Planet Rugby

Munster crush Perpignan

08th December 2013 14:33

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felix jones munster perpignan

Brought down: Felix Jones

Munster secured a bonus point with a comfortable 36-8 Heineken Cup victory over Perpignan at Thomond Park on Sunday.

It was a straightforward win for Rob Penney's side, who enjoyed near-total dominance over a Perpignan outfit that were unable to gain much of a foothold in the match.

Munster started with a bang as Sean Dougall crossed for the game's first points after less than three minutes.

Johne Murphy fielded a James Hook clearance, and put Conor Murray through a gap in the chasing Perpignan defence. The scrum-half offloaded back to the winger with a fine back-handed ball, and Murphy drew the cover defence before feeding inside to the onrushing Dougall, who crashed over. Keatley added the extras.

The hosts continued to press in the early stages, with Keatley pulling the strings, while Felix Jones and Murphy looking dangerous with ball in hand.

Their dominance yielded a penalty on ten minutes, and the pivot duly stepped up to extend his side's lead from around 40 metres.

A fine Munster breakout from their own 22 brought the Thomond Park crowd to their feet again, with hooker Damian Varley charging out of defence before the ball was spread wide to Keith Earls.

Earls cut inside incisively, but his final offload for the supporting Murray was just too far ahead of the British and Irish Lions nine.

Perpignan threatened briefly themselves with hulking Fijian Watisoni Votu breaking up the left-hand-side, and feeding Romain Terrain.

The hooker was hauled to ground short of the line, though, and from the resultant breakdown, scrum-half Tom Ecochard fumbled the ball.

Murray, somewhat worryingly for the home fans, was withdrawn after the opening quarter after sustaining a nasty knock; Cathal Sheridan his replacement.

Votu was perhaps harshly penalised for a late tackle as Sheridan grubbered through up the left touchline, and from the string of infringements that ensued, Munster signaled their intent by battering the Perpignan line in favour of taking three points.

They were rewarded on 25 minutes as a series of pick-and-drives saw loosehead Dave Kilcoyne barrel over from point-blank range. Keatley failed with the conversion attempt, but the hosts still held commanding 15-0 lead.

Votu remained Perpignan's biggest threat with ball in hand, but Munster's dominance at the breakdown meant the visitors were rarely able to capitalise on his powerful running.

And things were to get worse for the Top14 side, as the home forwards wrestled possession from a Perpignan maul, and the ball squirted loose for Earls to dash home untouched from halfway.

The winger's 8th Heineken Cup try and the touchline conversion from Keatley earned Munster a comfortable 22-0 lead at the break, as Hook missed a penalty attempt with the final kick of the first half.

Perpignan started the second period brightly, winning a lineout on the home five-metre line, but imprecision cost them as the ball was fumbled and turned over.

The visitors did manage to claim their first points of the match with a straightforward Hook penalty five minutes into the second half.

And indeed, the French outfit were inches from bagging a fine try after withstanding several minutes of heavy Munster pressure.

Votu again provided the impetus, breaking the home line, before feeding giant second-row Luke Charteris.

Charteris was brilliantly felled short of the line by Dougall, and his offload to Sofiane Guitoune was adjudged to have gone forward by the TMO.

The bonus point was secured with fifteen minutes to spare, as referee Greg Garner lost patience with the Perpignan defenders persistent infringements on their own try-line.

This time, a driving maul was hauled down by replacement prop Kisi Pulu, prompting the official to head for the sticks, and dismiss the substitute for ten minutes with a yellow card.

Hanrahan converted with ease from straight in front of the posts, and the home crowd could relax with all five points secured.

The hosts finished strongly with more pressure on the Perpignan line almost yielding a second try for Earls in the dying minutes, but the final pass from James Downey ruled forward by the TMO.

They did, however, earn their reward with a real forward effort on 78 minutes. The pack relentlessly battered the away line, before number eight James Coughlan drove over under the posts.

Hanrahan added the extras again, but Perpignan had the last say with a breakaway score up the left-hand-side from Joffrey Michel. Hook failed from out wide with the conversion.

A job well done for Rob Penney and his charges ahead of next week's return fixture.

The scorers:

For Munster:
Tries: Dougall, Kilcoyne, Earls, Penalty, Coughlan
Cons: Keatley 2, Hanrahan 2
Pen: Keatley

For Perpignan:
Try: Michel
Pen: Hook
Yellow Card: Pulu

The teams:

Munster: 15 Felix Jones, 14 Keith Earls, 13 Casey Laulala, 12 James Downey, 11 Johne Murphy, 10 Ian Keatley, 9 Conor Murray, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Sean Dougall, 6 Peter O'Mahony (c), 5 Paul O'Connell, 4 Donncha O'Callaghan, 3 Stephen Archer, 2 Damien Varley, 1 Dave Kilcoyne
Replacements: 16 Duncan Casey, 17 James Cronin, 18 BJ Botha, 19 Billy Holland, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Cathal Sheridan, 22 JJ Hanrahan, 23 Denis Hurley

Perpignan: 15 James Hook (c), 14 Joffrey Michel, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Watisoni Votu, 11 Sofiane Guitoune, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Tom Ecochard, 8 Justin Purll, 7 Al Strokosch, 6 Jean-Pierre Perez, 5 Guillaume Vilaceca, 4 Luke Charteris, 3 Paulica Ion, 2 Romain Terrain, 1 Sébastien Taofifenua
Replacements: 16 Maxime Delonca, 17 Kisi Pulu, 18 Jean Baptiste Custoja, 19 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 20 Dewaldt Duvenage, 21 Tommy Allan, 22 Richard Haughton, 23 Dan Leo

Referee: Greg Garner (England)

by Jamie Lyall
@jlyall93

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