Munster’s coaching director Rassie Erasmus had every reason to feel pleased as his side scored four tries in the opening half. He watched an aggressive display from his forward pack and a good deal of quality mix and match play to keep his side on the front foot for much of game.
“We’ll take this, it was impressive; we played well and did enough to secure a very important win,” said Erasmus.
Munster, after a rip-roaring start, took the lead after just six minutes with a penalty from Tyler Bleyandaal.
However, after a first attack, the Dragons were awarded a penalty close in and Dorian Jones made no mistake with a simple 20 yard kick.
Munster went back into the lead in the 14th minute with the opening try of the match, a brilliant effort by Jaco Taute after an all-out forward assault and Bleyandaal added the conversion to secure a 10-3 lead.
It got better. When Newport launched a failed assault a few minutes later, Bleyendaal broke up the attack with an intercept and when isolated down the right hand flank he chipped brilliantly infield to allow Andrew Conway, with Darren Sweetnam unopposed on his left, pick up and score at the posts. The out half converted for a 17-3 advantage inside the opening quarter.
Intensive pressure kept the visitors on the back foot and they were lucky to avoid a yellow card for a late/dump tackle on Dave Foley, a tackle that ended the second row’s participation in the game But Munster persisted and Taute scored his second try in 28 minutes, one converted by Bleyandaal to push the lead out to 24-3.
Dragons did strike back after 36 minutes and Rhys Buckley scored from a strong driving maul, with Jones adding the conversion to cut the deficit to 14 points.
But then everything went wrong for the visitors again. They conceded a penalty try after what was deemed to be a deliberate knock on by full back Carl Meyer in the last seconds of the half. Bleyendaal kicked the conversion and Munster led 31-10 at the break, the bonus point in the bag. Munster continued to rule the roost in the second-half, a brilliant break between wingers Sweetnam and Ronan O’Mahony drawing gasps from the crowd, even if it yielded nothing.
Still, this 8000 strong crowd was enthralled with a very positive and encouraging display after the break, even if there was nothing further on the score line for a long spell.
The first score of the half fell to the Dragons – against the run of play let it be said – but deservedly on the basis of a powerful maul. The try was credited to Nick Cudd, converted by Jones to leave just 14 between the teams. That didn’t last long, with Dave Kilcoyne going in for Munster’s fifth try and Bleyandaal restored natural order when he converted to make it 38-17 with 15 minutes left on the clock.
The try of the night came at the end from winger O’Mahony who fielded a poor clearance 45 metres out, cut left and then back inside to score at the posts to allow Bleyandaal add the conversion.
A Conway, D Sweetnam, J Taute, R Scannell, R O’Mahony, T Bleyendaal (captain), D Williams, D Kilcoyne, R Marshall, S Archer, J Kleyn, D Foley, D O’Callaghan, T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue.
Darren O’Shea for Foley (24, injured), D Goggin for Conway (31, injured), C Oliver for Kleyn (40), F Saili for Sweetnam (54), B Scott for Archer (56), K O’Byrne for Marshall (58), P McCabe for Kilcoyne (71), A Griesel for Taute (73).
C Meyer, A Hughes, T Morgan, A Warren, P Howard, D Jones, T Knoyle, S. Hobbs, R Buckley, B Harris, M Screech, R Landman, O. Griffiths, N Cudd, L Evans (captain).
E Dee for R Buckley (49), N Crosswell for Harris (55), T Davies for Hobbs, L Fairbrother for Buckley and N Crosswell for Harris (all (65)
M Adamson (Scotland).