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Five-try Munster strengthen grip on top spot

Munster ran out convincing 26-point winners over Benetton Treviso at Thomond Park on Friday, maintaining their position at the top of the Magners League.

Three converted tries from James Coughlan, Damien Varley and David Wallace helped the hosts take a 27-3 interval lead, and efforts in the second half from Keith Earls and Mike Sherry sealed the bonus point.

Munster's captain for the night, Ronan O'Gara, had a 100% kicking return – tallying up 14 points from six successful kicks.

O'Gara's opposite number, Chris Burton, kicked two penalties and converted Ludovico Nitoglia's try for a gallant but well-beaten Treviso side.

Marcus Horan became the twelfth player to join Munster's injury list, earlier this week, but the province have strength in depth and this was shown in a robust first half display.

O'Gara kicked a fourth minute penalty from just outside the 22, after referee David Jones pinged the Treviso scrum. Good work from the visiting forwards in the loose set up Burton for a well-struck levelling penalty from the left.

Munster's response was swift. They turned down a kickable penalty before a cleanly-won lineout and a flurry of forward drives led to Peter Stringer sending number 8 Coughlan over from close range.

Munster's effective scrum put Treviso under considerable pressure at times, and referee Jones reached for his yellow card on two occasions, sin-binning props Franco Sbaraglini and Augusto Allori for repeated offences.

Sbaraglini popped up out of retreating Treviso scrum, in the 20th minute, and Munster used their numerical advantage to work a lineout maul from which hooker Varley sprinted in for his try.

After Munster had knocked on from a missed Burton penalty, Treviso made little ground from a five-metre scrum and props Wian du Preez and John Hayes combined to win a clearing penalty.

Allori's sin-binning for pulling down a scrum saw Munster set up camp in the visitors' 22, late in the first half.

Wallace touched down as Treviso's defence gave way, and O'Gara followed up with the conversion and an injury-time penalty that swept in off the woodwork.

Burton closed the gap with his second penalty, but when O'Gara dived to scoop up a loose ball in midfield, Munster quickly turned defence into attack as Wallace galloped towards the 22 and linked with Earls who made it over in the left corner.

It was a cracking try from Munster who were showing the sort of clinical form exhibited in their big European victory over Toulon at this venue, six days previously.

Treviso enjoyed a purple patch around the hour mark, helped by du Preez's sin-binning for a scrum offence. Stringer's kick was charged down by Nitoglia at a ruck but the ball was knocked on as the visitors looked to score in the left corner.

However, a few minutes later, the Italians flooded out to the right where the pacy Brendan Williams passed for Nitoglia to nip past Earls and score out wide.

Munster wrestled back control of the game, amid a raft of replacements. Normal service was resumed in injury-time when a reverse pass from Duncan Williams sent fellow replacement Sherry darting towards the try-line and neither Brendan Williams or Nitoglia could stop him from registering try number five.

Speaking after the game, man-of-the-match Wallace said: "We had a good attitude tonight, all things worked well for us and our set piece gave the backs a platform to work from.

"Everyone who came on made a huge impact, and that's what we ask for across the 23."

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