Haley and Scannell seal Munster victory
Munster and their returning South African contingent needed a bonus-point try from Mike Haley and yet another long range Rory Scannell penalty to secure victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.
Arno Botha, Jean Kleyn and Chris Cloete impressed in heavy combat with fellow countrymen while the Irish-qualified Tyler Bleyendaal made a welcome return from neck problems but it was Munster’s home grown outhalf Bill Johnston who impressed. Johnston’s looping run and silky left handed pass gifted Liam Coombes a try on debut with the touchline conversion giving Munster a 22-5 lead on 45 minutes.
That’s when altitude began to weigh on travelling limbs as the Cheetahs rattled off three tries inside 12 minutes via Ox Nche, Joseph Dweba and fullback Rhyno Smith, who finished a brilliant break by scrumhalf Shaun Venter. Tian Schoeman’s conversation completed the turnaround to make it 26-22 with 15 minutes remaining.
Munster coach Johann van Graan emptied the bench with Haley’s slick finish reclaiming the lead on 68 minutes only for Ian Keatley, who had relieved Johnston, to miss the easy conversion. That meant an insurance score was needed by Scannell, who repeated his trick to beat Glasgow last weekend with a 48-metre strike giving the tourists a four-point cushion.
Keatley intervened once again with a cross-field kick floating out on the full to gift the Cheetahs territorial advantage entering the final seconds. The Munster pack repelled the driving maul to force a scrum and escape Toyota Park with their first away scalp since April (against the same opposition).
This sloppy performance started in smoother fashion, despite Sam Arnold being pulled from the line-up due to concussion as Shane Daly switched to centre and Coombes came onto the wing, when Botha muscled over for a try on 15 minutes.
Munster were put under pressure when Cloete was sin binned for kicking the ball out of a ruck. Dweba claimed his first try from the lineout but Kevin O’Byrne hit back for Munster to leave them leading 15-5 at the turn.
The second-half show was far from ideal but van Graan was visibly delighted when Duncan Williams punted the ball into the stand to end a desperate record on the road.
Rory Scannell’s 48-metre strike gave Munster a four-point cushion