Munster get back to winning ways at Thomond Park
Varley and Murphy grab tries but no bonus point for Penney’s side
Munster’s Johne Murphy celebrates his try during the Heineken Cup clash against Gloucester at Thomond Park. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Munster 26 Gloucester 10: Munster opened their win account in this season’s Heineken Cup as Johne Murphy’s 67th-minute try put paid to Gloucester’s chances at Thomond Park.
Rob Penney’s men did enough to rebound from last week’s disappointing defeat away to Edinburgh with a 26-10 triumph although, in a very tight Pool Six, they failed to engineer a bonus-point push in Limerick.
The scoreline remained the same until Munster mustered 10 quickfire points entering the final quarter-hour, as Keatley added another penalty and then set up and converted a Murphy try.
Peter O’Mahony played a captain’s role right from the off, carrying strongly initially and then helping to set up a close-range penalty which Keatley struck over.
Heineken Cup debutant Jonny Bentley misjudged his first kick at the posts as much-changed Gloucester sought an immediate response, their backline needing an early adjustment as fullback Martyn Thomas was forced off.
Keatley doubled Munster’s lead in the 10th minute and the penalties continued to come, Casey Laulala a prominent figure as the hosts’ possession statistics soared to 82 per cent.
A third successful kick followed from Keatley in the 13th minute, but Gloucester got into scoring range thanks to an inviting kick through from Dan Robson and hard chase from Sharples, and the winger dotted down in the very next play.
The visitors’ pack pressed from the close-in lineout before Robson ducked to the right from a ruck and timed his pass perfectly for Sharples to score at the corner.
Bentley landed a classy conversion from out wide, with quality breakdown work from Ben Morgan and Akapusi Qera allowing the Cherry and Whites to utilise their pace in the backs.
That directness from Munster paid off in the 34th minute when they shunned a kickable penalty and Varley, having set up a lineout maul, was driven over for a try which TMO Eric Gauzins confirmed.
The conversion from wide out on the left was swung over by Keatley, but a late ruck offence allowed Bentley to reduce the arrears to 16-10 for half-time.
On the resumption, it was man of the match O’Mahony and Laulala who provided the inspiration again for Munster as they made yards into the Gloucester 22.
Livewire scrumhalf Robson led the Gloucester resistance, diving to disrupt O’Mahony at the base of a Munster scrum in front of the posts.
The province pressed out wide through Murphy, whose kick through led to an obstruction call against Mike Tindall. However, Keatley was wayward for the only time from the kicking tee.
There was little between the sides heading into the final quarter, the tension being lifted by Earls’s side-stepping run which saw him link with Murphy before desperate defending forced the ball free from Conor Murray’s grasp.
Keatley eventually broke the second-half deadlock with a 66th-minute penalty following an advancing scrum, and the result was put beyond doubt barely a minute later.
Winger Murphy gobbled up an expertly placed cross-field kick from Keatley on the left and evaded Sharples’s grasp on the way to the try-line. Keatley’s textbook conversion suddenly left Gloucester 16 points adrift.
Gloucester remained competitive, though, Tindall, Sharples and Jonny May all testing the home defence before Earls was denied an injury-time try by an earlier infringement.