Munster off to a flying start as they overwhelm Italian visitors
Only disappointment for Erasmus was his team did not push on for a bigger win
Tyler Bleyendaal: he dictated the pace of the game but he missed four of five conversions
Munster 34 Benetton Rugby 3
Munster got the new season off to a flying start with a bonus point win in Cork on a night when they rarely had to stretch themselves to see off the disappointing challenge of the visitors.
The Treviso side, now renamed Benetton Rugby, had suggested a big improvement in their fortunes this season with the signing of the likes of New Zealander Marty Banks, but it could be another long losing campaign for the Italians if this is anything to go by.
Munster, having won all seven previous home clashes against them, had the points in the bag long before the break, and the only disappointment for Rassie Erasmus and his management team is that they did not push on for a bigger win after the restart.
Yet, with such an inexperienced side on duty, Erasmus will be pleased by the performances of emerging players such as Liam O’Connor, Ciaran Parker, Sean O’Connor and Fineen Wycherley, while new centre Chris Farrell posted a big display.And with Tyler Bleyendaal, even if he was poor off the tee, dictating matters, it was a long night for the Italians.
Munster had the bonus point in the bag after just over half an hour as the feeble Italian challenge was swept aside by a free-flowing home side who were on top in every sector.
Munster weren’t long in punishing them either and by the interval were coasting to victory on a 27-3 scoreline. It would have been much more had Bleyendaal been more accurate but he missed four of five conversions.
He landed the first of them with a superbly measured kick from the right after lock Jean Kleyn had got them off the mark after nine minutes with the opening try after a sustained bout of pressure.
The other four tries in the opening half came from the backs, with Duncan Williams popping the ball up beautifully for his half-back partner Bleyendaal to dive over after Tommy O’Donnell had been stopped short after another good attack.
Munster, with new centre Farrell crowning his competitive debut with some great surges, continued to dominate, and wrapped up the bonus point when first Darren Sweetnam and then Alex Wootton crossed for tries.
The presence of Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell, who had a brief stint with Munster, didn’t go unnoticed among supporters speculating that he may be a possible replacement when Erasmus departs in December.
Full-back Andrew Conway, full of endeavour from the start, was the next to slice the Italians when he jinked his way from deep to score a fine try as he continued the form which saw him score 11 last season.
Munster continued to build on that 27-3 advantage after the restart, and they crossed for a sixth try after 50 minutes when Kleyn bulldozed over after Italian international Francesco Minto was binned for killing the ball.
Munster introduced Mike Sherry for his first competitive action since May 2016, and the hooker will be glad to get game time after recovering from a troublesome back injury.
Both sides emptied their benches in the second half and the game became more disjointed.Munster will be disappointed not to have pushed on and posted a much bigger score.
Munster: Tries: J Kleyn (2), T Bleyendaal, D Sweetnam, A Wootton, A Conway
Cons: T Bleyendaal (2).
Benetton Rugby: Pen: M Banks
MUNSTER: A Conway; D Sweetnam, C Farrell, J Taute, A Wootton; T Bleyendaal, D Williams; L O’Connor, R Marshall, S Archer; J Kleyn, B Holland; S O’Connor, T O’Donnell, J O’Donoghue. Replacements: M Sherry for Marshall (41 mins), I Keatley for Taute (50 mins), J Hart for Williams (56 mins), R Copeland for Holland (60 mins), F Wycherley for Kleyn (61 mins), C Parker for Archer (64 mins), D Goggin for Farrell (67 mins), B Scott for L O’Connor (70 mins).
BENETTON RUGBY: I McKinley; A Esposito, T Benvenuti, T Allan, E Gori; M Banks, T Tebaldi; F Zani, L Bigi, S Ferrari; D Budd, M Lazzaroni; F Minto, S Negri, W Douglas. Replacements: E Makelara for Bigi (50 mins), A De Marchi for Zani (50 mins), G Bronzini for Tebaldi (50 mins), M Riccioni for Ferrari (55 mins), F Ruzza for Budd (60 mins), B Steyn for Negri (64 mins), A Sgarbi for Lazzaroni (67 mins).
Referee: Ian Davies (WRU)