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Williams Scores Twice As Munster Bounce Back To Beat Worcester

Williams Scores Twice As Munster Bounce Back To Beat Worcester

Debutant James Hart’s last-minute try capped off a well-judged second half comeback from Munster as they turned a 12-point interval deficit into a 35-26 win over Worcester Warriors at Sixways Stadium.

PRE-SEASON MATCH: Thursday, August 24

Scorers: Worcester Warriors: Tries: Sam Olver, Dean Hammond, Wynand Olivier, Perry Humphreys; Cons: Sam Olver 3
Munster: Tries: Tommy O’Donnell, Duncan Williams 2, Brian Scott, James Hart; Cons: Tyler Bleyendaal 3, Ian Keatley 2

HT: Worcester Warriors 26 Munster 14

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Last night’s pre-season encounter saw Munster legends Donncha O’Callaghan, the newly-named Worcester club captain, and recent signing Peter Stringer play against their native province, and the tries flowed for the hosts in the first half as they built a 26-14 lead.

However, a much-improved defensive effort after the break saw Munster run in three converted tries without reply, with Stringer’s opposite number Duncan Williams completing his brace and Brian Scott and newcomer James Hart (pictured below) both touching down in the final five minutes.

Coming off the back of a tough nine-week pre-season campaign, Munster were rusty at times and far from flawless. They have plenty of work-ons before hosting Benetton Rugby in next week’s GUINNESS PRO14 opener in Cork, but director of rugby Rassie Erasmus was happy to see his side come out of a scrappy affair with the victory.

It was a positive night too in terms of Mike Sherry and Sean McCarthy getting back on the pitch after long-term back and knee injuries saw them both miss the 2016/17 season. Sherry had a 20-minute run-out on his return with the province, while McCarthy came on in the first half for try scorer Tommy O’Donnell (head knock).

There were four debuts on the night as Chris Farrell and Gerbrandt Grobler (both pictured below) started at centre and in the second row respectively, although the big South African injured his ankle during the closing minutes and will have it assessed. Hart and sub-Academy member Ronan Coffey, who were introduced as replacements, completed the quartet of first-timers.

Munster opened the scoring at Sixways with a well-worked fourth minute try, Rhys Marshall offloading for flanker O’Donnell to sprint down the left wing and score. Captain Tyler Bleyendaal was successful with the conversion – the first of five that both he and replacement Ian Keatley sent through the uprights.

After Stephen Archer did well to bring down Josh Adams with a diving tackle, Farrell made good ground in midfield as Munster responded via the platform of a lineout. Stephen Fitzgerald and Darren Sweetnam both went close out wide, before Worcester’s Jackson Willison broke impressively from his own 22. Munster scrambled well but lost Jean Kleyn to the sin-bin for a high tackle on Stringer.

The ever-busy Stringer passed for his new half-back partner Sam Olver to claim Warriors’ first try, the latter breaking through after good lineout work and mauling from the forwards. The Aviva Premiership club opened up a 12-7 lead by the 25th minute, winger Dean Hammond intercepting a pass from Farrell and evading Fitzgerald with a dummy to score by the posts. Olver converted this time.

Munster were back behind their posts again on the half hour mark, with South African Wynand Olivier showing good strength to force his way over from close range for a seven-pointer. The visitors had reshuffled their deck up front, O’Donnell’s withdrawal seeing Kerryman McCarthy come in at number 8 with Jack O’Donoghue switching to openside flanker.

The scores kept coming in an entertaining first half, Worcester giving away a scrum just outside their 22 after Sweetnam had raced up to chase a Bleyendaal bomb. Williams then did the damage, taking an inviting and superbly-timed offload from Grobler to run in unopposed for a converted 37th-minute try.

Still, free-scoring Worcester made sure they had the final say before the break when Olver’s half-blocked kick was hoovered up by winger Perry Humphreys, who benefited from a favourable bounce to dart clear from halfway and make it 26-14 at the turnaround.

Sweetnam was first to threaten on the restart with a chip-and-chase effort, before Worcester built some forward pressure off a lineout and scrum down the other end. The Munster defence held out, and with Warriors boss Gary Gold making five subsequently changes in personnel, the visitors grabbed the initiative again. Marshall and Alex Wootton combined down the left and then moved the attack infield to tee up Williams’ second try, 57 minutes in.

Defences were on top as both sides seemed to cancel each other out entering the final quarter – at the start of which Erasmus brought on Keatley, Dan Goggin and Hart for Jaco Taute, Fitzgerald and Williams respectively, while Sherry, who had not played since May 2016, made his long-awaited return to the front row ranks. Promising prop Liam ‘Boomer’ O’Connor was also called ashore following an assured outing at loosehead.

Trailing 26-21, Munster’s patient approach work was rewarded with the levelling try five minutes from time. Replacement prop Scott was the man to ground the ball with Keatley’s conversion from the left touchline putting the province back in front for the first time since the opening minutes of the match.

Dolphin clubman Scott then played his part in winning a late scrum penalty, the corner being sought out before scrum half Hart got over for Munster’s fifth and final try, sealing a solid win for his new side who wore their all-grey alternate kit on the night.

WORCESTER WARRIORS: Josh Adams; Perry Humphreys, Wynand Olivier, Jackson Willison, Dean Hammond; Sam Olver, Peter Stringer; Ryan Bower, Jack Singleton, Biyi Alo, Donncha O’Callaghan (capt), Pierce Phillips, Matt Cox, Sam Lewis, GJ van Velze.

Replacements: Joe Taufete’e, Joe Wrafter, Stefan Thorp, Christian Scotland-Williamson, Huw Taylor, Jonny Arr, Tom Heathcote, Tom Howe, Matti Williams, Darren Barry, Alafoti Faosiliva, Will Butler, Jamie Shillcock, Ben Howard.

MUNSTER: Stephen Fitzgerald, Darren Sweetnam, Chris Farrell, Jaco Taute, Alex Wootton; Tyler Bleyendaal (capt), Duncan Williams; Liam O’Connor, Rhys Marshall, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Gerbrandt Grobler, Billy Holland, Tommy O’Donnell, Jack O’Donoghue.

Replacements: Mike Sherry, Brian Scott, James Rochford, Sean O’Connor, Ronan Coffey, Gavin Coombes, Sean McCarthy, James Hart, Ian Keatley, Dan Goggin, Ciaran Parker, David Johnston.

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)