Sean McMahon reporting from Thomond Park.
Munster got their 2018/19 Guinness PRO14 campaign off to the best possible start as they scored six tries en route to a bonus-point victory over the Cheetahs at Thomond Park this evening.
Two first-half tries from Rory Scannell and Dave Kilcoyne got Munster off to a solid start where they entered the half-time interval with a 12-0 lead.
In the second 40, further tries from Tommy O’Donnell, JJ Hanrahan, Dave O’Callaghan and the excellent Darren Sweetnam saw the southern province clinch an impressive home win to get their season off to a flying start. A promising debut off the bench from new man Joey Carbery capped off an enjoyable evening for the 12,265 in attendance.
The Cheetahs dominated possession in the opening minutes of the game and the physicality of proceedings was evident to everyone in attendance as the South Africans rattled into contact time and time again. After John Ryan failed to roll away from a ruck, the Cheetahs missed an opportunity to take the lead when Tian Schoeman missed a straight-forward attempt for three points.
Within 10 minutes, it was clear the influence Darren Sweetnam was going to have on this game as he made a superb break after he came in off his wing to run a line on the inside shoulder, a clever and effective tactic the southern province would use throughout.
Munster struggled to breakdown a determined Cheetahs outfit in the opening 20 minutes as both Tommy O’Donnell and Mike Haley produced linebreaks which ultimately came to nothing. However, Munster got the first try of the game when a loose kick from the Cheetahs saw the ball played wide to Sweetnam. The Dunmanway native backed his pace and footwork to power through a gap before passing to the supporting Rory Scannell who scored Munster’s first try of the game to give the home side a 5-0 lead after JJ Hanrahan failed with his conversion attempt.
Sweetnam was it again just minutes later when he was hauled down just short of the try line after he again popped up on his opposite wing to run a superb line – the move began by a well executed up and under from Hanrahan.
Munster did get their second try as half-time approached when David Kilcoyne powered over after Arno Botha was hauled down just short of the line. The Limerick native picked the ball up from the base of the ruck and powered through two tackles to ground the ball – which was confirmed after a quick visit to the TMO.
Hanrahan landed the conversion which gave Van Graan’s side a 12-0 lead going into the break.
At the beginning of the second half, the Cheetahs tried to get back into the game but after another poor attempt in front of the posts, the home side upped the gears to score four tries in the second period.
After a long period of territory, Munster got their third try when a Neil Cronin pop-pass saw Tommy O’Donnell storm through a gap to touch down to give the southern province a 17-0 lead.
The loudest roar of the night came when Joey Carbery made his introduction after 53 minutes and 10 minutes later, Hanrahan spotted a gap in the a tired and stretched Cheetahs defence to dot down under the posts.
Four minutes later, Munster were over again as a Carbery floated a beautiful pass to find Dave O’Callaghan on the wing who made no mistake in grounding the ball in the corner.
The home side weren’t done there. Sweetnam got a try which his man-of-the-match performance deserved when he latched on to a loose pass to run clear under the posts.
The home side finished off the game on the front-foot with a scrum five metres out from the Cheetahs line but it came to nothing as the home side ran out 38-0 winners.
Munster: Mike Haley, Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin (Arnold 45′ Goggin 54′), Rory Scannell, Shane Daly (Carbery 53′), JJ Hanrahan, Neil Cronin (Hart 66′), Dave Kilcoyne (Scott 62′), Mike Sherry (Marshall 50′), John Ryan, Jean Kleyn (O’Shea 57′), Billy Holland (c), Dave O’Callaghan, Tommy O’Donnell (Coombes 62′), Arno Botha.
Replacements: Rhys Marshall, Brian Scott, Stephen Archer, Darren O’Shea, Gavin Coombes, James Hart, Joey Carbery, Sammy Arnold.