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Dublin: 9°C Saturday 26 September 2020

Four-try Wootton takes centre stage as Munster ruthlessly tear Cheetahs apart

The young winger helped the southern province to a second bonus point victory of the season.

Munster 51

Toyota Cheetahs 18

Ryan Bailey reports from Thomond Park 

BOARDING THE FLIGHT home will come as a welcome relief for the Cheetahs after their first foray into northern hemisphere rugby proved to be the harshest, and steepest, of learning curves. They will be glad to see the back of Ireland after heavy defeats to Ulster and now Munster. 93 points conceded, 14 tries leaked.

Tommy O’Donnell celebrates scoring a try with Jack O'Donoghue Munster scored eight tries in an emphatic win. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The southern province, for their part, were clinical and ruthless in dispatching the South Africans in an eight-try rout which could hardly be called a contest. The game was over as early as the seventh minute and the Cheetahs fell away from there, allowing the hosts to gently ease their way into the new season with a second bonus point victory of the campaign.

As bad as the visitors were, Munster took full advantage as their young winger Alex Wootton had a day to remember as he followed up his first try for the province last week with four here; he was given the freedom of Thomond Park all evening.

The 23-year-old becomes just the second Munster player to score four tries in a Pro14 game, following Mike Mullins in 2001.

While the win was assured in the first half, the bonus point was sealed shortly into the second as Tommy O’Donnell, Jean Kleyn, Chris Farrell and Simon Zebo also helped themselves to scores.

The hope was that the Cheetahs, having spent the week in Ireland working on the areas which led to their downfall on the opening weekend, would be sharper on their second outing in the competition and their style of play tinkered slightly to give them a greater chance of lasting the 80.

While they gave Ulster a real fright in the opening quarter eight days ago, the visitors’ challenge lasted no more than 10 minutes and the reality was that this performance again brings into question how competitive they will be in this part of the world. They are supposedly the stronger of the two South African teams involved in the Pro14 and we’re still waiting for either of the two new additions to bring anything to the table.

Granted Rory Duncan’s side will improve as the season progresses and they settle into the league, but the outcome, just like in Belfast, was never really in doubt once the Cheetahs’ brief resistance was broken.

Alex Wootton scores a try Wootton dives over for his fourth try of the game. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Again, they shot themselves in the foot at the breakdown and the trend was set from as early as the third minute when the orange shirts flew into the ruck overzealously, all off their feet.

In total, they conceded 10 penalties as their indiscipline cost them again, but Munster were dominant in all aspects of the game, most notably at the set-piece with the rolling maul laying the foundation for three first-half tries.

Ian Keatley, on his return to the side, kicked for the corner early and from the resulting phase of play, the visitors were caught offside, with the Munster out-half making no mistake from the kicking tee. 3-0 and the hosts were on their way.

Wootton gathered the restart and with a couple of steps inside, danced his way through the first line of tackles. Farrell fed Jaco Taute down the right and although the latter’s kick through was swept up by the covering Clayton Blommetjies, Munster obliterated the scrum against the head.

Jack O’Donoghue, outstanding all game, couldn’t believe his luck when the ball popped out the side of the set-piece and he made it a formality for O’Donnell by drawing the last defender and offloading to the flanker.

With a firm grip on proceedings, Munster looked to shift the ball in contact at every opportunity and stretch their opponents further with direct running and energetic support play. At times, it was a bit forced but the floodgates opened once they remained patient.

After Robbie Petzer had got the Cheetahs on the board, Munster were clinical at the other end to pull away. The rolling maul again had the visitors back-pedalling and once Duncan Williams fed it out to the backline a try was inevitable.

Darren Sweetnam gathered at pace and skipped Andrew Conway in the line to set Wootton away in the corner. 17-3 after 20 minutes, and game over.

The winger’s second try was a carbon copy. The forwards made the hard yards, Williams’ pass was crisp and Sweetnam and Conway spread it quickly to release Wootton, who had acres of space to cross the whitewash. 22-6 at half-time.

Jack O’Donoghue is tackled by Rynier Bernardo Jack O'Donoghue put in a big performance. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

The one-way traffic continued in the second half, but the one blot on Munster’s copybook came right on the restart. Keatley’s kick off was gathered uncontested by Francois Venter and one offload set his midfield partner William Small-Smith tearing through. He raced past Keatley and made Taute look like a slouch having broken from his own 10 metre line.

Normal service resumed soon after, however.

Kleyn barged his way over after a lengthy period of Munster territory and when Farrell picked a gaping hole in the Cheetahs defence to scythe through for his first Munster try, the tourists were down, out and well and truly beaten.

Munster kept their foot on the gas from there, and Wootton took centre stage again. He showed all his speed, as well as a devastating ability to finish, by leaving three defenders in his wake down the left and his fourth, and final act, of the day was again down to fine work from Sweetnam.

He received a standing ovation from the home crowd of 15,144 when withdrawn for Zebo, and not to be outdone by his young team-mate, the Ireland international crowned an utterly convincing victory with a diving finish in the same corner.

The Cheetahs had the last say with Henco Venter’s outstretched arm giving them a second try of the day, but the warm round of applause which greeted the score told its own story; it was more charitable than genuine and this was another tough day at the office for them.

Conversely, it was another step in the right direction for Munster. Far stiffer tests lie ahead, but a perfect start to the season leaves plenty of grounds for optimism around these parts. Two out of two, 10 points from 10.

Munster scorers:
Tries: Tommy O’Donnell, Alex Wootton [4], Jean Kleyn, Chris Farrell, Simon Zebo.
Penalties: Ian Keatley [1 from 1]
Conversions: Ian Keatley [4 from 8]
Cheetahs scorers:
Tries: William Small-Smith, Henco Venter.
Penalties: Robbie Petzer [2 from 2]
Conversions: Robbie Petzer [1 from 2]

MUNSTER: 15. Andrew Conway, 14. Darren Sweetnam, 13. Chris Farrell, 12. Jaco Taute (22. Rory Scannell 59′), 11. Alex Wootton (23. Simon Zebo 60′), 10. Ian Keatley, 9. Duncan Williams (21. James Hart’); 1. Liam O’Connor (17. Dave Kicloyne 57′), 2. Rhys Marshall (16. Niall Scannell 57′), 3. Stephen Archer (18. John Ryan 57′), 4. Jean Kleyn (19. Fineen Wycherley 70′), 5. Billy Holland (captain), 6. Sean O’Connor, 7. Tommy O’Donnell, 8. Jack O’Donoghue (20. Robin Copeland 65′)

TOYOTA CHEETAHS: 15. Clayton Blommetjies (23. Ryno Benjamin 56′), 14. Sergeal Petersen, 13. Francois Venter (captain), 12. William Small-Smith, 11. Makazole Mapimpi, 10. Robbie Petzer, 9. Shaun Venter; 1. Charles Marais (22. Ali Mgijima 59′), 2. Jacques du Toit (16 .Torsten van Jaarsveld 50′) 3. Johan Coetzee, 4. Rynier Bernardo, 5. Reniel Hugo, 6. Paul Schoeman, 7. Henco Venter, 8. Niell Jordaan (19. Armandt Koster 28′).

Referee: Ben Whitehouse (WRU).

Attendance: 15,144.

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Ryan Bailey

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