans out there, it was noisy, there was atmosphere and the players and coaches felt it.
“When 5 to 6,000 people come to a game on a day when so many other things are going on, it is a privilege to be part of that”.
S Zebo; D Sweetnam, K Earls, J Taute, A Wootton; T Bleyendaal, C Murray; D Kilcoyne, D Casey, S Archer, D Ryan, D O’Shea, B Holland capt, T O’Donnell, CJ Stander.
I Keatley for Bleyendaal 49; C Bohane for Earls 49; D Williams for Murry, J Cronin for Kilcoyne, P O’Maony for O’Shea all 60;J Ryan and C Oliver for Archer and O’Donnell both 68.
E Padovani; G DiGiullo, G Bisegai, T Boni, T Giovanbattist; C Canna, G Palazanni; H Lavotti, G D’Apice, D Christolini, Q Geldenhuys capt, G Koegelenberg, J Sarto, J Meyer, F Ruzza.
G Roan for Chistolini 50; D Minnie for Sarto 60; L Greoff for Venditti for 55; T Boni for Castello 56; C Festuccia for D’Aprice 60; B Postiglioni for Lovotti 63; J Furno for Meyer 63; C Engelbrecht for Palazzani 69.
D Jones (Wales).