MUNSTER 18 BENETTON TREVISO 13
Munster stuttered their way to an 18-13 Guinness PRO12 win over Benetton Treviso in the season opener at Irish Independent Park.
It took a brace of second half tries from CJ Stander, who captained Munster on the night, to break the resistance of the Italians - who led 7-6 at half-time.
The visitors played the better rugby in the opening half, with Kiwi flanker Dean Budd bagging a converted try.
Although a 12-point scoring burst in the third quarter proved telling for Anthony Foley’s men, their all-round performance was laced with individual errors and Jayden Hayward’s last-minute penalty pocketed a well-merited bonus point for Treviso.
Munster failed to capitalise on an early line break from Rory Scannell, who had debutant David Johnston alongside him at centre, however a subsequent sixth-minute penalty from Ian Keatley got them off the mark.
Treviso hit back within four minutes, a classy spell of handling and angled running getting them within striking distance and Budd took advantage of a rare missed tackle from Stander to go over in the left corner.
Full-back Hayward converted and with try-scoring opportunities few and far between, Keatley was called upon to close the gap for Munster. The Ireland international landed the first of two penalty attempts set up by the hosts’ solid scrum.
Foley demanded a lot more from his side at the break, and they gradually found their rhythm in setting up man-of-the-match Stander for his tries after 47 and 53 minutes.
A slick line-out move almost put fit-again hooker Mike Sherry over in the right corner, before a concerted spell of pressure led to the skipper scoring from close range on the opposite flank.
Hayward pushed a penalty wide at 11-7 and Munster finally went up the gears with a free-flowing attack which saw Keatley and ex-Gloucester winger Shane Monahan combine to put Stander over by the posts.
Keatley’s replacement Tyler Bleyendaal made a belated debut and looked the part at number 10. Nonethless, Munster failed to profit from Ludovico Nitoglia’s sin-binning and with the Treviso scrum gaining the upper hand, New Zealander Hayward split the posts after 71 and 81 minutes to give his side something tangible to take home.