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Wednesday 14 November 2018

Munster survive by the skin of their teeth

POWER: Fineen Wycherley. Pic: Sportsfile
POWER: Fineen Wycherley. Pic: Sportsfile

Munster almost squandered a winning position before escaping 30-26 against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein yesterday in the PRO14.

Bill Johnston opened the scoring when slotting a penalty for Munster after their maul had been pulled down after 10 minutes.

The Reds went further ahead when hooker Kevin O'Byrne was onto an overthrown lineout in a flash, the platform set for No.8 Arno Botha to stretch to the line and score.

It then took a stupendous chase down of Sibhale Maxwane by Alex Wotton to preserve Munster's eight-point lead.

It was a temporary reprieve as Munster compounded errors to give away three penalties in one movement for flanker Chris Cloete to see yellow - Cheetahs hooker Joseph Dweba mauling over in the 28th minute.

Munster avoided further damage before Cloete returned just as the maul went to work for O'Byrne to surge over, with Johnston's conversion making it 15-5 at the break.

An offload from O'Byrne and floated pass from Johnston sent Munster substitute Liam Coombes flying for his first try on his debut, Johnston converting in the 47th minute.

It was all back in the melting pot when Cheetahs prop Ox Nche powered past Botha and Dweba grabbed his second; Schoeman's extras making it 22-19 close to the hour.

It went from bad to worse for Johann van Graan's side when Schoeman made a break and Rhyno Smith touched down for the South Africans to snatched the lead for the first time, with Schoeman converting.

It was give-and-take in the closing skirmishes, with O'Byrne prominent in Mike Haley responding on a short ball from Ian Keatley and Rory Scannell landing a long-range penalty before Munster survived a hectic endgame.

Elsewhere, Connacht culled the Dragons 33-12 for a bonus-point that moved them onto a respectable four wins from eight rounds.

They channelled the disappointment of a last-minute loss to the Ospreys into an impressive opening quarter that produced three of their four tries.

Ulster, meanwhile, moved into second in Conference B when shading Benetton 15-10 in a baseline battle at Stadio Monigo.

Stuart McCloskey and Rob Herring, a try-scorer alongside Sean Reidy, impressed in what was a resilient defensive effort to encourage coach Dan McFarland.

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