Sunday Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - Sport - BY DECLAN ROONEY

JJ HANRAHAN de­nied Benet­ton Rugby a de­served spot in the PRO14 semi-fi­nals as his penalty from half­way edged this quar­ter-fi­nal.

Mun­ster coach Jo­hann van Graan said his side al­ways knew they were in for a real bat­tle against the Ital­ians, but even he must have been sweat­ing af­ter Ratuva Tavu­yara’s first-half try kept Benet­ton in the as­cen­dency in front of 10,043 at Thomond Park.

It was heart-break­ing for Benet­ton who were by far the bet­ter team in Lim­er­ick, but they also missed two late drop goal at­tempts from An­to­nio Rizzi and Jay­den Hay­ward.

“I wouldn’t say we got out of jail,” said van Graan af­ter­wards. “We knew these guys were ex­cep­tional through­out the whole sea­son, their last two vis­its to Ire­land were draws with Le­in­ster and Ul­ster.

“But credit to JJ, as a No 10 that’s the mo­ment you want. If those mo­ments arise, you want to kick it. To ac­tu­ally nail it, that’s why you train for years and years for mo­ments like this - to put your team in a win­ning po­si­tion even when the per­for­mance was be­low par. All credit to JJ.”

Mun­ster were ex­tremely waste­ful in the first-half and all they had to their name was a Tyler Bleyen­daal penalty. They left three try-scor­ing chances go un­claimed, while Benet­ton stayed in touch thanks to To­masso Al­lan’s penalty and Tavu­yara’s bril­liant fin­ish in the cor­ner just be­fore the in­ter­val.

Had Mun­ster claimed any of those op­por­tu­ni­ties they will feel they could have made more of their su­pe­rior ter­ri­tory and pos­ses­sion stats, which they held a two-thirds ma­jor­ity in both.

They fi­nally got off the mark when Bleyen­daal kicked a 23rd minute penalty. Both him­self and Tadhg Beirne were with­drawn early in the sec­ond-half as Mun­ster chased the game.

But it was Tavu­yara’s try that looked to have been the dif­fer­ence be­tween the sides. Mun­ster failed to kick the ball far enough into touch and Monty Ioane took a quick li­ne­out, which led to Tavu­yara’s one handed div­ing score in the cor­ner.

How­ever, Benet­ton were left to rue some great scor­ing chances of their own in the sec­ond-half when

Tavu­yara and Hame Favia both came very close and Hanrahan stepped up with the win­ner.

“I’m dis­ap­pointed for the guys, they left ev­ery­thing out there,” said Benet­ton coach Kieran Crow­ley. “But that’s play-off rugby.”

SAVIOUR Hanrahan cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing late penalty

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