Munster opened their new Guinness Pro14 season under ‘Friday Night Lights’ at Irish Independent Park, Cork, on Friday night, completing a bonus point victory against Benetton.
On a balmy September evening, perfect for rugby, the home side took only 9 minutes to open the scoring through South African Jean Kleyn. The big lock crashed over from close range for what would be the first of two tries for him on the night, following some tight passing by his fellow Munster men, with captain Tyler Bleyendaal converting to put his side 7-0 in front.
Blyenedaal touched down himself for his side’s next score when he also went over from close range, just left of the post, taking an accurate pass from his fellow halfback Duncan Williams. The New Zealander failed in his attempt to add the two points for the conversion, leaving Munster 12 points ahead with just 14 minutes on the clock.
The Italian side finally got on the scoreboard in the 20th minute when Marty Banks successfully converted a penalty awarded by Welsh referee Ian Davies, directly in front of the Munster posts, for a 12-3 score.
Darren Sweetnam soon got in on the scoring act when he crossed the line for Munster’s 3rd try of the game. The ball from a line-out came across field to find the Cork winger who scored in the corner. Bleyendaal then missed his second conversion of the night.
High fielding from man of the match Andrew Conway on his own 10m line saw the Dubliner split through Benetton before eventually being hauled down by the 22m mark. Fast passing out left and wide saw the ball reach Alex Wootton on the left wing and he stormed in for the bonus point try for the home side with 9 minutes still to play in the opening half. A third unsuccessful conversion attempt from Bleyendaal saw the score remain at 22-3.
Those 9 minutes was enough for Conway to claim another try, the fifth of the game, when touching down in the right corner. Bleyendaal missed another conversion, very uncharacteristic for him, leaving Munster well clear at half-time, 27-3 to the good.
The second half saw a welcome return to the red of Munster for Mike Sherry who hadn’t played since May 2016 due to injury. Kleyn’s second try in the 49th minute plus the successful conversion by Bleyendaal would see the end of the scoring in this opening Guinness Pro14 game of the season, leaving Munster with full points on a 34-3 scoreline.