Munster will meet Leinster in the PRO 14 semi-final after a nervy 15-13 point win over Italian side Benetton Treviso at a packed Thomond Park on Saturday.
Munster needed a 76-minute penalty from long distance from fly-half JJ Hanrahan to seal the win in the end. Benetton should have won the game in fairness, they were making their first appearance in the playoffs and were the first Italians to do so. They led for most of the second obviously and they also missed two drop goal attempts. Speaking after the game Munster captain Peter O’Mahony said “I think Benetton have been one of the in-form teams of the Pro14 this year. They put us under huge pressure and we probably weren’t clinical in the first half. They took their chances. “Poor skill execution, poor decision-making at times when we offloaded, when we put ourselves in some great positions, we’ve just got to learn to be a little bit more patient at times.”
Munster began the game brightly and were in control in terms of possession. However, they didn’t really threaten the Benetton backs they looked comfortable enough. There was no score in the game until 24 minutes with both sides not wanting to give the other the upper hand. Munster fly-half Tyler Bleyendaal kicked a nice penalty from distance. Almost instantly though Benetton were on an attack of their own, this attack resulted in Peter O’Mahony giving away a penalty in which Tomasso Allan kicked between the posts. Munster who had 62% possession failed to make it count and were hit with a sucker punch just before the break as the Italians crossed over for a try. It was the man of the match Iliesa Ratuva who dived over in the corner to give Kieran Crowley’s men the lead. Allan kicked the conversion and it was 10-3 at the break.
On the resumption, Bleyendaal would go on to kick another Munster penalty to make it 10-6 at 44 minutes. Allan would go on to kick a penalty for the Italian side on 60 minutes. Benetton had chances to get more tries only for handling errors letting them down at crucial stages. Hanrahan kicked a penalty on 66 minutes, while Alby Matthewson replaced Conor Murray at scrum-half. Munster then held out the Treviso attack after a couple of phases which ultimately ended in a Red Army penalty. This penalty was brought forward by Nigel Owens due to Dewaldt Duvenge kicking the ball away in anger. This left the penalty within kicking distance for JJ Hanrahan and he kicked it straight between the posts to give Munster a 3 point lead. Treviso to their credit never gave up and should have still probably won the game, but poor drop-goal attempts from Antonio Rizzi and Jayden Heyward meant that Munster got out with a win by the skin of their teeth. A performance of epic proportions will be needed going on this evidence against Leinster in the semi-finals.
Munster: Mike Haley; Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell, Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam, Tyler Bleyendaal, Conor Murray; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Jean Kleyn, Tadhg Beirne, Peter O’Mahony (capt), Chris Cloete, CJ Stander.
Replacements: Kevin O’Byrne, Jeremy Loughman, John Ryan, Billy Holland, Arno Botha, Alby Mathewson, JJ Hanrahan, Dan Goggin
Benetton: Jayden Hayward; Ratuva Tavuyara, Marco Zanon, Luca Morisi, Monty Ioane, Tommaso Allan (capt), Dewaldt Duvenage, Nicola Quaglio, Luca Bigi, Marco Riccioni, Marco Lazzaroni, Federico Ruzza, Sebastian Negri, Abraham Steyn, Toa Halafihi.
Replacements: Hame Faiva, Derrick Appiah, Tiziano Pasquali, Irné Herbst, Dean Budd, Tito Tebaldi, Antonio Rizzi, Alberto Sgarbi