There may be a new name for the competition but for Munster it was the same old story as they began the season as they ended the last, with a win.
Newport Gwent Dragon’s were the visitors to Musgrave Park and the Welsh side arrived in confident form with the men in red missing so many of the star players due to the World cup.
However a strong fast half performance laid the foundation for an 8 point win as tries from Danny Barnes and Lifeimi Mafi put the Dragon’s to the sword and send them off home without a point.
The game began at a slow pace with neither side able to get enough time on the ball to make a breakthrough, the first chance of the evening didn’t arrive until the 14th minute however Ian Keatley, making his competitive debut for Munster, missed with what looked like a straight forward enough kick.
Despite his miss Keatley looked impressive for Munster, his willingness to run with ball making him a viable option to O’Gara, however for all his guile and endeavour, the former Connacht man needs to work on his kicking game as time and time again he failed to find touch with kicks from open play.
Somewhat against the run of play the Dragon’s took the lead, Steffan Jones booming over a penalty from inside his own half.
Munster response was immediate as from the restart they won a penalty which Keatley made no mistake from this time to leave the sides at three a piece after 23 minutes.
The game was now up and running and so were Munster as less than three minutes later they had the opening try, Danny Barnes going over after a lovely run from his own half by Johne Murphy. Keatley adding the extra’s to put Munster 10-3 up.
With the game heading towards half time, Munster grabbed a second when a long line out was collected by Billy Holland who passed inside to Denis Hurley who then sent Maifi scampering home. Keatley again adding the extra’s to suddenly hand Munster a fourteen point gap.
A James Tovey penalty just on the stroke of half time reduced the arrears to 17-6.
The opening twenty minutes, much like the first, was a goalless affair until Tovey made a 5 point game of it with penalties on 63 and 69 minutes to set up us for a grandstand finish.
By the time of the second penalty, Munster were playing with thirteen men as Peter O’Mahony and Damian Varley were both yellow carded.
Munster held on and they killed off any hopes of a comeback with a penalty from Keatley, Munster only second half score, 7 minutes from time. With the clock ticking down, the Dragons were awarded a penalty however Tovey’s attempt to rescue a losing point fell just short and Munster kicked the ball out to claim the points.
Speaking after the game, man of the match Coughlan was a pleased man and he summed the nights work up perfectly when he said “Job done”, because that this the opening weeks of the new season will be about, getting the jobs the done, especially with some many top stars unavailable due to the World cup.
Munster coach Tony Gahan echoed the words of Coughlan, saying he was “pleased with the end result and that his side needed to “establish a platform” although referring to the decision of the ref to sin bin three Munster men, Gahan admitted that while it did “not make things easy” his players “Needs to adjust to the referee’s interpretation”.
Munster up and running and in no mood to relinquish their crown.