HANRAHAN’S HERO AFTER ITALIAN JOB
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 Both himself and Tadhg Beirne were withdrawn early in the second-half as Munster chased the game.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