Munster have beaten the Newport Gwent Dragons 18-14 to ensure that they stay top of the RaboDirect Pro12
With light drizzle falling at Rodney Parade, conditions were far from ideal and the opening exchanges featured lots of scrappy play and a high dose of kicking from hand. It was the home side who took the lead in the 11th minute, with out-half Jason Tovey knocking over a penalty for a 3-0 scoreline.
The 24-year-old had a chance to double that advantage just six minutes later, but was off target with another penalty. Tovey nearly made up for his wayward aim shortly after, when he burst through Munster’s defensive line from inside his own half. Rob Penney’s men managed to scramble back and Ian Keatley cleared their lines.
Thereafter, Munster came into the game in an attacking sense, and managed to string a passage of maintained possession together, leading to the Dragons coming offside in the 25th minute. Keatley had no problem slotting over the penalty from in front of the posts to draw the sides level at 3-3.
Referee Marius Mitrea has struggled to get consistency at scrum time, and that has contributed to a disjointed affair so far in Wales. Both sides have been struggling with accuracy, although there have been attempts to create attacking chances.
Tovey managed to nudge his side in front just before the half time whistle, converting a penalty to leave the game at 6-3 in the home side’s favour at the break.
Keith Earls was yellow carded in the second half. ©INPHO/Huw Evans.
Winger Matthew Pewtner then got Lyn Jones’ men off to a wonderful start to the second half, scoring a 44th minute try, although Tovey was off target with his conversion to leave the Dragons 11-3 up. Keatley reduced that lead when the home side failed to roll away from the tackle, but a yellow card for Keith Earls in the 61st minute halted Munster’s growing momentum.
Debutant Gerhard van den Heever was forced off with an arm injury shortly after, with Paul O’Connell also withdrawn as he tired. Keatley was on target with his next penalty attempt though, as Dragons lock Cory Hill was sin binned.
Munster’s out-half nudged his side in front for the the first time in 67th minute with a fourth penalty, but Tovey conjured a response three minutes later, knocking over a drop goal to put the Dragons 14-12 in front.
However, Keatley wasn’t finished, and when Munster’s scrum won a penalty just inside the Dragons’ half, the 26-year-old slammed over a penalty from long range to put the visitors 15-14 up. The former Leinster man then pushed the lead out to 18-14 with his sixth penalty of the evening, ensuring the victory for Munster.
A hard-earned victory for Rob Penney’s side in Rodney Parade, but one which ensures that they will stay top of the Pro12 for another weekend. Keatley’s composure and place kicking will have served as a timely reminder of his talent.