The Johann van Graan era as Head Coach of Munster Rugby began with a well deserved and easy victory for the home side against Ospreys, before a sell-out crowd of 8,008 spectators, in Round 10 of the Guinness Pro14 at Irish Independent Park in Cork.
Van Graan made two changes to the team that played Zebre in Parma last Sunday when he named Ian Keatley and John Ryan, both of whom were returning from Ireland international duty.
Ospreys, who started the evening with just two wins from their previous nine games in this year’s Guinness Pro14, never looked like threatening the Munster side’s excellent home record of having lost only one home game in any tournament since they suffered defeat to the Scarlets in the Guinness Pro14 last February.
The home side, hoping to win their third Guinness Pro14 league game on the trot opened the scoring through Ian Keatley in the 4th minute when he slotted over an easy penalty awarded by referee Ben Whitehouse.
Ospreys’ Will Jones was shown a yellow card in the 15th minute following a dangerous tackle on Munster’s Chris Cloete. Jones caught the Munster player round the neck from behind, dragging the fiery South African to the ground. The referee went to the TMO before making the decision to give the Welshman 10 minutes in the sin bin.
Munster made the most of their visitors’ indiscipline when scoring two converted tries while Jones rested in the sin bin. First Sam Arnold crossed on 17 minutes when he burst through the centre to touch down and give Ian Keatley an easy effort at goal for the conversion. Keatley duly obliged to put his side 10-0 ahead.
Munster scored their second try during the ten minute sin-binning when former Cork hurler Darren Sweetnam scored a five-pointer in a move initiated by an industrious Keatley. The kicker maintained his good goal-kicking form when adding the extra two points for 17-0 with only 24 minutes played in the opening period.
The South African influence was in evidence when Chris Cloete was awarded a try following consultation between the referee and TMO. Keatley converted for 24-0 with 10 minutes still to play in the opening half.
Ospreys claimed their first score of the game just before half-time when Jeff Hassler crossed for a try. A missed conversion effort left Munster leading 24-5 at the interval.
Munster claimed the bonus point try through Rory Scannell within minutes of the restart. Another successful Keatley conversion stretched the lead to 31-5. When the Welsh outfit coughed up the ball, a grateful Jack O’Donoghue claimed possession and touched down in the corner for 36-5 with Keatley off target on this occasion with his conversion effort.
O’Donoghue found himself yellow carded on 67 minutes and during his period of banishment to the sin bin, Will Jones, who had received a yellow in the opening half, scored his side’s second and last score of the encounter as the conversion which followed was missed.
With Munster running out easy 36-10 winners, new Head Coach Johann van Graan felt satisfied with the overall performance for his first home game in charge. The only downside for Munster during Saturday night’s try-fest in Cork was the injury to Liam O’Connor who was stretchered off early in the second half.
Munster now prepare for a crucial couple of weeks in the European Champions Cup with home and away games against the Leicester Tigers, as well as the St. Stephen’s Day visit of Leinster to Thomond Park in the Guinness Pro14, and a trip to Belfast to play Ulster on New Year’s Day.