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Image: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

A try within seconds and a long-range penalty: Conor Murray swings victory for Munster in Bloemfontein

Just over a week out from the Champions Cup semi-final, Munster showed dogged determination to beat the Cheetahs.
Apr 13th 2018, 9:03 PM 44,313 40

Cheetahs 17

Munster 19

Morgan Piek reports from Toyota Stadium

CONOR MURRAY ARRIVED in an explosion of raw class to help Munster overcome a 14-point deficit to beat the Cheetahs at altitude in Bloemfontein.

The scrum-half, left on the bench in an effort to manage his minutes before next weekend’s Champions Cup semi-final, was introduced for the injured James Hart after 35 minutes. And within 20 seconds he sniped over the try-line to put Munster’s first score on the board.

JJ Hanrahan kept the scoreboard ticking for Munster, but it was Murray who delivered the winning strike with the latest in his repertoire of terrific penalties bisecting the posts from over 50 metres to nudge Munster into their first lead of the night in the 62nd minute.

The hard-fought win saw Munster secure a home berth for the Guinness Pro14 semi-finals. It marks just the second time this season that the Cheetahs were beaten at home.

Oupa Mohoje with Sammy Arnold and Gerbrandt Grobler Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In a match which better resembled a world title heavyweight boxing bout, the two teams traded blows in the opening exchanges as they seized each other up.

The deadlock was broken in the 11th minute of the encounter when Scarlets-bound Clayton Blommetjies went over to open the scoring. The Springbok flyhalf, Johan Goosen, who officially came out of “retirement” in the game, landed the conversion to 7-0 lead.

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The exchanges between the two teams continued in game which battled to find any momentum, due a very heavy field and a rather slippery ball. Blommetjies was once again instrumental in the Cheetahs second try, after Uzair Cassiem, also heading to Scarlets, snatched up a loose ball, off-loaded to the fullback, who in his turn sent the scrumhalf, Tian Meyer, over for the try. Once again Goosen converted, and the lead was 14-0 in favour of the hosts.

Sloppy work on their own goal line by William Small-Smith, and then by Goosen, in his own in-goal area gave Munster their first sniff of points.

Hart was replaced by Murray, and about 20 seconds after coming onto the park, the Lions halfback dotted down for the score. Hanrahan converted the try, to see the score at 17-7 in favour of the Cheetahs at the interval.

Rhys Marshall and Ian Keatley Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

In the second stanza the visitors tightened up tremendously and game the Cheetahs very little opportunity. When the South Africans did get opportunities they were not able to make use of it.

Hanrahan chipped away at the Cheetahs lead with three penalties, to ultimately make it a one-point ball game.

The knockout blow came in the 62nd minute when Murray used the altitude and his well-educated boot to slot a 55m penalty on the angle.

After the hooter sounded, the Cheetahs were still in for a shout, with a scrum 10m short of the Munster line, and there almost a sense that there could be another last gasp upset. However, it was not to be as they conceded a penalty at the scrum, which allowed the Irish outfit to hoof the ball into touch and end the game.

Scorers:

Cheetahs – Tries: Clayton Blommetjies, Tian Meyer, Conv. – Johan Goosen 2 Pen.   Goosen 1

Munster – Try: Connor Murray Conv. - JJ Hanrahan 1 Pen. – Hanrahan 3, Conor Murray 1​

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Morgan Piek

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