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Munster return to winning ways against Benetton in United Rugby Championship

By PA
(Photo By Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Fly-half Ben Healy kicked 21 points as Munster got back to winning ways with a 51-22 United Rugby Championship victory over Benetton at Musgrave Park.

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Rhyno Smith’s try on the stroke of half-time cut Munster’s lead to 17-10, with the hosts registering converted scores through Matt Gallagher and Craig Casey.

However, tries from Simon Zebo, Gavin Coombes, replacement Jack O’Sullivan and Damian De Allende – with Giacomo Da Re and Callum Braley responding for Benetton – saw Munster chalk up a first win in three in bonus-point style.

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Jean Kleyn’s late withdrawal had Munster move Coombes into the second row and bring Alex Kendellen in at number eight.

Tomas Albornoz hit the left-hand post with an early penalty attempt before Healy opened the scoring soon after.

The first half failed to catch fire until full-back Gallagher crashed over after a neat passing move involving Casey and captain Jack O’Donoghue.

Healy’s conversion was cancelled out by a Smith penalty, while turnovers blunted both attacks and there was some aimless kicking from hand.

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Hoovering up the breaking ball from a kick, John Hodnett linked with Zebo, who fed scrum-half Casey to score and get Munster back on track.

Benetton hit back just before the break, Toa Halafihi claiming an overthrown Munster line-out before Ratuva Tavuyara’s clever kick was grounded in spectacular fashion by Smith. The try scorer also converted.

Into the second half, Coombes won a turnover penalty which Healy stuck over, and then the big Corkonian carried brilliantly before Zebo nipped in between two defenders to score.

Benetton’s pacy replacement Da Re did likewise in the 54th minute. Smith’s missed conversion left it 27-15.

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Healy replied with a penalty and converted Coombes’ close-range bonus-point score, following a line-out steal from replacement Jason Jenkins.

Benetton full-back Andries Coetzee then saw yellow for playing the ball on the ground. O’Sullivan, via a maul, and De Allende both crossed in his absence, with Healy making it six successful conversions on a night that saw him equal the best individual points tally in any URC match this season.

The battling Treviso side had a late consolation score from Braley, who broke from a ruck on the edge of the Munster 22 for Coetzee to convert.

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