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Munster leave 14-man Bulls blue with away win in Pretoria

By PA
Munster captain Tadhg Beirne in action during the United Rugby Championship match between Vodacom Bulls and Munster at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, South Africa. (Photo By Shaun Roy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

Munster posted a statement victory in their quest for back-to-back United Rugby Championship titles as they beat the Bulls 27-22 at Loftus Versfeld.

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Scrum-half Conor Murray’s try six minutes from time secured a bonus-point victory in Pretoria and took Munster above the Bulls into third place.

The home team had fly-half Johan Goosen sent off after 54 minutes for a dangerous challenge and Munster kept their composure to claim an outstanding win.

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Wing Shane Daly, lock RG Snyman and replacement back-row forward John Hodnett also claimed touchdowns, with fly-half Jack Crowley kicking two conversions and a penalty.

The Bulls, despite fielding many of their international stars, had to be content with a losing bonus following tries by Elrigh Louw, Kurt-Lee Arendse and Johan Grobbelaar while Goosen added a penalty and two conversions.

The teams were separated by just one place and two points before kick-off and while Bulls dominated early possession they could make little headway against a well-organised Munster defence.

Points Flow Chart

Munster win +5
Time in lead
15
Mins in lead
29
19%
% Of Game In Lead
36%
78%
Possession Last 10 min
22%
0
Points Last 10 min
5

Munster were unlucky not to go in front when Murray’s 52-metre penalty attempt hit a post but they went ahead from their first attack after 19 minutes when brilliant handling from their backs – sparked by centre Alex Nankivell – created a try for Daly that Crowley converted.

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It was a short-lived advantage, though, with Bulls responding through a trademark score that showcased their enviable forward power.

Louw attacked from the back of a scrum and after Munster initially held him up there was no stopping the skipper a second time as he took three defenders over the line with him.

Goosen converted and then kicked a penalty but Munster were not to be denied a strong first-half finish as they regained the initiative when Snyman rounded off a prolonged spell of pressure and Crowley converted before adding a penalty a 17-10 interval advantage.

The Bulls took only five minutes to cut their deficit, with Arendse crossing wide out from close range, and Munster could not hold wave after wave of phase-play.

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Grobbelaar was the next beneficiary following a quickly-taken penalty as he breached Munster’s defence, with Goosen’s conversion completing a scoring burst of 12 points in just six minutes.

It was to be Goosen’s final scoring contribution as he was then sent off by Welsh referee Adam Jones following head-on-head contact with Munster’s replacement scrum-half Craig Casey.

Munster immediately made their one-player advantage count, with Crowley’s cross-kick finding Hodnett, who displayed outstanding strength and awareness to crash over and tie things up at 22-22 before Murray’s late clincher.

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Jon 23 hours ago
Why Sam Cane's path to retirement is perfect for him and the All Blacks

> It would be best described as an elegant solution to what was potentially going to be a significant problem for new All Blacks coach Scott Robertson. It is a problem the mad population of New Zealand will have to cope with more and more as All Blacks are able to continue their careers in NZ post RWCs. It will not be a problem for coaches, who are always going to start a campaign with the captain for the next WC in mind. > Cane, despite his warrior spirit, his undoubted commitment to every team he played for and unforgettable heroics against Ireland in last year’s World Cup quarter-final, was never unanimously admired or respected within New Zealand while he was in the role. Neither was McCaw, he was considered far too passive a captain and then out of form until his last world cup where everyone opinions changed, just like they would have if Cane had won the WC. > It was never easy to see where Cane, or even if, he would fit into Robertson’s squad given the new coach will want to be building a new-look team with 2027 in mind. > Cane will win his selections on merit and come the end of the year, he’ll sign off, he hopes, with 100 caps and maybe even, at last, universal public appreciation for what was a special career. No, he won’t. Those returning from Japan have already earned the right to retain their jersey, it’s in their contract. Cane would have been playing against England if he was ready, and found it very hard to keep his place. Perform, and they keep it however. Very easy to see where Cane could have fit, very hard to see how he could have accomplished it choosing this year as his sabbatical instead of 2025, and that’s how it played out (though I assume we now know what when NZR said they were allowing him to move his sabbatical forward and return to NZ next year, they had actually agreed to simply select him for the All Blacks from overseas, without any chance he was going to play in NZ again). With a mammoth season of 15 All Black games they might as well get some value out of his years contract, though even with him being of equal character to Richie, I don’t think they should guarantee him his 100 caps. That’s not what the All Blacks should be about. He absolutely has to play winning football.

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