BLOEMFONTEIN – Munster kept the Cheetahs scoreless in the second half as they came from behind to win 19-17 in their PRO14 clash at the Free State Stadium on Friday evening.
Needing just two points to head into the playoffs, the home side led 17-7 at the break, but returned a different side as Munster’s experienced bench helped power them to a come-from-behind victory.
The visitors opted for wholesale changes for the clash and that played its part in the early exchanges as neither side could produce any continuity as scrum penalties, unforced errors and wayward kicks dominated the early stages.
Clayton Blommetjies scored the game’s first try and set up the second as the hosts made the most of their early territory and possession dominance.
The big talking point centred around Johan Goosen’s return, and the Springbok flyhalf didn’t disappoint in the early stages, adding two conversions.
But his handling error gave Munster a sniff back into the contest as Conor Murray darted over to reduce the gap shortly before the break to add more intrigue to the encounter.
The Cheetahs were a shadow of their first-half selves as they failed to exert their dominance in any significant manner, as the visitors found their cohesion.
The boot of JJ Hanrahan chipped away at the deficit with two penalties as Munster turned the screws, with the Cheetahs forced to defend for their lives.
The lead was down to one as Hanrahan added a third penalty in the second half to silence the sparse crowd, who could barely believe the scenes playing out in front of them.
The turnaround was complete in the 65th minute when Murray stroked home a penalty from inside his own half to hand his side the lead for the first time in the game.
The pressure appeared to grip both sides, with neither doing much to create the moment that would seal victory.
The clock wound down before Munster secured the win by earning a penalty on a Cheetahs scrum feed in a kickable position.
The loss left the home side’s hopes of a playoff place in the balance with a single round of fixtures to play.
Cheetahs 17 – Tries: Clayton Blommetjies, Tian Meyer. Conversions: Johan Goosen (2). Penalty: Johan Goosen (1).
Munster 19 – Tries: Conor Murray. Conversions: JJ Hanrahan (4). Penalties: Hanrahan (3), Murray (1).
African News Agency (ANA)