Glasgow Warriors lost top spot in the Guinness Pro12 as Munster blended sublime back play with their traditional forward grunt to win in Cork. The home side wrapped up their bonus-point win that sees them pull clear at the top, and sent Glasgow home empty handed with a strong defensive effort late on.
Scorers: Munster: Tries: J O’Donoghue, E Guinazu, K Earls, CJ Stander. Con: I Keatley. Glasgow: Try: R de Klerk. Con: C Baird. Pen: C Baird.
Without 23 players due to suspension, injury and international duty, Gregor Townsend’s squad was tested to its limits in Cork. And for the first 20 minutes it appeared as if Muster were in the humour to inflict severe damage on the league leaders. Munster’s early play was laced with eye-catching backs moves and they almost took the lead on five minutes, only a Duncan Williams knock-on robbed them, before Keith Earls showed his best form and almost sent Jack O’Donoghue and Andrew Conway in for tries.
Starting on the wing, Niko Matawalu was heavily involved in defence early on for Glasgow, but he nearly broke away for a score against the run of play in the 25th minute. But instead the Fijian was swallowed up by the scrambling defence and the home side finally got the score their early play deserved in the 29th minute.
Connor Braid failed to find a deep enough touch to deny the quick line- out, and after the pack recycled, Ian Keatley send O’Donoghue in for his third try in as many games.
Five points was scant reward for Munster’s dominance though, so when Argentine hooker Eusebio Guinazu dived over off the back of another powerful Munster maul two minutes from the break, and Keatley converted, the 12-0 interval advantage put a more realistic slant on the scoreboard.
Four minutes after the restart it appeared as if Glasgow had got back into the game with a try from Matawalu in the right corner, only for referee Nigel Owens to chalk it out for a knock-on from the Fijian.
The withdrawal of Murray McConnell moments later meant Matawalu switched to scrum-half and immediately his reputation for a snipe meant Munster faced another danger off the back of the breakdown and scrum.
That scrum has struggled hugely in the first half, but it earned a penalty in the 52nd minute but Braid’s kick never threatened the target. But he got another chance a minute later from similar range when Ronan O’Mahony was penalised for being offside, and Braid slotted the kick to make it 12-3.
At that stage Munster were rocking slightly and on the hour mark a sublime line from Rossouw de Klerk was picked out by Braid and the tighthead powered over under the posts. Braid’s conversion reduced Munster’s lead to two points. But any chance of a comeback was snuffed out two minutes later when Earls ran in Keatley’s kick through with some brilliant control on the boot and the home side wrapped up the bonus-point win when CJ Stander scored off the back of another powerful rolling maul 13 minutes from time.
Despite having the bonus point clinched only 12 points separated the sides and Glasgow went in search of a losing bonus point in the closing stages, but Lee Jones’ late try was disallowed for a foot in touch which sent the Warriors home empty handed.
Munster: JJ Hanrahan; A Conway (A Smith 59), K Earls, D Hurley (I Dineen 79), R O’Mahony; I Keatley, D Williams (N Cronin 77); J Ryan (D Kilcoyne 65), E Guinazu, BJ Botha (S Archer 59), Donncha O’Callaghan (S Buckley 79), B Holland, J O’Donoghue (P Butler 62), S Dougall, CJ Stander.
Glasgow: P Murchie (G Bryce 77); N Matawalu, R Vernon, F Lyle, DTH van der Merwe; C Braid, M McConnell (L Jones 45); A Allan (J Yanuyanutawa 64), P MacArthur (D Hall h-t), R de Klerk (D Rae 69), J Eddie (A Toolis 77), A Kellock, A Ashe (T Spinks 69), W Bordill, J Strauss (R Hughes 69).
Referee: Nigel Owens.