Munster began their United Rugby Championship (URC) title defence with a 34-21 bonus-point victory over the Sharks at Thomond Park on Saturday.
Tries from Edwin Edogbo, Diarmuid Barron, Antoine Frisch, Andrew Conway and Ethan Coughlan saw them pick up a maximum haul, with Joey Carbery on song.
Werner Kok, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Aphelele Fassi crossed for the Sharks, who leave Limerick with nothing to show for their efforts in week one.
Academy lock Edogbo’s first URC try put his side on course for a 21-7 half-time lead, with Barron and Frisch also scoring to sandwich Kok’s 37th-minute reply.
Despite Van Rensburg crossing in the 48th minute to cancel out a Carbery penalty, the Sharks lost Cameron Wright to the sin bin, and those scores from Conway and Coughlan put the result beyond doubt.
The Sharks did muster a late consolation effort from Fassi, something to take with them into next week’s trip to Leinster.
The South African outfit failed to capitalise on Ntuthuko Mchunu’s eye-catching early break, with the supporting Wright denied a try by Shane Daly’s tackle.
Munster had a couple of false starts, with Carbery throwing a forward pass, but he soon combined with Barron to prevent Mchunu from breaking the deadlock.
20 minutes in, nice hands from Carbery and late call-up Shay McCarthy released Daly down the left wing, and three defenders were unable to stop the 20-year-old Edogbo from five metres out.
Carbery converted, and it was his sharp footwork and link-up with Alex Kendellen that sent hooker Barron in behind the posts to make it 14-0.
Nearing the interval, a brilliant solo run from Curwin Bosch split open the hosts’ midfield and played in Kok to score in the right corner.
However, Frisch sucker-punched the Sharks when he kicked through and got the bounce of the ball to touch down, much to the disgust of the covering Wright and Marnus Potgieter.
Carbery took his kicking haul to nine points early after the restart, yet the Sharks hit back with another opportunistic try. Wright took a quick lineout after his own 50:22 kick, and replacement Van Rensburg crashed over from a Phepsi Buthelezi pass.
Although Bosch’s conversion made it a 10-point game, Munster wrestled back control past the hour mark. Wright was yellow-carded for a high tackle on Daly.
The Irish province’s maul did some damage before newcomer Alex Nankivell’s long skip pass put Conway over untouched for the bonus-point try.
Kendellen and Frisch showed their passing skills to send Coughlan over in the 77th minute before replacement Fassi had the final say, clawing back seven points from Bosch’s kick over the top.
— Munster Rugby (@Munsterrugby) October 21, 2023
The Italian outfit had trailed 19-3 after 32 minutes but went up a gear in the second half to snatch the spoils in the final minute of the match.
Umaga, 25, nailed a penalty after Benetton prop Simone Ferrari had been laid out by a shoulder to the head from debut-making Cardiff prop Ciaran Parker, who was sent off for dangerous play.
It had been a one-sided second half, with Cardiff’s only points coming through a penalty from new outside-half Tinus de Beer.
They had been 19-10 to the good at the end of a first half in which they had played most of the rugby, with three tries in 14 minutes after Benetton had taken an early lead with a penalty from outside-half Umaga, the nephew of All Blacks great Tana Umaga.
Livewire captain Liam Belcher was on the end of a driving lineout for Cardiff after 18 minutes for De Beer to convert, while a sustained build-up culminated in a second try with prop Rhys Carre forcing his way over near the sticks.
Cardiff’s third try was the pick with inside passes from right-wing Owen Lane and De Beer sending scrum-half Ellis Bevan over. But De Beer was timed out by the clock – kickers are allowed a minute for attempts at goal – as he lined up the conversion.
Benetton opened their try account two minutes earlier when hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi emerged from under a pile of bodies after a line-out catch and drive, Umaga converting from a difficult angle.
They had a spring in their step when the second half started, increasing the tempo and being rewarded with another successful penalty from Umaga to trim the arrears to six points.
De Beer responded with a penalty at the hour mark for a 22-13 lead, but it did not deter the visitors when substitute Tomas Albornoz raced clear for a super try. Umaga converted and then took his match tally to 13 points with the winning penalty.