Munster returned to Irish Independent Park, Cork, for their Guinness Pro 14 Round 8 game with Dragons on Friday night, smarting from a defeat to Connacht in the previous round of the competition.
Munster’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus made a total of 10 changes to his matchday 23, in what was expected to be his final game in charge of the southern province.
In a tense opening period it took until the 20th minute for the Ireland-released Darren Sweetnam to get the first significant move of the evening underway when he passed to the French-bound Simon Zebo who showed great pace to split open the Dragons. The ball made its way to JJ Hanrahan, who started the game at number 10, before centre Rory Scannell got the touchdown in the corner for the opening score of the game. Hanrahan had a difficult effort from the touchline but converted it to give the home side a 7-0 lead.
Angus O’Brien got the visitors only score of the opening period when scoring a straightforward penalty from just outside the Munster 10m line with 23 minutes played in the first half.
A passage of play from right to left soon saw Simon Zebo take two defenders out before backing himself to reach the try line to increase Munster’s lead to 12-3. JJ Hanrahan’s second conversion moved the home side into a 14-3 lead before the half time interval.
An early second half penalty awarded to the Dragons saw Angus O’Brien score what would be his side’s last points of this game. O’Brien kicked from midway between Munster’s 22m and 10m lines with only 2 minutes played in the second half to narrow the deficit to 14-6.
Robin Copeland, impressive throughout this game, successfully linked with winger Darren Sweetnam, who found Jack O’Donoghue, allowing the Waterford man to crash over for his side’s third try of the game. Hanrahan again added the extras to extend the home side’s lead to 21-6.
From then on it was all Munster. Darren Sweetnam got himself in on the action when the former Cork hurler found himself with plenty space in front of the stand – he comfortably crossed the line for Munster’s bonus point try. Hanrahan maintained his high kicking standard by again securing the two-point conversion for 28-6.
Sam Arnold, making his first competitive appearance for Munster this season, touched down for the first of two tries in the 63rd minute, having come on as a replacement. Hanrahan again obliged with the extra points leaving Munster 35-6 clear with 15 minutes to play.
Kevin O’Byrne got in on the try-scoring act on 69 minutes, before Arnold scored his second five-pointer of the night. Hanrahan maintained his 100% record of successful conversions, completing the victory with 7 converted tries to 2 penalties for the Welsh outfit.
The 49-6 success gave Munster Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus the perfect goodbye present.