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Dragons defeated at soggy Thomond

28/09/2019

Dragons suffered wet weather defeat in the opening game of the new Guinness PRO14 season as Munster took the maximum points on offer with a 39-9 win at a sodden Thomond Park.

Dean Ryan’s men impressed in the opening half hour in Limerick before two quick-fire tries just before the break – with Richard Hibbard in the sin bin – saw the hosts pull clear.

Munster – who were 17 games undefeated in the tournament on home soil – were also a man down after the break for a high tackle, but held out under huge visiting pressure.

And it proved vital as late tries from Tyler Bleyendaal and Dairmuid Barron wrapped up the home bonus point.

The opening trip of the campaign had always looked a tough assignment against a Munster side who the play-off semi-finals last season.

The Irishmen had also not tasted defeat at Thomond Park since December 2017.

However, in tricky conditions, Dragons controlled long spells of the first half only and went close repeatedly in the second before leaving empty handed.

Dragons boss Ryan handed debuts to fly half Sam Davies and wing Owen Jenkins for the clash in Limerick.

And Davies was soon in involved as he slotted a third minute penalty after Munster failed to roll away in the tackle.

Under moody grey skies, Ryan’s men were bright and with a strong wind behind them pinned Munster back for the opening ten minutes with Davies and Jordan Williams pulling the strings.

The rain was incessant and made handling difficult for both teams. But when Munster did threaten for a first time they were ruthlessly clinical as Number Eight Arno Botha dived over bodies to score.

Davies saw a long-range penalty drop wide right as Dragons pushed for an immediate response in the driving rain while Hanrahan was on target to extend the lead on 25 minutes.

A big scrum, with Leon Brown prominent, won a visiting penalty on 29 minutes and Davies made no mistake from the tee this time.

However, a huge turning point then arrived as the TMO was called into action, after a tackle from Hibbard on halfway, and referee Ben Blain handed out a yellow to the hooker.

Munster made the extra man count, with back row O’Donoghue burrowing over from close range before Shane Daly collected his own chip to dot down.

Hanrahan nudged Munster further ahead two minutes after the restart before the hosts were also reduced to 14 men – full back Mike Haley yellow carded for a high tackle.

Dragons duly enjoyed a spell of huge pressure, with repeated five-metre lineouts that Munster did well to hold out before forcing a turnover. 

Back up to a full numbers, Munster were back on the front foot and Daly caused hearts in mouth when he charged down Hewitt’s clearing kick but the ball ran dead.

A blooded Hewitt, with a nasty cut, was soon replaced by debutant Jacob Botica before Munster wrapped up the bonus point, centre Bleyendaal going under the posts after a dart from midfield partner Scannell.

And late gloss came courtesy of replacement Dairmuid Barron as he bulldozed over in the final minute.

Timeline:

03m Davies p 0-3

17m Botha t Hanrahan c 7-3

25m Hanrahan p 10-3

29m Davies p 10-6

33m O’Donoghue t Hanrahan c 17-6

36m Daly t 22-6 39m Davies p 22-9

43m Hanrahan p 25-9

61m Bleyendaal t Hanrahan c 32-9

79m Barron t Hanrahan c 39-9

Dragons: Jordan Williams, Ashton Hewitt (Botica 61), Adam Warren, Jack Dixon (Morgan 15), Owen Jenkins (Shipp 34-40), Sam Davies, Rhodri Williams (Knoyle 72); Brok Harris (Bevington 56), Richard Hibbard, Leon Brown (Fairbrother 65), Joe Davies (M. Williams 67), Matthew Screech, Huw Taylor (Basham 71), Ollie Griffiths (Shipp 72), Lewis Evans

Replacements: Ellis Shipp, Ryan Bevington, Lloyd Fairbrother, Max Williams, Taine Basham, Tavis Knoyle, Jacob Botica, Tyler Morgan

Munster: Mike Haley; Darren Sweetnam, Rory Scannell, Tyler Bleyendaal, Shane Daly; JJ Hanrahan, Nick McCarthy; Jeremy Loughman, Kevin O’Byrne, Stephen Archer; Fineen Wycherley, Billy Holland; Jack O’Donoghue, Tommy O’Donnell, Arno Botha

Replacements: Diarmuid Barron, James Cronin, Keynan Knox, Darren O’Shea, Chris Cloete, Alby Mathewson, Liam Coombes, Jack O’Sullivan.

Referee: Ben Blain (SRU)

Attendance: 10,878

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