Munster took this game by the scruff of the neck from the first whistle of a ferocious encounter, the home side getting their reward with an early penalty from Ian Keatley and hammering home their dominance with first-half tries for Rhys Marshall and Simon Zebo that put the Reds firmly in control.
Munster’s first-half performance as they raced into a 23-3 interval lead was their best 40-minutes of the season, the men in red bristling with intensity in a ferocious clash. It must have delighted new head coach Johann van Graan, taking charge of his first Champions Cup game as his side dealt a psychological blow to the visitors.
Plenty of candidates for Munster with Chris Cloete, on his European debut, and hooker Rhys Marshall making their mark with impressive performances, though it was another Champions Cup debutant, centre Sam Arnold, who made light of the absence of injured midfield duo Jaco Taute and Chris Farrell with a man of the match display, his partnership with Rory Scannell blossoming with every game.
Jerome Garces was not afraid to refer to his Television Match Official, Rowan Kitt, but at times it seemed he was reluctant to acknowledge the footage he was being shown. Twice during the first half he saw Munster players, Chris Cloete and Rory Scannell, being illegally tackled around the neck and on both occasions declined to brandish a card.
Munster 13 Leicester 8
There will be concern in the Munster camp at the sight of Dave Kilcoyne disappearing down the tunnel, his knee heavily strapped to compound the province’s injury problems at loosehead. Munster also lost wing Andrew Conway after a clash of heads with Leicester full-back Telusa Veainu, the Tigers star also taken off after their collision.
It’s over to England for the rematch at Welford Road next Sunday as the tension in Pool 4 mounts. A year ago on the corresponding weekends, Munster had enjoyed a 38-0 hammering over the toothless Tigers in Limerick only to lose to a last-kick-of-the-game penalty in the round-four return. Avoid a similar fate next weekend and Munster will have one foot in the quarter-finals.