Munster win at the death with last minute drop goal from JJ Hanrahan

Munster scrape to victory in the most dramatic of circumstances.

Niall Scannell scores Munster's second try.
Niall Scannell scores Munster's second try.
Image: Elena Barbini/INPHO

Benetton Treviso 16

Munster 18

IN TERMS OF the result, this went the way everyone expected. Munster, Conference B leaders, conquerors of Clermont in Europe, were hotly tipped to do pretty much whatever they wanted here in Treviso.

It didn’t quite pan out like that. Yes, they won – and in doing so, Johann Van Graan’s side stretched their lead at the top of Conference B to 15 points, a gap which looks uncatchable given that Connacht, who head the chasing pack, have just six games to overtake them.

Winning is never enough, though. These days, fans want to see a performance as well as a result. What was surprising here is that it was Benetton Treviso, losers of all their games in this season’s Pro14 championship, who delivered one.

In the end, it wasn’t enough. With the clock in the red, and Treviso 16-15 ahead, Munster put together one last effort to try and steal a result. They got there, a sustained period of possession resulting, eventually, in Hanrahan – guilty of missing an easy penalty against Leinster last week – becoming the hero, as he landed the winning drop goal from a difficult angle.

Even so, there will still be an inquest – especially into their defending.

Two early tries from Darren Sweetnam and Niall Scannell, supplemented by two kicks from Ben Healy, should have been the structure for them to build towards an easy win. 

What they hadn’t factored in, though, was the Benetton comeback. Down by 12 points, they were then down to 14 men in the 23rd minute, when Marco Riccioni was sent to the bin.

There and then, you’d have been forgiven for thinking Munster would turn the screw and wrap up the bonus point by half-time.

Instead, something different happened. First, Benetton got themselves on the scoreboard, when Angelo Esposito crossed for a 26th minute try. And even if Tommaso Allan missed the conversion, the impetus Esposito’s try gave the Italian side was easily measured.

Suddenly, they started to believe. Territory was won, then penalties, Allan kicking two of them in the 33rd and 40th minutes to reduce the gap to 12-11.

You just couldn’t have imagined something like this happening after the opening 10 minutes, firstly on the back of Sweetnam’s opportunistic try, when – like all good wingers, he never gave up the chase after Mike Haley had kicked through.

As Jayden Hayward made a mess of things, the ball bounced wickedly off the Benetton full-back’s shin, then off the corner flag, eventually into Sweetnam’s path – an ugly score, but, from the winger’s perspective, a brilliant one.

Three minutes had barely been played and by the time the clock had ticked into the 10th minute, Munster had another try, Liam Coombes deserving much of the credit for initiating it, when he picked off Joaquin Riera’s pass, before tidy work from Dan Goggin led to Nick McCarthy bursting through a hole in the Benetton defence.

Supporting him was Niall Scannell. Try, Munster. 12-0.

By half-time, thanks to Esposito and Allan, it was 12-11 – Healy stretching the gap back up to four points with a 54th minute penalty.

The Italians were playing superbly at this stage in the game, Munster terribly.

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Eventually it showed on the scoreboard, Leonardo Sarto getting Benetton’s second try of the game with eight minutes left.

Ahead by a point, they had chances to close the deal. But they couldn’t retain possession and as Munster reminded themselves of earlier last-minute wins this season over Scarlets and Edinburgh, they braced themselves for a hat-trick.

Sure enough, Hanrahan didn’t disappoint. There are bigger games than Treviso away on a wet January Saturday. He won’t care. This was the ultimate escape act and he was the who plotted the way out.

Benetton scorers:

Tries: Esposito, Sarto 

Penalties: Allan (2/2)

Munster scorers:

Tries: Sweetnam, N Scannell

ConversionsHealy (1/2)

Penalties:  Healy

Drop goal: Hanrahan

BENETTON: Jayden Hayward; Angelo Esposito (60′ Leonardo Sarto), Joaquin Riera, Ignacio Brex, Tommaso Benvenuti; Tommaso Allan, Callum Braley (58′ Luca Petrozzi); Thomas Gallo (54′ Nicola Quaglio), Tomas Baravalle (51′ Corniel Els), Marco Riccioni (60′ Tiziano Pasquali); Irné Herbst (51′ Eli Snyman), Federico Ruzza; Marco Barbini, Toa Halafihi (51′ Giovanni Pettinelli), Manuel Zuliani (29′ Tiziano Pasquali, 33′ Manuel Zuliani, 70′ Alberto Sgarbi)

MUNSTER: Mike Haley; Liam Coombes, Dan Goggin, Rory Scannell, Darren Sweetnam (Damian de Allende ’59); Ben Healy (JJ Hanrahan 58′), Nick McCarthy; Josh Wycherley (Jeremy Loughman 51′), Niall Scannell (Kevin O’Byrne 58′), Stephen Archer (John Ryan 58′); Fineen Wycherley (Tom Ahern ’69), Billy Holland (capt); Jack O’Donoghue, Chris Cloete, Gavin Coombes (Tommy O’Donnell ’46).

Replacements:  Tommy O’Donnell, Paddy Patterson,  

About the author:

Garry Doyle

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