It wasn’t perfect, not even close, but Munster will be happy to come away with a win plus the four try bonus point following their clash with second from the bottom side Benetton Treviso in the Guinness Pro 12 on Saturday.
The 30-19 win could mean that a loss away to Ulster on May 9th will not be fatal in their attempt to secure a home semi-final. The match in the Kingspan Stadium could prove to be a practice run for the eventual final if things stay on course for both Irish provinces but if their clash with Treviso was anything to go by, Munster will have a much tougher battle on their hands than they did on Saturday and will need to step it up a gear to beat the in-form Ulster side.
All 10 semi-finals since the competition introduced a playoff system to decide the winner in the 2009-2010 season have favoured the way of the home side. On just four occasions has the losing semi-finalist been within 10 points, so home advantage will be crucial.
There were times in the first half when Munster looked like they would be racking up the points on the scoreboard and despite devouring Treviso in the scrum they were in a much tighter game than Munster anticipated. With Treviso battling it out at the bottom of the table with Zebre for a place in the Champions Cup, there was added incentive to play for a major upset and beat Munster.
Donnacha Ryan was back for his first 80 minutes of competitive rugby in 13 months after being sidelined due to a weird toe injury and while naturally it was a rusty start, once he got rid of the cobwebs it was nice to see him back to full health.
Ian Keatley settled the home team and the supporters when he converted a 25 metre penalty after just four minutes.
Treviso got their first points on the board after 25 minutes when Matthew Luamanu went over for a try following good lineout possession.
It was by no means a memorable Munster game for most but it was for one man, Tommy O’Donnell who earned his 100th cap for the province on Saturday. To mark his milestone he got a fantastic try just before the break when Conor Murray provided the perfect pop pass for O’ Donnell to race past defenders and touchdown in a run that would rival winger Keith Earls.
Keatley converted to make it 20-7 at the interval with Munster having run in three tries, one of which came at the end of a seven phase movement with Simon Zebo eventually getting the ball over the line, while the other came from number 8, CJ Stander who added to his impressive try scoring run, getting his eighth of the campaign.
But Treviso were not going to be deterred and with just two minutes on the clock in the second half they struck the first blow with centre Andrea Pratichetti slipping through Munster’s sluggish defense to score a try. Jordan Hayward converted and suddenly there was only a six point gap.
Munster’s dominance in the scrum is what got them over the line and secured the full five points just 13 minutes from the final whistle when they were awarded a penalty try thanks to multiple set piece collapses on Treviso’s part.
Treviso had one more trick up their sleeve and when Simone Ragusi took advantage of an overlap he was home and dry for Treviso’s third try of the night but alas it was too little too late.
Munster will no doubt be surprised at the fight in the Treviso side but they will be happy with the win if not a little worried about their error count.
At the end of the day a win is a win and Munster grabbed it with both hands.