Benetton 28 Munster 37
Munster continued their hunt for the top spot in Conference B with a hard-fought win over Benetton in Italy this evening.
Seventeen points from the boot of JJ Hanrahan, as well as tries from Rhys Marshall, Dan Goggin, Shane Daly and Alby Mathewson, saw Johann van Graan’s men eventually secure the win following a topsy-turvy beginning to the game.
The opening half of this game was unpredictable to say the least as the lead swung from one side to the other every few minutes. The home side opened the scoring after three minutes with a Tommaso Allan penalty but their intention to go for tries was clear, having turned down a three-point opportunity a couple of phases earlier.
Indeed, just five minutes later they crossed the whitewash through Tommaso Benvenuti. Ratuva Tavuyara did very well in the build-up when Darren Sweetnam spilled the ball from a promising box kick from Alby Mathewson.
Just when it looked as though Benetton would run away with the game, a bizarre three-minute period saw their 10-0 lead dissipated by two Munster tries in quick succession. The first came from Rhys Marshall after a well set-up maul. Mathewson produced a clever dummy run, allowing the hooker space to dot the ball down. On the occasion of his 100th cap for Munster, JJ Hanrahan added the conversion.
Their second try came as a result of a well-timed tackle by Sam Arnold on Allan who lost the ball in contact. Sweetnam kicked the ball forward but it bounced into the arms of Jayden Hayward who attempted to play the ball out from the back. Dan Goggin cleverly followed up the play and intercepted the pass from Hayward before grounding the ball over the line. After much deliberation, referee, Ben Whitehouse, awarded the try and Hanrahan was once again accurate with the extras.
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The home side continued to prove themselves the more dangerous side with Tavuyara and Monty Ioane showing their pace on the wing. After much pressure, they reduced Munster’s lead to one-point when Allan slotted a penalty and they were back in front six minutes later with another penalty from the fly-half.
As was the story of the half, that lead was short-lived as Federico Ruzza was penalised at the breakdown, allowing Hanrahan to slot the penalty but it proved to be their last score of the half. Meanwhile, Benetton went on the attack again when the pacey Tavuyara produced a magnificent chip and chase and headed straight for the Munster line. However, Arnold produced a timely try-saving tackle before Gavin Coombes managed to steal the ball to clear the danger.
Their respite didn’t last long, however, as Hayward showed his with a wonderful break before offloading to Ioane and on this occasion, Arnold, was unable to make a last-ditch save. Allan’s conversion attempt pinged off the post and so the gap was left at four points at the break.
Munster suffered the worst possible start to the second half when Darren Sweetnam was sent to the bin for a deliberate knock-on and Whitehouse awarded Treviso a penalty try. Hanrahan eventually got Munster back on the scoreline in the 5oth minute with a penalty. Benvenuti soon joined Sweetnam in the bin but the Benetton centre was fortunate that the card was not red as he was penalised for a shoulder to the face of Stephen Archer. However, Whitehouse deemed that there was only “medium” power behind the tackle and a yellow was shown, much to the frustration of the Munster following. Hanrahan slotted the penalty to make it a five-point game and Sweetnam returned to the field.
Munster began to dominate proceedings as Benetton struggled with the one-man deficit. Mathewson and Hanrahan combined for decent breaks and after a period of sustained pressure, Goggin released Shane Daly down the wing for the Cork man’s first try for Munster in the PRO14. Hanrahan added a wonderful sideline conversion to put the visitors back in front.
The Kerry man grew more into the game and began to take control, forcing Benetton deep into their own half with a number of clever kicks into the corner as they looked to work down the clock. With 67 minutes on the clock, Hanrahan made a brilliant break through the faltering Treviso defence and he offloaded to Mathewson who scored his third try of the season under the posts allowing his fly-half to easily add the conversion.
Munster: Mike Haley; Darren Sweetnam, Sammy Arnold, Dan Goggin, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Alby Mathewson; Jeremy Loughman, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer; Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland (C); Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Liam O’Connor, Ciaran Parker, Darren O’Shea, Dave O’Callaghan, Neil Cronin, Bill Johnston, Alex McHenry.
Benneton: Jayden Hayward, Ratuva Tavuyara, Tommaso Benvenuti, Marco Zanon, Monty Ioane, Tommaso Allan, Dewaldt Duvenage; Nicola Quaglio, Luca Bigi, Marco Riccioni, Irné Herbst, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Abraham Steyn, Toa Halafihi.
Replacements: Hame Faiva, Cherif Traore, Simone Ferrari, Marco Lazzaroni, Giovanni Pettinelli, Tito Tebaldi, Antonio Rizzi, Tommaso Iannone.