Munster collected their second successive bonus point win in Heineken Cup Pool 1, with a four-try first half display setting them on their way to a 44-7 victory over Benetton Treviso at the Stadio Comunale di Monigo.
The impressive Keith Earls touched down in either half, while Denis Hurley, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul Warwick and Donnacha Ryan also got amongst the tries and out-half Ronan O’Gara added 12 points in an emphatic victory for the men in red.
Alessandro Zanni grabbed an interception score but the Italian champions never looked like winning this one-sided clash.
The result leaves Munster seven points clear at the top of Heineken Cup Pool 1, ahead of Northampton Saints who play Perpignan at home tomorrow.
Speaking afterwards, Munster team manager Shaun Payne said: “It was a strange match to secure a bonus point as early as that – jusy before half-time – with all the tries scored from long range. It’s not something we’re used to but we were pleased nonetheless.
“We were aware of the problems both Perpignan and Northampton had here in Italy so we were really up for this game as we chase a quarter-final place.
“A few of the lads hadn’t played for almost three weeks because of rest periods and games being called off due to the weather but I guess our concerns that we might be under-cooked were unfounded.
“The lads were hungry and we made the most of the good conditions with the tries.
“In the second half, Treviso hit their straps and started playing some rugby with quick ball that they hadn’t managed to do before.
“The game changed around and we were slightly disjointed, as can happen sometimes when you get such an early bonus point.”
Treviso had proved tough opponents in Italy having beaten Perpignan in the opening round of the pool stages and they alsopushed Northampton hard.
However, from the moment out-half Marius Goosen missed their first scoring chance with a penalty after two minutes, they were always struggling to remain in the game.
Munster, eager to continue where they left off against Perpignan, took control of the tie after scoring three tries in the space of eight minutes.
A break by Earls was followed by Paul O’Connell’s pass to Hurley who ran in for his second try in as many European games, in the fourth minute.
Earls was then rewarded for his earlier break when he was on the end of Howlett’s attack from deep to double the lead on six minutes.
The third try followed swiftly as the ball moved through several pairs of hands and lock O’Callaghan linked with Niall Ronan before dotting down on 11 minutes.
O’Gara had missed his first two conversion attempts but this proved to be third time lucky and the Corkman added a penalty that opened up a comfortable 20-0 lead after just 16 minutes.
Treviso had a brief spell with the upper hand and looked effective in the scrum. That saw scrum half Simon Picone go close before his opposite number Tomas O’Leary had his pass intercepted by flanker Zanni who had the legs to run in from halfway.
Goosen converted to reduce the lead to 20-7 but Munster got back on track before half-time.
O’Gara kicked a second penalty before his well-timed pass allowed Warwick break clear, kick ahead and beat two defenders to the bouncing ball beyond the try-line. That wrapped up the bonus point for Munster, six minutes before half-time.
Even at 30-7 down, Treviso refused to buckle and put the wraps on Munster for 20 minutes of the second half as the game slowed in pace.
However, South African Jean de Villiers finally broke the second half deadlock when his burst allowed Earls to grab a second try. O’Gara converted for a 37-7 scoreline on 63 minutes.
Damien Varley thought he had scored his first Heineken Cup try but the replacement hooker was ruled to have knocked on over the line. Back on the attack, Varley was involved in Munster’s final surge forward which ended with his fellow replacement Ryan claiming try number six.