Munster end European campaign with thrashing of Sale

Simon Zebo man of the match as Foley’s side run in nine tries against hapless second-string Sharks

Munster 65 Sale Sharks 10

Munster scored a staggering 52 points in the second half to transform a largely mundane and patchy performance in the first 40 minutes into a rout; an entertaining one if you were a Munster supporter but in the end a second string visitors’ side simply capitulated tamely.

Sale Sharks made 14 changes from the previous weekend, removing most of their marquee names from the match squad for a game with nothing materialistic in pool terms at stake. The Manchester club had just four survivors from the original meeting between the teams this season on the opening weekend of the Champions Cup, while their hosts Munster retained nine of the starting line-up.

The first started brightly Munster's Simon Zebo crossing for a try after just 90 seconds, the product of the home side putting width on the ball and also two excellent pick-ups, first from BJ Botha and then, off his bootlaces, Duncan Casey, that kept the momentum going.

Outhalf Ian Keatley kicked a good conversion and then tagged on a penalty to put Munster 10 points ahead after just five minutes. However they invited Sale back into the game with a level of carelessness that saw the home side concede a penalty and then a soft try, sale wing Tom Arscott, exploiting an S-bend in the Munster defence and a poor attempted tackle from Keatley.

The Munster outhalf had kicked a penalty in between the two Sale scores but another brittle tackle in the shadow of his posts almost cost his team another try. Tempers flared towards the end of the half with any addition to the scoring as Munster maintained their slender 13-10 advantage.

The second half was 52 seconds old when replacement Ivan Dineen, used his feet to good effect and then released Keith Earls, who raced 60 metres to score by the posts. It was virtually his last involvement, replaced by Pat Howard a minute later. Keatley converted and the home side were ahead 20-10.

A penalty try from a five metres scrum, converted by Keatley made the victory a formality for the home side as Sale wilted. Munster cashed in through further tries from Pat Howard, Zebo's second, Andrew Conway, Tommy O'Donnell, Duncan Williams and Conway again as they coasted to a facile victory that had become an embarrassment for the visitors.

Scoring sequence

1 min: Zebo try, Keatley conversion, 7-0; 5: Keatley penalty, 10-0; 8: McLeod penalty, 10-3; 10: Keatley penalty, 13-3; 11: Arscott try, McLeod conversion, 13-10. Half-time: 13-10. 41: Earls try, Keatley conversion, 20-10; 53: penalty try, Keatley conversion, 27-10; 64: Howard try, Keatley conversion, 34-10; 67: Zebo try, 39-10; 68: Conway try, 44-10; 73: O’Donnell try, Hanrahan conversion, 51-10; 77: Williams try, Hanrahan conversion, 58-10; 80: Conway try, Hanrahan conversion, 65-10.

Munster: S Zebo; A Conway, K Earls, D Hurley, R O'Mahony; I Keatley, D Williams; J Cronin, D casey, BJ Botha; D Foley, P O'Connell ; Dave O'Callaghan, T O'Donnell, P O'Mahony (capt). Replacements: I Dineen for Hurley 21 mins; B Holland for Foley half-time; P Howard for Earls 43 mins; J Ryan for Cronin 63 mins; S Archer for Botha 63 mins; P Butler for O'Mahony 63 mins; E Guinaz for Casey 65 mins; JJ Hanrahan for Keatley 67 mins.

Sale Sharks: L McLean; T Brady, A Forsyth, M Jennings, T Arscott; N McLeod, W Cliff; A de Marchi, T Taylor, R Harrison; A Ostrikov, J Beaumont, M Easter, D Seymour (capt), V Fihaki. Replacements: A Hughes for Fihaki 52 mins; C Neild for Taylor 61 mins; N Fowles for Cliff 61 mins; C Parker for Harrisnon 68 mins.

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)

Yellow card: A Conway (Munster) 17 mins.

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan

John O'Sullivan is an Irish Times sports writer