United Rugby Championship: Munster dominate Benetton, while Lions hammer Ospreys

Colin Newboult

Munster proved to be too strong for Benetton as they overcame the Italians 51-22 to move up to third in the United Rugby Championship.

Johann van Graan’s men controlled the majority of the match and displayed their superior quality by moving 17-3 ahead thanks to tries from Matt Gallagher and Craig Casey.

To the visitors’ credit, they battled in the first half and were only seven points in arrears at the break as Rhyno Smith touched down.

The Irish province were much the better team, however, and Simon Zebo, Gavin Coombes, Jack O’Sullivan and Damian de Allende all went over in the second period to confirm a comfortable win.

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Jean Kleyn’s late withdrawal had Munster move Coombes into the second row and bring Alex Kendellen in at number eight.

Tomas Albornoz hit the left-hand post with an early penalty attempt before Healy opened the scoring soon after.

The first half failed to catch fire until full-back Gallagher crashed over after a neat passing move involving Casey and captain Jack O’Donoghue.

Ben Healy’s conversion was cancelled out by a Smith penalty, while turnovers blunted both attacks and there was some aimless kicking from hand.

Hoovering up the breaking ball from a kick, John Hodnett linked with Zebo, who fed scrum-half Casey to score and get Munster back on track.

Benetton hit back just before the break, Toa Halafihi claiming an overthrown Munster line-out before Ratuva Tavuyara’s clever kick was grounded in spectacular fashion by Smith. The try scorer also converted.

Into the second half, Coombes won a turnover penalty which Healy stuck over, and then the big Corkonian carried brilliantly before Zebo nipped in between two defenders to score.

Benetton’s pacy replacement Giacomo Da Re did likewise in the 54th minute. Smith’s missed conversion left it 27-15.

Healy replied with a penalty and converted Coombes’ close-range bonus-point score, following a line-out steal from replacement Jason Jenkins.

Benetton full-back Andries Coetzee then saw yellow for playing the ball on the ground. O’Sullivan, via a maul, and De Allende both crossed in his absence, with Healy making it six successful conversions on a night that saw him equal the best individual points tally in any URC match this season.

The battling Treviso side had a late consolation score from Callum Braley, who broke from a ruck on the edge of the Munster 22 for Coetzee to convert.

Lions thrash Ospreys in Johannesburg

The Ospreys’ United Rugby Championship play-off hopes suffered a severe dent as they lost 45-15 to the Lions in Johannesburg.

It also continued the Welsh regions’ dismal run of results in South Africa this season, having now suffered five successive defeats.

The Lions, bottom of the South African Shield, scored tries through a double from scrum-half Morne van den Berg, while wings Rabz Maxwane and Edwill van der Merwe, flanker Francke Horn, plus substitutes Manuel Rass and Andre Warner also touched down, with Jordan Hendrikse adding five conversions.

The Ospreys, minus their Wales Six Nations players, could only muster tries by Rhys Webb and Michael Collins in reply, while fly-half Josh Thomas kicked a conversion and penalty.

The Lions, seeking a third URC win in a row, took an 11th-minute lead when Maxwane finished impressively following a sustained spell of pressure.

Hendrikse converted – he missed a straightforward penalty chance just two minutes earlier – as the Ospreys’ bright start was dimmed under the floodlights.

The Lions’ chief ball-carriers – back-row brothers Vincent and Emmanuel Tshituka – looked to make ground at every opportunity, but the Ospreys also had their fair share of territory, with Webb probing for space amid a fast and furious pace.

Thomas opened their account through an angled penalty 10 minutes before half-time, yet both sides continued to make handling errors and it looked as though the Ospreys would reach the break just four points adrift.

But the Lions had other ideas, and centre Burger Odendaal’s incisive midfield work wreaked havoc in the Ospreys’ defence, and Van den Berg collected his pass to claim an impressive try, with Hendrikse’s conversion opening up a 14-3 interval advantage.

And matters deteriorated within three minutes of the restart as a third Lions try arrived when Horn crashed over from close range, and Hendrikse’s conversion meant the Ospreys had a mountain to climb.

The Lions were almost out of sight, but the Ospreys hauled themselves back into contention following a try for livewire Webb that Thomas converted.

It was only a glimmer of hope, though, and the Lions secured a bonus point through a superb fourth try started by Odendaal, taken on by prop Ruan Dreyer, then centre Wandisile Simelane cut a devastating angle and Van den Berg touched down.

The Ospreys could predictably find no way back, despite Collins’ breakaway score, as Rass, Van der Merwe and Warner completed an emphatic win with late tries.

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