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Rugby | Pro14

Francois Venter of the Cheetahs © Gallo Images

Munster hand Cheetahs another lesson

Munster handed the Toyota Cheetahs a few more lessons in the realities of European and PRO14 rugby as Rassie Erasmus’ charges ran out 51-18 victors at Thomond Park in Limerick on Saturday evening.

Wing Alex Wootton was the star for Munster as he scored four tries on a day when the Cheetahs defence, despite showing signs of initial improvement on their effort against Ulster in the first round, was again too easily penetrated and out-stripped. The red clad hosts were dominant throughout, their hard working pack laying the platform and placing down the marker as early as the opening minutes.

They made their statement in an emphatic way not long after their flyhalf Ian Keatley had put them into a 3-0 lead after four minutes, with a big attacking scrum putting openside flank Tommy O’Donnell over for a try that propelled Munster into a 10-0 lead. Whereas the Cheetahs were competitive for a while against Ulster, that wasn’t the case this time, and Munster dominated both territory and possession from the outset.

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The biggest lesson that the Cheetahs will have to absorb at the conclusion of their first mini-tour to the northern hemisphere to fulfil PRO14 commitments is that they are going to have to radically improve their forward play as well as eliminate their defensive and other more elementary errors if they are going to compete.

Of course, it may be a different story at home, and the Cheetahs will be looking forward to playing in Bloemfontein. It was always going to be a tough ask for them in a match against a team well coached by former Cheetahs stalwart and coach Erasmus and which was spurred on by a passionate crowd dressed in the red of their team.

Only once in the last year has a visiting team won in Limerick, and that was the Scarlets, who went on to win the competition.

The Cheetahs did not help themselves though with their error rate, and missing touch with penalties is unforgiveable and just makes it harder for yourselves when playing against a team that is so good at protecting its possession, as Munster were. The Cheetahs will also have to work on their allround field kicking game, with the Munster red juggernaut being frequently gifted possession that they were able to run back with interest.

Once again a South African was one of the stars for the opposition, with the popular former Stormers and Western Province lock Jean Kleyn capping a strong performance with a try to go with the two he scored the previous week against Benneton.

That Kleyn score was effectively the one that ended the match as a potential contest in the second half, but it was the first two Wootton tries scored before halftime that snuffed out the initial Cheetahs challenge. The first came on the 20 minute mark and followed a Robbie Petzer penalty that momentarily brought the Cheetahs back into the game four minutes earlier.

Petzer kicked another penalty in the 23rd minute but at 17-6 the Cheetahs were up against it and they were even more so when Munster again sucked in the defenders before spreading the ball wide for Wootton to again far too easily profit from the extra man effect by running in an easy try that made it 22-6 (the halftime score).

The Cheetahs showed some initial defiance in the second half, with skipper Francois Venter taking the ball well from the kick-off and putting his midfield partner William Small-Smith through a gap. Small-Smith used his pace well and ran more than half the length of the field before completing the try.

But that was the last of the good cheer for the Cheetahs. Just as the commentators were suggesting a comeback the Cheetahs again missed touch from a penalty and Munster made them pay for it by producing a monster scrum that netted a penalty from which they set up the field position from where they launched the Kleyn try to make it 27-11.

Outside centre Chris Farrell then went through from long range without being touched to make it 34-11 after 51 minutes and it was always going to be about damage limitation for the Cheetahs after that.

When replacement Simon Zebo ran onto a kick down the short side from a scrum to score his team’s eighth try it took Munster beyond the half century mark. With Western Province having inflicted a 57-14 win over the Free State Cheetahs Currie Cup side in Cape Town earlier in the afternoon, it gave the Cheetahs the unwanted distinction of having conceded 50 pointers in two games played in major competitions on the same afternoon.

The Cheetahs did score a late consolation try to flank Henco Venter and they did show signs of promise on attack towards the end but to suggest that will be a confidence booster for them ahead of their next game on South African soil might be a case of clutching at straws. The reality is that the two matches they played in Ireland drummed home just how much improvement will be necessary.

SCORES Munster 51 Tries: Alex Wootton 4, Tommy O’Donnell, Jean Kleyn, Chris Farrell and Simon Zebo Conversions: Ian Keatley 4 Penalty: Ian Keatley Cheetahs 18 Tries: William Small-Smith and Henco Venter Conversion: Robbie Petzer Penalties: Robbie Petzer 2


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