Munster academy players ‘a source of great optimism’
Rassie Erasmus says youngsters involved in Treviso triumph are ‘physically 100% there’
Munster academy player Darren Sweetnam in action against Treviso. He proved decisive, scoring two tries to secure his side a victory. Photograph: Marco Sartori/Inpho
Munster coach Rassie Erasmus said the ability of young players coming through the academy to step up and deliver at senior level is a source of great optimism.
He drafted in seven from the side which captured the B&I Cup a week earlier as Munster wrapped up a home Pro12 semi-final with a bonus-point win in Italy on Saturday evening.
They dominated throughout against a Treviso side bidding for their third home win in their battle to secure the Italian Champions Cup spot.
“If we can keep that trend going, it’s well done to the whole academy system. The guys just step and they slot in really well. Technically they are not 100 per cent there but physically they are which is wonderful.”
Munster, which needed just two points to ensure a semi-final at Thomond Park, were far too strong for the home side in a game played in ideal conditions in northern Italy.
But the victory, Munster’s 14th in their last 15 league games, came with a price and they are now sweating over the availability of lock Dave O’Callaghan and winger Ronan O’Mahony for the remainder of the campaign.
Erasmus is awaiting medical reports to establish the extent of the injuries which forced the pair out in the opening quarter on Saturday evening.
“I think Ronan is pretty serious, and David is also pretty serious. We will have to make a few plans there. Obviously, the guys that came, they did the job. But they will be big losses for us if it’s long term,” said the South African.
His men recovered and despite a weakened side – skipper Billy Holland withdrew through illness prior to the game with Donnacha Ryan slotting in – they romped home to a bonus-point win to wrap up a semi-final date against either Ospreys or Scarlets.
“Yes, job done, especially with all of the changes that we made. Treviso had been on a bit of a run. At the end of the day the result wasn’t too bad.”
Two tries from academy product Darren Sweetnam were decisive for a Munster side who only needed two points to secure a semi-final at Thomond Park.
Treviso, who will head to Parma next Saturday in a straight shootout at the bottom of the table with Zebre for the Italian Champions Cup spot, rallied after the break and full-back David Odiete broke for a try.
But Munster resumed control again with Alex Wootton, one of the many B&I Cup players to make the step-up, crossing for his first senior try before Jack O’Donoghue intercepted to secure the bonus point and Sweetnam wrapped it up with his second touchdown.
Munster will warm up for their semi-final encounter with a dead rubber against champions Connacht next Saturday afternoon at Thomond Park in a much less glamorous fixture that the competition organisers might have envisaged when drawing up the schedule.
“It will probably be a bit of juggling, match fitness for some guys, and form of other guys and getting some of the other guys back,” admitted Erasmus.
“But overall just try to win the game against a team which like to run the ball from all over the park.”
Tries: Odiete, Montauriol
Conversions: McKinley, Tebaldi.
Tries: Sweetnam (2), Zebo, Wootton, O’Donoghue
Conversions: Bleyendaal (3).
Treviso: D Odiete; A Esposito, T Benvenuti, A Sgarbi, L Sperandio; I McKinley, E Gori; F Zani, L Bigi, S Ferrari; M Fuser, D Budd; F Minto, B Steyn, R Barbieri. Replacements: JF Montauriol for Fuser (48 mins), M Lazzaroni for Minto (48 mins), D Giazzon for Bigi (50 mins), T Pasquali for Ferrari (58 mins), A Pratichetti for Odiete (59 mins), T Tebaldi for McKinley (63 mins), A Porolli for Zani (68 mins), G Bronzini for Gori (70 mins).
Munster: S Zebo; D Sweetnam, F Saili, J Taute, R O’Mahony; T Bleyendaal, D Williams; J Cronin, R Marshall, S Archer; D O’Shea, D Ryan; D O’Callaghan, C Oliver, J O’Donoghue. Replacements: CJ Stander for O’Callaghan (12 mins), A Wootton for O’Mahony (19 mins), F Wycherley for Ryan (43 mins), I Keatley for Taute (48 mins), K O’Byrne for Marshall (66 mins), A Lloyd for Williams (68 mins), R Burke for Archer (68 mins), B Scott for Cronin (71 mins).
Referee: I Davies (WRU).