Johann van Graan more than happy to take a scrappy win in Italy

Munster head coach felt his team played much better against Leinster last week

Benetton 16 Munster 18

Munster coach Johann van Graan said they played much better against Leinster the previous week and lost, so he was just relieved to get out of Treviso with a win from a sub-standard performance on Saturday night.

JJ Hanrahan, who missed a couple of penalties in that loss to Leinster at Thomond Park, was the hero this time when he landed a 35-metre penalty in the third minute of injury-time to snatch victory for a side who had only 37 per cent possession at Stadio Monigo.

Van Graan was the first to admit they were fortunate to get out of northern Italy with a ninth win of the campaign which extends their lead at the top of Conference B to 15 points ahead of Connacht.


“Last week we probably played a lot better and lost and this time we were not at our best and won,” said van Graan. “That’s the game, that’s rugby. It has been a long block of rugby, some sore bodies and we are really looking forward to a nine-day break now.

“Very happy with the win. I thought we started the game really well, scored two good tries, built some pressure and had one or two opportunities we didn’t convert to go three scores up.

“And then Benetton scored their try and won a lot of collisions at the back of the half. Two things they did really well was their kicking game and breakdown pressure and they really penned us back in our 22 and we couldn’t get out,” added the South African.

Benetton, having lost all nine Pro14 games prior to this one, seemed poised for another long night when they fell 12-0 behind after just 10 minutes as Munster, who saw prop Roman Salanoa miss his first start with a back injury in the warm-up, punished sloppy play.

A chip from fullback Mike Haley down the left was not controlled by his opposite number Jayden Hayward and Darren Sweetnam pounced to score for the third league game in a row.

Hooker Niall Scannell got over for their second try after a cheap turnover from a loose pass by centre Joaquin Riera.

But Benetton, despite the binning of Italian tighthead Marco Riccioni, hit back after winger Angelo Esposito got over and two penalties from Tommaso Allan cut the gap to 12-11 at the break.

Both sides put boot to ball throughout the third quarter. Ben Healy got Munster’s first score in 44 minutes when he extended their lead with a penalty from 22 metres on the left, but they struggled to build quality phases.

Mike Haley did superbly to deny Tommaso Benvenuti when he managed to get under him as the winger tried to ground the ball but Benetton hit the front shortly after when Leonardo Sarto scored in the right corner to edge in front, only for Hanrahan to snatch it at the death.

“It was a really good maul and really good composure and great for the team and for JJ to get that kick,” added van Graan.

Scorers: Benetton – Tries: A Esposito, L Sarto; Pens: T Allan 2. Munster – Tries: D Sweetnam, N Scannell; Con: B Healy; Pen: B Healy; Drop goal: JJ Hanrahan

Munster: M Haley; L Coombes, D Goggin, R Scannell, D Sweetnam; B Healy, N McCarthy; J Wycherley, N Scannell, S Archer; F Wycherley, B Holland (C); J O'Donoghue, C Cloete, G Coombes. Replacements: T O'Donnell for G Coombes (46 HIA); J Loughman for J Wycherley (52); K O'Byrne for N Scannell (58); J Ryan for Archer (58); JJ Hanrahan for Healy (58); D de Allende for Sweetnam (61); T Ahern for F Wycherley (70).

Benetton Rugby: J Hayward; A Esposito, J Riera, I Brex, T Benvenuti; T Allan, C Braley; T Gallo, T Baravalle, M Riccioni; I Herbst, F Ruzza; M Barbini (c), M Zuliani, T Halafihi. Replacements: T Pasquali for Zuliani (30-34); C Els for Baravalle (52); E Snyman for Herbst (52); G Pettinelli for Halafihi (52); N Quaglio for Gallo (55); L Petrozzi for Braley (58); L Sarto for Esposito (61); A Sgarbi for Zuliani (71).

Referee: Andrea Piardi (FIR).