CJ Stander and JJ Hanrahan get Munster out of jail, into semis
MUNSTER 15-13 BENETTON
Munster survived one hell of a scare, at Thomond Park, to reach the semi final of the Guinness PRO14.
Trailing 10-3 at half-time, and 13-6 after the hour mark, Munster were indebted to CJ Stander (two penalties won) and JJ Hanrahan (three penalties kicked) for getting them out of a deep hole.
The winning kick arrived on 77 minutes, as substitute Hanrahan nailed a 50-metre penalty that broke Treviso hearts.
Munster's best scoring chance of the first half went to Darren Sweetnam - drafted in for the injured Keith Earls - but the pass from Mike Haley was slightly behind him, forcing him to cut back inside. He was swallowed up by the Italian defence, and that was as good as it got.
Tyley Bleyendaal had edged the hosts in front but Tommaso Allan levelled it up and, just before the break, Iliesa Ratuva scored a stunning, one-handed finish in the corner. Allan converted and it was 10-3 at the break.
Lordy me, what a one-handed finish!!
Munster with some work to do...pic.twitter.com/ehrVoqszao
— SportsJOE (@SportsJOEdotie) May 4, 2019
Bleyendaal made it 10-6, soon after the break, but Munster were living dangerously. Treviso were blitzing the munster defence, making line breaks and dishing out offloads. They should have scored two tries in the first 15 minutes of the second half but, on both occasions, the final pass was shelled with the tryline in sight.
There were grumbles in the Thomond Park crowd, too, on 48 minutes when Tadhg Beirne and Bleyendaal were both called ashore, for JJ Hanrahan and Billy Holland. Johann van Graan was eager to give his side a jolt.
Whatever the motivation for taking off two key players so early, it did not have and immediate and desired effect. Treviso piled forward and Allan made it 13-6 with a 61st minute penalty.
Hanrahan nibbled three points out of the Italians' lead, two minutes later, and it was teed up for a tense finish. CJ Stander won a crucial turnover, soon after, Munster marched forward and, when they were awarded another penalty, Hanrahan made it a one-point game.
Ratuva came close to bagging his second of the game but was bundled out near the Munster tryline. Undeterred, Treviso pressed on. Another scoring chance was squandered, over on the right wing, before Stander came to the fore again.
The No.8 won another big turnover, which Nigel Owens was adamant was on the halfway line, and Hanrahan stepped up. 15-13 and now with a lead to defend.
Treviso missed two late drop goals and, after looking poor for long periods, Munster marched on. They play Leinster in the PRO14 semi final in a fortnight.
OUR MAN OF THE MATCH: CJ Stander (Munster) - Two huge turnovers when his team were in a lot of trouble.