O'Donnell dazzles in Munster win
Munster maintained their challenge for a home Guinness PRO12 semi-final with a 30-19 bonus point victory over Benetton Treviso at Irish Independent Park.
A try from man of the match Tommy O'Donnell on the stroke of half-time had Munster leading 20-7, that scoreline owing much to a lively first quarter which included unconverted scores from Simon Zebo and CJ Stander.
Andrea Pratichetti's 42nd-minute effort gave Treviso some early momentum in the second half, before Ian Keatley replied with a penalty and Munster established clear dominance in the scrum to win a clinching penalty try.
However, Anthony Foley will be disappointed with the manner of his side's performance, particularly as they allowed the Italians in for three tries - the last of them scored by winger Simone Ragusi with six minutes remaining.
The five-point return does at least ensure that Munster are back in second place in the PRO12 table, just a point ahead of Ulster whom they meet at Kingspan Stadium in a fortnight's time.
Foley's men were on the scoreboard within four minutes, Keatley landing his first place-kick from the right after referee Ben Whitehouse penalised Treviso for back-chat.
Munster set a high tempo in attack and winger Zebo proved unstoppable from a few metres out on the left as he crashed over for the opening try. Keatley's conversion attempt came back off the left post.
Try number two followed by the end of the first quarter as number eight Stander made it over from a close-in ruck after Andrew Smith was hauled down just short. Keatley's radar was off again from the conversion.
Treviso knuckled down in the second quarter and notched a try from their first meaningful attack. Number eight Mat Luamanu was driven over from a second ground-gaining lineout maul that had Munster in plenty of trouble.
Jayden Hayward supplied the extras for a 13-7 scoreline and Munster, although guilty of some lacklustre play, ramped things up again in sight of the interval. Zebo and Keith Earls were ever-willing runners and prop Dave Kilcoyne had a notable charge up the left wing.
A timely third try arrived via a lovely lineout move as quick ball allowed Conor Murray to send fleet-footed flanker O'Donnell barrelling through to score on his 100th Munster appearance. Keatley's conversion left 13 points between the sides.
However, the Italians wasted little time in responding. Barely two minutes after the restart, Sam Christie darted and dummied his way through the Munster defence and passed for supporting centre Pratichetti to finish off by the posts with Hayward converting.
Keatley broke up a real purple patch for Treviso with a vital interception, and he then booted his second successful penalty after his half-back partner Murray went close to touching down from a ruck.
Front-rowers Eusebio Guinazu and BJ Botha had the desired impact off the Munster bench, winning successive scrum penalties. The hosts used a penalty, five metres out, to drive Treviso backwards again in the set-piece and the sustained pressure led to a deserved penalty try.
Keatley converted the bonus-point score, but second-from-bottom Treviso battled on with Christie and Hayward continuing to ask questions of an under-pressure Munster defence. Although Ragusi finished well in the right corner, their push for a losing bonus point fell short.