Munster will enter the competitive season off the back of a comprehensive 52-21 triumph over Worcester Warriors, with James Cronin, Simon Zebo, Darren Sweetnam, Ronan O’Mahony, Ian Keatley and Cian Bohane all touching down and the province’s scrum yielding a penalty try.
PRE-SEASON FRIENDLY: Friday, August 26
MUNSTER 52 WORCESTER WARRIORS 21, Irish Independent Park
Scorers: Munster: Tries: James Cronin, Penalty try, Simon Zebo, Darren Sweetnam, Ronan O’Mahony, Ian Keatley, Cian Bohane; Cons: Tyler Bleyendaal 4, Ian Keatley 4; Pen: Tyler Bleyendaal
Worcester Warriors: Tries: Josh Adams, GJ van Velze, Perry Humphreys; Cons: Ryan Lamb 3
In the final game of the Kearys Renault Series, new signing Jean Kleyn and recent Academy graduate Alex Wootton won their first Munster caps, Academy centre Dan Goggin made his first start and James Cronin, Simon Zebo, Rory Scannell, Tyler Bleyendaal, Tommy O’Donnell, Duncan Casey and Tomas O’Leary all lined out for the first time this season.
Also, in welcoming back one of Munster’s all-time greats, arguably the biggest cheer of the night was reserved for record-breaking lock Donncha O’Callaghan who travelled with Warriors and faced his native province for the first time, receiving rapturous applause when both entering and exiting the field of play.
Afterwards, Munster players and O’Callaghan took to the pitch and met with fans to thank them for their wonderful support on the night with ‘Donners’ still proving to be a firm fan favourite.
It was Worcester who mounted the opening attack of the game, varying their lines of running and making ground with each collision. However, an excellent tackle from Goggin took the momentum out of the Englishmen’s attack. Despite Goggin knocking on while tackling, good pressure in the scrum disrupted the Worcester ball and ultimately saw Munster win turnover ball a couple of phases later.
A Bleyendaal kick brought Munster deep into the Worcester 22 in the sixth minute and when Worcester failed to claim their own lineout, Niall Scannell was the first to pounce. Making good yards, the Munster hooker was held up just short but a couple of recycles later, Cronin crashed over for the opening try. Bleyendaal slotted the extras and Munster were 7-0 ahead.
Advantage Munster again just minutes later when Worcester failed to release the tackled player in front of the posts and on 14 minutes, Bleyendaal made sure the hosts were out to a 10-0 lead.
Another penalty presented itself in front of the posts on 21 minutes, this time Munster opting for the scrum, a move that paid dividends. With the upper hand at set piece time from the off, Munster forced the penalty with each hit, and by the third reset referee Dan Jones had seen enough, awarding the penalty try on 25 minutes. Bleyendaal made it three from three with the boot.
Huge intensity and physicality from Rassie Erasmus’ men was rewarded with their third try on 31 minutes. Billy Holland, Jack O’Donoghue, O’Donnell and debutant Kleyn all made the hard yards before the returning Zebo touched down. Bleyendaal’s conversion was again inch perfect.
The Munster out-half also acquitted himself beautifully with ball in hand and it was his perfectly weighted kick that set up the try of the first half. In a textbook back-line move, Zebo collected a kick ahead before a wonderfully executed reverse pass to Rory Scannell. He, in turn, found his centre partner Goggin and much like last weekend against Zebre, Darren Sweetnam was in the right place at the right time to finish the move off. Bleyendaal made it a clean sweep when adding the extras for a 31-0 half-time scoreline.
Munster continued where they left off on the resumption and on 54 minutes used both physical prowess and sharpness in attack to cross for their fifth try at Irish Independent Park.
With replacement Ian Keatley kicking to the corner, a strong Munster maul made the initial headway before replacement scrum half O’Leary broke and found Ronan O’Mahony on his right – the winger continuing his fine tradition of bagging tries at the Cork venue..
A Josh Adams try, converted by replacement out-half Ryan Lamb, eventually got Worcester off the mark on 60 minutes, but their reprieve was short lived as Erasmus’ replacements more than made their mark on the match.
On his first senior appearance, Wootton’s turnover provided the catalyst for Munster’s sixth try as soon after Academy back rower Conor Oliver made an excellent break before finding Cian Bohane on his left shoulder and the centre was clean in under the posts for his first Munster score. Keatley made it a full seven-point return.
With bodies tiring, the defence lapsed a little as the game entered the final quarter and Worcester crossed for their second try on 69 minutes through GJ van Velze – with Lamb converting – after Munster ran out of defensive numbers on the right.
But again, Munster’s reply was more than swift, this time Keatley making an excellent read and intercept and running the length of the field to dot down and convert his own try on 71 minutes
The visitors did have the final say as Perry Humphreys crossed for the last try of the night with Lamb again converting, but that was scant consolation for the Aviva Premiership outfit as Munster emerged as comprehensive and deserved 31-point winners.
MUNSTER: Simon Zebo (Stephen Fitzgerald, 62); Darren Sweetnam, Dan Goggin (Colm O’Shea, 50), Rory Scannell (Cian Bohane, 62), Ronan O’Mahony (Alex Wootton, 62); Tyler Bleyendaal (Ian Keatley, 52), Duncan Williams (Tomas O’Leary, 50); James Cronin (Peter McCabe, 62), Niall Scannell (Duncan Casey, 50), John Ryan (John Andress, half-time; Brian Scott, 62); Jean Kleyn (Darren O’Shea, 50), Billy Holland (capt) (Jack O’Donoghue, 76), Dave O’Callaghan (Robin Copeland, 50), Tommy O’Donnell (Conor Oliver, 50), Jack O’Donoghue (Dave Foley, 50).
WORCESTER WARRIORS: Jackson Willison; Dean Hammond, Wynand Olivier, Max Stelling, Cooper Vuna; Tom Heathcote, Jonny Arr; Val Rapava Ruskin, Niall Annett, James Johnston, Donncha O’Callaghan, Darren Barry, Alafoti Faosiliva, Carl Kirwan, GJ van Velze (capt).
Replacements: Jaba Bregvadze, Na’ama Leleimalefaga, Mike Daniels, Tevita Cavubati, Phil Dowson, Luke Baldwin, Ryan Lamb, Perry Humphreys, Christian Scotland-Williamson, Marco Mama, Jamie Shillcock, Josh Adams.