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Stirring performance sees Munster dump Exeter out of Europe

By PA
Damin de Allende celebrates /PA

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Joey Carbery and Peter O’Mahony inspired a stirring 26-10 Heineken Champions Cup win for Munster as they knocked out 2020 champions Exeter at Thomond Park.

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Chiefs travelled with a 13-8 first-leg lead, but Carbery reeled off 21 points, captain O’Mahony was the turnover king, and Damian De Allende’s 72nd-minute try booked their quarter-final place.

Back from injury, fly-half Carbery kicked two penalties and converted his own 25th-minute try as Munster – despite Conor Murray’s early sin-binning – built a 13-5 half-time lead.

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Sam Maunder’s try from a quick tap was Exeter’s only first-half score, with a late Joe Simmonds penalty falling wide.

South African number eight Jacques Vermeulen drove over in the 48th minute, giving the visitors a narrow aggregate advantage.

Munster finished the stronger, though, with Carbery adding a brace of penalties before De Allende delivered the decisive blow, sealing a 34-23 aggregate victory.

Carbery split the posts with a fifth-minute penalty, yet Exeter threatened twice out wide and then used their powerful pick and drives, led by Vermeulen and Dave Ewers, to press for a try.

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It duly arrived when scrum-half Maunder reacted quickest to a penalty, drew contact and reached out to score. Murray, as the initial tackler, was not back 10 metres and was promptly sin-binned.

Simmonds’ missed conversion was followed by a second penalty from Carbery, with Munster’s canny knack of winning turnovers – they had seven by the break – coming to the fore.

John Hodnett and O’Mahony both impressed at the breakdown before Carbery managed to dummy through, inside Harry Williams, for a smartly-taken converted try.

Now trailing 21-18 on aggregate, Exeter were held scoreless up to the interval as Tom O’Flaherty was thwarted by Chris Farrell and Simmonds missed from the tee.

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Stuart Hogg’s injection of pace into the Chiefs attack had the forwards gaining ground on the restart. They turned down two shots at the posts before Vermeulen burrowed over with support from Ian Whitten and Alec Hepburn.

Simmonds’ conversion curled wide off the left hand post, leaving Exeter 13-10 down but ahead over the two ties (23-21). Vermeulen then increased his influence with a vital penalty win.

On the hour mark, O’Mahony drove Ewers back leading to a penalty which the wind-backed Carbery crisply nailed from 32 metres out.

Jannes Kirsten’s side-entry was also punished with another Carbery kick for 19-10, this time from just inside the Exeter half.

The wily O’Mahony secured another timely turnover, foiling a dangerous Exeter attack, and Munster continued to win the small moments with 10 minutes remaining.

Chiefs could not break down their defence and, when Munster finally found space out wide, Simon Zebo’s sumptuous offload sent De Allende over in the corner. Carbery’s conversion left Exeter with too much to do.

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