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Munster Rugby 42 Cell C Sharks 17
Munster Rugby began both their new season and the newly-organised United Rugby Championship with a comfortable win on Saturday night.
Johann van Graan’s side achieved the bonus-point against South African side Cell C Sharks at Thomond Park, running out 42-17 winners.
Gavin Coombes touched down for a brace, Craig Casey and Chris Cloete also scored a five-pointer, but the returning Simon Zebo will make many of the headlines as the Corkman added to his Munster try-scoring tally with his own brace of tries.
Zebo returns with an early try
Zebo picked up a loose ball on the wing and sprinted to the line for a try after just six minutes of the encounter. This followed early chants of “Zebo, Zebo” from the Munster fans lucky enough to be present in Limerick this evening.
Zebo, back at Thomond Park following two years in exile in France, had predicted earlier this week that he would score early in the opening fixture of the season. He was as good as his word!
During the first 20 minutes of the opening half, the visitors dominated both territory and possession with the hosts achieving only just over 25% of the former and had slightly better than 40% of the latter.
Despite a sustained five minutes of Munster pressure deep in the Sharks’ territory, the South African outfit withstood the pressure which included a number of red mauls, but van Graan’s men failed to cross the try-scoring line during that time.
With continued Munster pressure and successive penalties given against the Cell C Sharks, Joey Carbery took advantage of his opposition’s tendency to commit fouls by successfully kicking a penalty, giving his side an 8-0 lead coming to the half-hour mark.
Fullback Bosch reduced the deficit to five points when successfully kicking a penalty, while his side had du Toit in the sin bin.
Impressive Casey scores second try
Munster soon took advantage of the extra man as Craig Casey picked the ball off an attacking ruck to dive over for his team’s second five-pointer of the new United Rugby Championship; Joey Carbery, however, failed to add the extras.
As the clock headed into red at the end of the opening 40 minutes, Munster ignored the opportunity to head to the dressing room and instead decided to keep the ball in play. This decision paid a rich dividend for the southern province as they soon had try number three on the board.
Good Munster lead at the break
Niall Scannell took a pick and go, driving towards the line before the ever-powerful Gavin Coombes touched down for the Munstermen. Joey Carbery was more accurate kicking for the posts on this occasion and added the two points for a 20-3 lead at the break.
Half-time: Munster Rugby 20 Cell C Sharks 3.
The home side could have achieved their bonus point early in the second period as an Andrew Conway break along the East Stand side of the Thomond Park turf saw the speedster get within yards of the Sharks’ line. Despite the back up of numerous team mates the men in red couldn’t get in for the score, eventually being penalised and allowing the defending side to relieve the pressure.
The bonus was soon secured as Gavin Coombes achieved a brace of tries on the night, before Carbery made put another two to the scoreboard, pushing Munster out to a 27-3 lead with half an hour to play.
Just when it looked as though Munster might increase their advantage, a long Joey Carbery pass was brilliantly intercepted by Boeta Chamberlain, who showed his pace as he quickly raced to touch down for his side’s maiden try in the United Rugby Championship. The Sharks made it a seven-pointer as they converted to reduce Munster’s lead to 17 points.
Carbery’s replacement Ben Healy kicked a huge 50 metre penalty on 68 minutes to extend his side’s lead. Despite not taking much time over the ball, Healy comfortably dissected the posts.
The visitors despite now facing a twenty-point deficit maintained their effort and were duly rewarded when winger Yaw Penxe claimed a try, and with a successful Bosch conversion, the Sharks came to within 13 points of Munster.
The home side finished the first half strongly and did likewise in the second, firstly with a try from Cloete and then another from Zebo. With one of the final two tries converted by Ben Healy, Munster ran out 42-17 winners.
Full-time score: Munster Rugby 42 Cell C Sharks 17
15. M. Haley, 14. A. Conway, 13. D. Goggin, 12. R. Scannell, 11. S. Zebo, 10. J. Carbery, 9. C. Casey.
1. D. Kilcoyne, 2. N. Scannell, 3. J. Ryan, 4. J. Kleyn, 5. F. Wycherley, 6. P. O’Mahony (c), 7. J. O’Donoghue, 8. Coombes.
16. D. Barron, 17. J. Loughman, 18. K. Knox, 19. RG Synam, 20. T. Aherne, 21. R. Osborne, 22. B. Healy, 23. C. Cloete.
Cell C Sharks Team
15. C. Bosch, 14. Y. Penxe, 13. W. Kok, 12. M. Louw, 11. T. Abrahams, 10. B. Chamberlain, 9. R. Pienaar.
1. K. Mona, 2. K van Vuuren, 3. T. du Toit, 4. Le Roux Roets, 5. G. Grobler, 6. D. Richardson, 7. H. Venter, 8. P. Buthelezi.
Cell C Sharks Replacements
16. F. Mbatha, 17. N. McHunu, 18. K. McHunu, 19. C. Gumede, 20. R. van Heerden, 21. H. Andrews, 22. S. Nohamba, 23. J. Ward.
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