Number eight Arno Botha on the charge for Munster in their Guinness PRO14 clash with Cheetahs in Bloemfontein
MUNSTER survived a strong second half rally from Cheetahs before recording their first away win in the Guinness PRO14 this season with an exciting 30-26 bonus point success at altitude at the Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein on Sunday afternoon.
When Munster raced into a commanding 22-5 lead after 46 minutes. Johann van Graan’s side looked to be in for a comfortable afternoon.
However, the Cheetahs came roaring back scoring 21 unanswered points, including a bonus point try, to lead for the first time at 26-22 after 65 minutes.
To their credit, Munster showed admirable composure to wrench the initiative back from their hosts. A try from Mike Haley after 67 minutes handed Munster a bonus point and a 27-26 lead.
And for the second successive weekend, centre Rory Scanell kicked a superb long range penalty goal to help Munster build a four-point lead.
The Cheetahs pressed hard for a match-winning try in the closing minutes. However, the Munster defence held firm to claim a maximum five-point haul.
Munster, captained by the fit-again Tyler Bleyendaal at inside centre, went in front on 11 minutes when impressive out-half Bill Johnston kicked a penalty goal from just outside the Cheetahs ‘22. The 21-year-old Garryowen clubman had made four appearances off the bench for the province in the PRO14 this season.
Munster increased their lead 6 minutes later when the visitors struck for their opening try. Quick-thinking scrum-half Alby Mathewson took a quick tap penalty from deep inside the Cheetahs ‘22 and the rampaging number eight Arno Botha dotted down on his return to this native South Africa.
Johnston was off target with the conversion attempt as Munster’s lead remained at 8-0.
It took a superb try-saving, cover tackle from winger Alex Wootton to prevent Cheetahs from making an instant reply as their speedy winger Rabz Maxwane powered deep inside the ‘22.
Munster suffered a blow in the 27th minute when flanker Chris Cloete was sin-binned and the home side took advantage of their numerical superiority as hooker Joseph Dweba dotted down off a well-executed maul to reduce the visitors lead to 8-5.
Crucially, Munster managed a second try before half-time to lead 15-5 at the break. The home side was penalised for pulling down a Munster maul. The visitors opted for a kick to the corner and from the resultant line-out and well-executed maul, hooker Kevin O’Byrne powered over the tryline.
Munster’s 10-point half-time lead, 15-5, quickly became 17 as the visitors struck for their third try.
Some excellent carries and a nice loop move involving hooker O’Byrne saw Johnston throw a terrific skip pass out to Garryowen winger Liam Coombes who touched down on his first start for Munster in the PRO14.
Johnston’s conversion made it 22-5 to Munster after 46 minutes.
However, Munster were caught napping from a line-out deep inside their own ‘22 in the 52nd minute as Cheetahs prop Ox Nche powered over. Ian Schoemann’s conversion made it 22-12.
Munster’s grip on the game was loosened further in the 59th minute when Shaun Venter powered through the Munster cover before flicking the ball back to hooker Dweba who powered over for his second try. Schoemann’s conversion cut Munster’s lead to three points, 19-22.
The South African side collected their bonus point try when off a counter attack full-back Rhyno Smith showed a clean pair of heels to the Munster defence before touching down. Schoemann’s conversion made it 26-22 to the Cheetahs.
Munster had conceded 21 unanswered points, However, the see-saw nature of the game continued when replacement out-half Ian Keatley sent Mike Haley over for the bonus point try and a 27-26 lead.
Keatley missed the straight forward conversion, however.
Munster moved four points clear, 30-26 when replacement centre Rory Scannell landed a terrific 77th minute penalty goal from close to half way for the second successive weekend following his heroics against Glasgow at Thomond Park eight days earlier.
Munster’s defence then held firm as Cheetahs pressed for a match-winning try.
SCORERS: Toyota Cheetahs: Joseph Dweba two tries, Ox Nche. Rhyno Smith try each, Tian Schoemann three cons. Munster: Arno Botha. Kevin O’Byrne, Liam Coombes, Mike Haley try each, Bill Johnston pen, two cons, Rory Scannell pen.
TOYOTA CHEETAHS: Rhyno Smith, William Small-Smith, Benhard Janse van Rensburg, Nico Lee, Rabz Maxwane, Tian Schoeman, Shaun Venter (c), Aidon Davis, Junior Pokamela, Gerhard Olivier, JP du Preez, Walt Steenkamp, Aranos Coetzee, Joseph Dweba, Ox Nche Replacements: Tian Meyer for Small-Smith (injured 35 mins), Justin Basson for du Preez, Daniel Maarens for Davis (both 47 mins), Charles Marais for Nche, Reinach Venter for Venter, Erich de Jager for Coetzee, Bongile Nonkontwana for Pokamela (all 70 mins).
MUNSTER: Mike Haley, Liam Coombes, Shane Daly, Tyler Bleyendaal (c), Alex Wootton, Bill Johnston, Alby Mathewson, James Cronin, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer, Jean Kleyn, Darren O’Shea, Fineen Wycherley, Chris Cloete, Arno Botha. Replacements: John Ryan for Stephen Archer, Jeremy Loughman for Cronin, Duncan Williams for Mathewson, Sean O’Connor for Kleyn, Rory Scannell for Bleyendaal (all 54 mins), Ian Keatey for Johnston (60 mins), Gavin Coombes for Botha (61 mins), Mike Sherry for O’Byrne (77 mins).
REFEREE: Marius Mitrea (Italy)