Munster 18 Benetton Treviso 13: The consolation on a less than satisfactory Guinness Pro12 performance at Musgrave Park on Saturday night was the win, four points in the bag, that puts Munster in a much healthier position than at the same stage last season when they lost first time out to Edinburgh.
That is not to say the majority of the players involved in the victory can fall into a comfort zone this week as head coach Anthony Foley goes about his business. There are likely to be some aching muscles in the build-up to round two against Ospreys at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.
Treviso were once the whipping boys of this competition, but they have now strung together two challenging performances at the Cork venue, and when full back Jayden Hayward kicked an injury-time penalty to secure a losing bonus point it was absolutely no less than the Italians deserved for their endeavour,dogged perseverance and sometimes high levels of attacking skill.
Munster showed heaps of the same skill and although often outplayed in the first half they lifted the tempo of the game to grab crucial tries from skipper and man of the match CJ Stander. Generally, though, they let themselves down by rushing the play, and their inaccuracy in attack could have come back to haunt them.
Foley saw it that way too. “Obviously we’re ahead of where we were this time last year, there were some things that will irk, we were inaccurate out there and that’s something you could maybe expect in week one in that not everything is going to be dotted and crossed.”
The coach hopes to turn any negatives into positives when reviewing the game. “It (review) will be about executing in the green zone, about not turning over the ball when we have teams under pressure, it will be about our discipline and towards the end of the game it will be about our set-piece and making sure we can solidify that.
“We’re (at least) not looking as to why we’re not creating opportunities, we’re not looking at teams scoring a lot of tries against us, as we had in pre-season games, we’re looking at a lot of positives and how to work the scoreboard more in our favour.”
Given these teams are also drawn in the same European Rugby Champions Cup pool, Foley is, in one sense, glad to have a message rammed home – Treviso will be no soft touch.
The Italians were shy eight World Cup squad members of Saturday but they have recruited the likes of experienced Chris Smylie, Alberto de Marchi, Tom Palmer and Robert Barbieri, all of whom helped the side play hugely competitively in Cork.
“It’s a message to our media (anyway),” said Foley, “we know they’re good , they were here in Cork three or four months ago and gave it a good hit out that day, we know today we had to work really hard to get a result and the boys inside there did work really hard.”
Having watched his two young centres Rory Scannell and David Johnston produce the goods, Foley was pleased to give them praise. ”I thought the two were very composed, nothing came through them, they did a lot of work, put people into space, protected the ball, created opportunities although I thought Rory should have put DJ away at one stage.”
Although Scannell came close once, Munster’s tries came from Stander who, along with Jack O’Donoghue, had a stand-out display. On a night when the last pass sometimes let them down, hopes of a bonus point win faded as the game progressed, but those two tries, two penalties and a conversion from Ian Keatley secured the victory. Dean Budd’s first half try, two penalties and conversion from Hayward proved not enough for the plucky visitors.
F Jones, A Conway, D Johnston, R Scannell, S Monahan, I Keatley, D Williams, J Cronin, M Sherry, BJ Botha, J Madigan, D Foley, D O’Callaghan, CJ Stander (captain), J O’Donoghue.
. T Bleyendaal for Keatley, R Copeland for Madigan (both 55), J Ryan for Cronin (58), S Archer for Botha (64), C Bohane for Johnston, S Buckley for O’Donoghue (both 69), C Sheridan for Williams (71).
J Hayward, L Nitoglia, T Iannone, E Bacchin, A Pratichetti, S Christie, C Smylie, A De Marchi (captain), R Santamaria, R Harden, D Naude, T Palmer, R Barbieri, B Steyn, D Budd.
. A Lucchese for Smylie, F Gerosa for Naude, M Zanusso for De Marchi (all 46), M Barbini for Barbieri (55), S Ferrari for Harden, S Ragusi for Bacchin (both 58), JF Montauriol for Palmer (68), S Bigi for Budd (75).
L Linton (Scotland)
Ospreys Rugby will honour the memory of former player, All Black Jerry Collins, at the first home game of the new season, against Munster at the Liberty Stadium on Sunday.
In addition to a minute’s silence the Ospreys will be retiring the number six jersey, synonymous with Jerry, for the match, while there will be a collection on the day to raise funds for the Jerry Collins Memorial Fund, proceeds which will go into trust for his daughter Ayla’s future.
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