Conor Murray lands huge kick to give Munster narrow win
It was a tight Pro14 affair in South Africa the Irish side eventually coming out on top
Munster’s Conor Murray kicks a penalty to give his side the win in their Pro14 clash with Cheetahs. Photo: Dan Sheridan/Inpho
Cheetahs 17 Munster 19
Munster became only the second team to beat the Cheetahs at home in the Guinness Pro14 this season with a hard-nosed victory at the Toyota stadium in Bloemfontein. The Irish province overcame a 14-0 deficit to squeeze home, with the introduction of Ireland scrumhalf Conor Murray having a huge bearing on the outcome.
He scored a typically muscular try from close range and also tagged on the match winning penalty, a thunderous strike from 52-metres; even allowing for the game being played at altitude it was a hugely impressive strike.
Robin Copeland had a super game, Jack O’Donoghue, Billy Holland, Gerbrandt Grobler high profile in their efforts while the midfield pairing of Dan Goggin, Sammy Arnold and Andrew Conway also contributed conspicuously. The bench made a significant impact.
The Cheetahs will rue their discipline in the second half which cost them dearly lumped on top of pretty sloppy and rudderless play when an opportunity to rescue the game beckoned.
The first half was a morass of mistakes, generally handling errors, with both teams made inroads into each other’s set pieces. There were snippets of good rugby, particularly from the Cheetahs in first half hour, a period they dominated in terms of territory, possession and on the scoreboard. At that point the home side led 14-0 but it could and possibly should have been more.
Muster rode their luck a little but were also reprieved on a couple of occasions from some poor decision making from Johan Goosen, who was a little self indulgent with his grubbers in the visitors’ 22 and then number eight Uzair Cassiem; both occasions were gilt edged try scoring opportunities.
The Cheetahs caused huge problems for Munster with their offloading game, something that the Irish province defended a little better as the half wore on. The home side’s first try came from a clever lineout variation that saw scrumhalf Tian Meyer scampered through a gap.
Following concerted pressure in the Munster 22 – Arnold saved a try with a huge tackle – Francois Venter stepped inside Simon Zebo and fired a pass to fullback Clayton Blommetjies, who crossed for a try. Goosen converted as he would do again on 28-minutes when Munster turned over possession at a ruck, Blommetjies was quickest to react and gave his scrumhalf, Meyer a run-in.
It came just as Zebo returned to the pitch having been sent to the sin bin for a transgression in the build-up to the Cheetahs first try. The last eight minutes of the half were a tale of crass mistakes but the upshot was a mini-Munster revival.
Murray, less than 60-seconds after replacing the injured James Hart, forced his way over from a five metre scrum with a little assistance from Goggin. JJ Hanrahan converted but when Billy Holland took out Blommetjies off the ball, Goosen kicked a long range penalty to give the home side a 17-7 interval lead.
Much like the previous week against the Southern Kings, Munster returned after the interval with a much improved performance, dominating in all facets of the game and forcing four penalties, three of which Hanrahan landed and a fourth, an absolute howitzer by Murray from inside his own half, as Munster edged into a 19-17 lead.
The raft of replacements made by Munster coach Johan van Graan had a positive impact, five internationals introduced to good effect, the only downside from that perspective O’Donoghue limping from the pitch but the visitors led by stand-in Billy Holland toughed it out to eke out a fine victory including surviving a series of scrums inside their 22.
Scoring sequence – 10 mins: Blommetjies try, Goosen conversion, 7-0; 28: Meyer try, Goosen conversion, 14-0; 36: Murray try, Hanrahan conversion, 14-7; 38: Goosen penalty, 17-7. Half-time: 17-7. 44: Hanrahan penalty, 17-10; 51: Hanrahan penalty, 17-13; 61: Hanrahan penalty, 17-16; 65: Murray penalty, 17-19.
CHEETAHS: C Blommetjies; W Small-Smith, F Venter (capt), N Marais, S Maxwane; J Goosen, T Meyer; O Nche, T van Jaarsveld, J Coetzee; C Wegner, R Hugo; P Schoeman, O Mohoje, U Cassiem.
Replacements: C Marais for Nche 57 mins; T Botha for Coetzee 57 mins; H Venter for Mohoje 58 mins; R Bernardo for Hugo 66 mins; C Swart for Goosen 68 mins.
MUNSTER: S Zebo; A Conway, S Arnold, D Goggin, D Sweetnam; JJ Hanrahan, J Hart; B Scott, N Scannell, J Ryan; G Grobler, B Holland; P O’Mahony, J O’Donoghue, R Copeland.
Replacements: C Murray for Hart 35 mins; S Archer for Ryan half-time; R Marshall for N Scannell 44 mins; D Kilcoyne for Scott 44 mins; I Keatley for Zebo 47 mins; D O’Callaghan for O’Mahony 51 mins; R Scannell for Goggin 57 mins; C Oliver for O’Donoghue 75 mins.
Referee: M Adamson (Scotland).
Yellow card: S Zebo (Munster) 17 mins.