Munster fire on all cylinders to see off Stormers in the second half

Reds struggled in the opening period at Thomond Park before finding their feet
Munster fire on all cylinders to see off Stormers in the second half

Munster players celebrate after Jack O'Donoghue of Munster, hidden, goes over to score their fourth try at Thomond Park. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Munster 34 DHL Stormers 18 

MUNSTER got a massive scare from a scintillating Stormers side in the United Rugby Championship clash at Thomond Park on Saturday evening before a powerful and dominant second half display saw them win pulling up.

First blood went to the Stormers, as they scored a brilliant try in the 10th minute, with Nama Xaba, Neethling Fouche, Brok Harris, Scarra Ntubeni and Manie Libbok, all combining with brilliant handling, keeping the ball alive in the tackle, to put full back Warrick Gelant away for a great opening score.

It was obvious that the South African side had come to play and they scored another beauty of a try in the 20th minute when Gelant and centre Ruhan Nel combined magnificently, with quick hands, to put winger Leolin Zas away in the left corner for another superb score.

Munster simply couldn’t handle the Stormers in the early stages, and after Joey Carbery had kicked the restart out on the full, they came straight down the pitch, with Libbok knocking on in the act of scoring in the 24th minute to let Munster off the hook.

Munster players Rory Scannell, Keith Earls and Peter O'Mahony after conceding a penalty. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Munster players Rory Scannell, Keith Earls and Peter O'Mahony after conceding a penalty. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile

Gelant slotted a penalty in the 30th minute to put the Stormers 15-0 up, as they continued to dominate, but to their credit, Munster stayed in the fight with a try in the last play of the half from a close-in drive from Jack O’Donoghue to leave them trailing 7-15 at half time.

Some of the first-half stats that made for particularly nasty viewing from a Munster perspective include the missed tackle count of 13 and the penalty concession count of seven, as well as the Stormers' 14 offloads to Munster’s two. These pretty much tell you all you needed to know about that opening forty minutes.

The Stormers handed Munster a route back into the tie when captain Salmaan Moerat was sin-binned for taking Peter O’Mahony out in the air in a lineout in the 43rd minute, and within two minutes Munster were in for another try from close range, this time from second row Jean Kleyn.

The comeback was complete by as early as the 51st minute when hooker Niall Scannell scored from a typically forceful Munster driving maul off a lineout, with the score going from 7-15 to 19-15 in the time Moerat was off the pitch.

Even with 15 Stormers on the pitch the tries kept coming, with O’Donoghue again driving over from close range in the 56th minute for the bonus point try.

Munster's Shane Daly and Nama Xaba of Stormers battle for the ball. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne
Munster's Shane Daly and Nama Xaba of Stormers battle for the ball. Picture: INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Replacement Stormer out-half Tim Swiel slotted a 66th-minute penalty to give the visitors some hope, but that hope was smashed when RG Snyman slammed the ball forcefully into the turf beyond their tryline in the 68th minute, for his first-ever Munster try.

Scorers for Munster: Carbery (2 cons), Healy (1 pen, 1 con), O’Donoghue (2 tries), Kleyn, N Scannell, Snyman (1 try each).

Stormers: Libbock (1 con), Gelant (1 pen, 1 try), Zas (1 try).

MUNSTER: Haley; Nash, Earls, R. Scannell, Daly; Carbery, Casey; Kilcoyne, N. Scannell, Knox; Kleyn, Wycherley; O’Mahony (c), O’Donoghue, Coombes.

Subs: Loughman for Kilcoyne (47), Snyman for Kleyn (58), Zebo for Earls (60), Archer for Knox (61), Healy for Carbery (62), Barron for N. Scannell (70), Osborne for Casey (71), O’Sullivan for O’Donoghue (73).

STORMERS: Gelant; Petersen, Nel, du Plessis, Zas; Libbok, Ungerer; Harris, Ntubeni, Fouche, Smith, Moerat (Capt), Xaba, Engelbrecht, Roos.

Subs: Swirl for Libbock (48), Masimla for Ungerer (56), Venter, Lyons and Sandi for Ntubeni, Harris and Fouche (61), Van Rhyn and Theunisen for Smith and Xaba (66), Pretorious for du Plessis (67).

Referee: Andrew Brace (IRFU)

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