Van Graan: Not good enough by our standards

Johann van Graan’s Munster endured a first defeat of the season as Cheetahs doled out another heavy beating in this battle of the conference leaders in Bloemfontein.

Van Graan:  Not good enough by our standards

[team1]Cheetahs[/team1][score1]40[/score1][team2]Munster[/team2][score2]16[/score2][/score]

By David Smith

Johann van Graan’s Munster endured a first defeat of the season as Cheetahs doled out another heavy beating in this battle of the conference leaders in Bloemfontein.

Three Tyler Bleyendaal penalties kept Munster in touch at half time, but tries from William Small Smith and Joseph Dweba sealed a third straight bonus-point win for Cheetahs, while Dan Goggin ran in a late reward for Munster.

The free-scoring South Africans brought their tally to 22 tries from three games as they beat Munster for the first time — but unlike last week’s feast against Ulster, the power of their pack and set piece were their greatest assests in this victory.

“We managed the altitude pretty well in the first half, came in 12-9 and started the second half pretty well,” said van Graan.

“Early in the second half, we had a kick at goal that hit the post and they scored from there. It was a big swing in the game. That’s where they are very good; they are very battle-hardened. We did some really good stuff tonight, but in terms of our standards, it’s not good enough.”

After three home games to start the season, the schedule has been kind to the SouthAfricans — their next home game is not until February — and in the early stages Munster rediscovered how tough it is to play at altitude in Bloemfontein.

With Ruan Pienaar thriving on a healthy supply of quick ruck ball, Cheetahs spent much of the first quarter in Munster territory, and after the Munster pack conceded three quick penalties, it was no shock to see the home side take the lead.

Just before Ox Nche scored the first try, Rhys Marshall was sin-binned when he collapsed a maul, and moments later Nche — who is poised to move to Super Rugby side Sharks — crashed over. Pienaar’s conversion made it 7-0.

Without their hooker, Munster gave scrum-half Nick McCarthy and prop Jeremy Loughman turns throwing into the lineout, and just after they were restored to 15, a scrum penalty on the left allowed Bleyendaal to trim the lead.

Bleyendaal made it 7-6 with his second penalty 13 minutes from the break, but after taking the fizz out of Cheetahs during a solid 20 minutes, the home side struck for a second time. A string of passes almost sent Anthony Volmink over on the left, only for Munster to scramble well in defence, but three long passes to the right sent captain Junior Pokomela in for an unconverted try.

Cheetahs struggled to cope with McCarthy’s box kicks and Munster’s chase throughout the game, and after that tactic gave them field position, a couple of Cheetahs forwards strayed offside and Bleyendaal made it 12-9 at the break.

Bleyendaal could have levelled matters three minutes after the restart, but his long-range penalty hit the post, and soon the Cheetahs were stretching their lead at the other end.

An offload went astray from a Munster hand and Cheetahs pounced, and following some quick hands across the line, Small Smith skipped clear to score. Pienaar’s touchline conversion was immaculate for a 19-9 lead.

A show of power at the scrum and maul then put Cheetahs on the front foot, however a great Loughman steal near his line saved Munster. But that was just a stop-gap measure, and Dweba mauled Cheetahs over for the bonus point in the 56th minute.

Munster continued to defend to the bitter end, but after a long period of phase play, a quick tap penalty saw Jasper Wiese score Cheetahs’s fifth try eight minutes from the end, before Rhyno Smith completed the damage in the last minute of this brutally tough encounter.

Scorers for Cheetahs: O Nche, J Pokomela, W Small-Smith, J Dweba, J Wiese, R Smith tries; R Pienaar 4 cons, T Schoeman con.

Scorers for Munster: D Goggin try; JJ Hanrahan con; T Bleyendaal 3 pens.

CHEETAHS:

R Smith; W Small-Smith (C Blommetjies 58), B Janse van Rensburg, L Fouche, A Volmink; T Schoeman, R Pienaar (T Meyer 74); O Nche (B Venter 68), J Dweba (R Venter 68), L de Bruin (N Fouche 68); S Manjezi (JP du Preez 68), W Steenkamp; G Olivier (J Wiese h-t), J Pokomela (S Koen 58), H Venter.

MUNSTER:

Referee: Mike Adamson (Scotland).

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