Munster 64 – 7 Ulster
Munster dished out a nine-try drubbing to their inter-provincial rivals Ulster in Thomond Park on Saturday night as Johann Van Graan’s side bounced back from last weekend’s defeat away to Cardiff in emphatic style.
In front of a crowd of 13,907, Munster dominated from pillar to post against an abject Ulster side shorn a number of key players through injury, while the losses of Iain Henderson and John Cooney to head injuries in the opening half added to their woes.
With or without them however, victory was always going to be Munster’s.
By half-time, the job was done. 29-0 ahead and the bonus point try secured, it was simply a case of how much in the second half.
57 points was the margin at full-time as the home side showed a ruthless edge that will stand them in good stead going forward, keeping their foot on the throat and exploiting their opponent’s weaknesses at every given opportunity in a superb all-round display.
Short term signing Alby Mathewson made his first start in the famous red jersey and his partnership with Man of the Match Joey Carbery proved central to everything good about Munster in that opening half and even at this early stage, Mathewson’s signing appears a shrude bit of business by Van Graan as Conor Murray continues his recuperation from injury.
Mathewson combines Kiwi flair in the loose with a quick, crisp delivery from the base of the ruck while the five-time capped All-Black also executed the basics well knowing when to kick and when to run, identifying and exploiting any potential defensive weakness at every given opportunity.
Outside him, Carbery was quite sublime, terrorising the Ulster defence in the loose with his usual dancing feet and soft hands, and a return of six from seven off the tee will no doubt please Van Graan hugely as an aside.
Munster struck for their first try of the night with their first real foray in to Ulster territory after five minutes and there was a stroke of luck about it too.
Rory Scannell’s attempted kick through deflected off Darren Cave in to the hands of Andrew Conway who released Alex Wootton down the left touchline.
Wootton showed a serious burst of gas to leave John Cooney trailing in his wake and after drawing full back Peter Nelson in, popped possession to Dan Goggin on his inside for the easiest of finishes.
Carbery added the conversion and three minutes later he was calling for the tee again after Tommy O’Donnell burst through the feeble challenge of Cave to score out on the left, Carbery again equal to the task with the extras.
Mathewson showed his Kiwi instincts with a NFL quarter-back style throw to Rory Scannell deep inside his own half resulting in a line out for his side well in to the Ulster half, offering a different element to the Munster attack which fans and players alike are not used to seeing.
Not only in attack were Munster all over their northern rivals, at the breakdown too the men in red were dominant led by captain Peter O’Mahony who won a number of key turnovers throughout.
They were pinged for going off their feet on a couple of occasions but the hunger and desire of O’Mahony and the rest of the Munster pack to win back possession and transition from defence in to attack was key to creating opportunities for the backs outside.
Carbery extended the lead to 17-0 after 17 minutes after that man O’Mahony won a penalty at the breakdown before O’Donnell scored his second try of the night after he and O’Mahony broke off a driving maul to crash over.
This time the post denied Carbery but Munster were dominating in every facet of the game, with Ulster offering nothing going forward on whatever few occasions they could string a few phases together.
Mathewson came close to crossing the whitewash for what would have been a much merited try, but after being stopped shirt of the line, Munster began to batter around the fringes and with Ulster at sixes and sevens dealing with wave after wave of Munster pressure, two quick passes my Mathewson and Carbery put Goggin over for his second as Munster went in at the break 29 – 0 to the good.
Niall Scannell came through the middle to force a turnover on his own line with the last play of the opening half as Ulster enjoyed a period of sustained pressure in Munster territory and finally they were rewarded with their first and only score of the game six minutes in to the second half as Dan McFarland’s side went through the phases before Billy Burns put Cave through.
It wasn’t long before normal service was resumed back at the other end however as Munster reasserted their dominance on proceedings and Carbery played a beautiful looping pass out to O’Mahony to stroll over in the corner.
Carbery got in on the act himself with the try of the game as Munster went from end to end in the blink of the eye following yet another turnover.
Carbery earned a rest after that being replaced by Ian Keatley but Munster were in full-flow at this point as replacements picked up right where starters had left off.
One of those replacements, Sammy Arnold got over for Munster’s seventh of the night, making up huge ground on Ulster replacement prop Eric O’Sullivan to grab and touchdown Wootton’s grubber kick, John Andrew’s yellow card for a late tackle on Wootton compounding matters for Ulster.
Keith Earls, on his first appearance of the season, looked sharp and he scored Munster’s eighth try of the night before Wootton rounded off the scoring late on, sliding over in the corner to secure a remarkable victory for Munster ahead of next weekend’s huge clash with Leinster in the Aviva Stadium.
Five games in to the new season and Munster now lie in third position in Conference A on 15 points.
Three impressive home wins have been mixed with two abject away defeats so the challenge now for Munster is to carry this form through to Dublin next weekend, where they haven’t won since 2014.
Looking at Leinster so far, anything less just won’t be good enough.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) September 29, 2018
MUNSTER: Andrew Conway; Keith Earls, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Alex Wootton; Joey Carbery, Alby Mathewson; Dave Kilcoyne, Niall Scannell, Stephen Archer; Tadhg Beirne, Billy Holland; Peter O’Mahony, Tommy O’Donnell, CJ Stander. REPLACEMENTS: James Cronin for Kilcoyne (51 mins), Duncan Williams for Mathewson (51 mins), Jean Kleyn for Beirne (58 mins), Sam Arnold for Rory Scannell (63 mins), Arno Boths for O’Donnell (63 mins), Kevin O’Byrne for Niall Scannell (63 mins), Ciaran Parker for Archer (63 mins) Ian Keatley for Carbery (65 mins)
ULSTER: Peter Nelson; Craig Gilroy, Darren Cave, Angus Curtis, Angus Kernohan; Billy Burns, John Cooney; Andy Warwick, Adam McBurney, Ross Kane; Alan O’Connor, Iain Henderson, Matthew Rea, Nick Timoney, Jean Deysel. REPLACEMENTS: Kieran Treadwell for Henderson (inj, 19 mins), Dave Shanahan for Cooney (inj, 33 mins), Michael Lowry for Nelson (40 mins), Tom O’Toole for Kane (40 mins), James Hume for Burns (65 mins), Eric O’Sullivan for Warwick (65 mins), John Andrew for McBurney (65 mins).
REFEREE: Dan Jones (WRU)