Toyota Cheetahs 26
A late penalty from substitute, Rory Scannell plus an impressive display from Kevin O’Byrne saw Munster sneak a win against a hardened Cheetahs side this afternoon.
Johann van Graan’s side were well in control at half-time but poor defence and three second-half tries from the home side saw the game go right down to the wire.
It was the Cheetahs who started brightly, making a number of line breaks which almost proved costly for Munster. Rhyno Smith made a blistering run and passed to an unmanned Rabz Maxwane who knocked on the ball, relieving the pressure. Munster were awarded a penalty in the resulting scrum and the danger evaporated. However, the mistakes continued and the Cheetahs stole the lineout. Bill Johnston impressed at out-half and made a number of over-the-top kicks that pinned the Cheetahs back in their own half. The 21-year-old was also accurate from the tee and got the visitors on the scoreboard after 10 minutes when Cheetahs were penalised for collapsing the maul.
Munster were put under pressure when Cheetahs attacked their line but the ball was knocked on and Chris Cloete gathered the ball before it fell to the ground and passed to Johnston who kicked the ball deep into the opposition’s 22. Kevin O’Byrne stole the lineout and Munster almost crossed the try line through the returning, Tyler Bleyendaal but they were held up. Arno Botha eventually touched down after good work from Alby Mathewson. Johnston was unsuccessful with his conversion attempt.
The speed and agility of the Cheetah’s backline continued to cause Munster problems. Nico Lee made a wonderful break before passing to full-back, Smith who looked certain to score a try. But Alex Wootton showed incredible pace to trek back and make a try-saving tackle and Munster were awarded a scrum after Smith knocked the ball forward on the ground. Cheetahs were eventually awarded for their sustained penalty. Chris Cloete was shown a yellow card for kicking the ball in an offside position and from the penalty lineout, Joseph Dweba mauled over.
Cheetahs were also guilty of cheap mistakes. They were given a free kick after Stephen Archer was deemed to have stepped over the mark in the lineout but their outhalf, Tian Schoeman, took a quick tap and go and ran into the awaiting Munster forwards who easily held him up and earned a scrum from the resulting maul. They were dealt a heavy blow when Schoeman jumped for a high ball and accidentally collided with William Small-Smith who took a heavy knock and was stretchered off the field.
Crucially, Munster extended their lead just before half-time when Kevin O’Byrne broke away from a stationary maul and crossed the try line with Johnston adding the extras. They started the second half in much the same fashion. A period of sustained pressure was rewarded when Johnston threw a superb pass to Liam Coombes who was allowed to sail over the try line for his first try on his first Munster appearance before the young outhalf scored the conversion.
Though their attack was relentless, their defence was often left with holes. Aidon Davis made a wonderful break and managed to offload but there was a knock on and Mike Haley booted the ball down the field. The Cheetahs came straight back through Maxwane who passed to Smith. Wootton eventually bundled him into touch. However, his tackle was high and Cheetahs were awarded a penalty. It was a move straight from the training ground as quick hands from the lineout saw Ox Nche over the line.
Munster emptied the bench but still, their defence left a lot to be desired. Cheetahs reduced the gap to just three minutes later when Shaun Venter dodged the defence and sent a stunning pass to Dweba who scored his second try. Schoeman was the next player to easily burst open the Munster defence and he passed to Smith who breezed over the line. Schoeman added the conversion to leave them four in front.
O’Byrne was instrumental in the Munster recovery. He intercepted a Cheetahs lineout which allowed Munster to go through the phases. Eventually, the ball made it’s way back to the hooker who passed to Haley who touched down under the posts. Much to his disappointment, replacement Ian Keatley sent his conversion attempt wide. Rory Scannell was the hero last weekend when his long-range penalty kick snatched victory for Munster over Glasgow and he did the exact same thing this afternoon from just inside the Cheetahs half to stretch their lead to four.
Keatley tried to relieve the pressure in the last two minutes with a kick to the corner but it went out on the full and Cheetahs were gifted possession. They were then awarded a penalty and kicked to the corner. With seconds to go, they battered the Munster line but the ball was knocked on. From the scrum, Williams kicked to safety and the Munster players breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
Scorers for Cheetahs: Tries Joseph Dweba (x2), Ox Nche, Rhyno Smith. Conversions Schoeman (x3) Penalties
Scorers for Munster: Tries Arno Botha, Kevin O’Byrne, Liam Coombes. Conversions Bill Johnston (x2) Penalties Bill Johnston.
Toyota Cheetahs: Rhyno Smith, William Small-Smith, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Nico Lee, Rabz Maxwane, Tian Schoeman, Shaun Venter (c), Aidon Davis, Junior Pokamela, Gerhard Olivier, JP du Preez, Walt Steenkamp, Aranos Coetzee, Joseph Dweba, Ox Nche
Substitutions: Tian Meyer for Small-Smith (34) Charles Marais for Nche (70) Reinach Venter for Dweba (70) Erich De Jager for Coetzee (70)
Munster: Mike Haley, Liam Coombes, Shane Daly, Tyler Bleyendaal (c), Alex Wootton, Bill Johnston, Alby Mathewson, James Cronin, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Darren O’Shea, Fineen Wycherley, Chris Cloete, Arno Botha.
Substitutions: Sean O’Connor for Kleyn (52) Duncan Williams for Mathewson (52), Jeremy Loughman for Cronin (52) Rory Scannell for Bleyendall (53) John Ryan for Archer (53), Ian Keatley for Johnston (60), Gavin Coombes for Botha (60)
Referee: Marius Mitrea