Tries in each half from wingers Ciaran O’Boyle and Anthony Horgan helped propel Munster past the Newport Gwent Dragons and back to the top of the Magners League table. Three James Arlidge penalties had closed the gap to 13-9 but Horgan’s converted effort decided the game.
This was another streetwise performance by Munster as they overcame a spirited Dragons pack and survived the sin-binnings of Darragh Hurley and Alan Quinlan to keep their Magners League title challenge on track.
The Dragons, who were gunning for their third straight league win, enjoyed plenty of possession but could not break down Munster’s aggressive defence and had nothing to show for their efforts after a largely frustrating 80 minutes for the home side.
Speaking after the game, Dragons coach Paul Turner said: “We’re obviously disappointed with the result. We had opportunities to win the game and we just didn’t take them.
“Munster were more streetwise and clinical and showed today why they are European champions.
“We were both missing several key players but we just didn’t take our chances. We just lost our way behind the forwards.
“At 13-6 down we had to take our chances and we didn’t. When we got to 13-9 and the game was there for the taking, we made some suicidal decisions.
“Having said that, this is still a step up. Our pack play was excellent and I thought Sean Tomes and Nigel Hall both stood out. We just lost our way behind the forwards.”
The 24-year-old Tomes, the son of former Scotland international Alan Tomes, made an impressive debut in the second row as the Welshmen looked to gain revenge for their 50-6 hammering by Munster at Musgrave Park in September.
Minus a number of their frontliners due to Six Nations duty and Doug Howlett is also on a short break to his native New Zealand, Munster drew first blood when Dragons full-back Jason Tovey coughed up a penalty which Paul Warwick converted.
James Arlidge landed his first penalty after 12 minutes but just moments later, Garryowen clubman Ciaran O’Boyle cantered over for his try, finishing off an excellent back-line move.
Full-back Denis Hurley came up into the line at pace and offloaded for O’Boyle to dart over from 20 metres out and score his second try in as many games.
Warwick flung over an excellent conversion from close to the right touchline and Munster strengthened their grip on the game when the Australian kicked a further penalty, 24 minutes in.
Arlidge replied with a well-struck penalty but the Dragons then had flanker Richard Parks sin-binned for a deliberate offside.
Wales-capped prop Rhys Thomas was fortunate to avoid a yellow card when he was pinged for taking out a player but the hosts were let off the hook when Warwick missed two penalty attempts just before half-time.
13-6 down at the break, the Dragons exerted more pressure on the restart with both Wayne Evans and Tovey looking dangerous when on the ball.
The numbers were evened up when Parks returned, before Hurley (47 minutes) and Quinlan (60) picked up their yellow cards.
Arlidge missed a penalty after Hurley’s sin-binning and hooker and captain Tom Willis was bundled into touch as the Dragons forwards began to make inroads.
It seemed the game was there for the taking, after Japanese international Arlidge slammed a resulting penalty through the posts to cut the gap to just four points.
Nonetheless, Munster, with Lifeimi Mafi carrying well, quelled the Dragons’ fire with what proved to be the match-winning try, 15 minutes from the finish.
Arlidge had a clearance kick blocked down and off scrum ball, the Irish side went through the phases close in before space was freed up for replacement Anthony Horgan to make it over in the corner.
In wet conditions, Warwick kicked a terrific conversion from wide out to put the seal on Munster’s fifth successive win in all competitions.