Munster 23 Dragons 9
NEWPORT Gwent Dragons suffered their first pointless game of the RaboDirect Pro12 season after being beaten 23-9 by Munster in Cork.
The Dragons headed into the game on the back of home wins against Ulster and the Scarlets and a narrow defeat in Edinburgh.
But the Munstermen triumphed at Musgrave Park thanks to scores by prop James Cronin and back row forward Peter O’Mahony.
The game was nip and tuck at 13-9 until the Dragons were reduced to 13 men early in the second half with captain Andrew Coombs yellow-carded for overzealous rucking and flanker Jevon Groves joining him for dragging down a maul.
It enabled Munster to stretch away for a well-deserved win, although they were unable to bag a bonus point that they might have expected given the dominance of the set piece and subsequently territory and possession.
In fact, the visitors could even have burgled a losing bonus point only for the hosts to stand firm in the face of late pressure.
The Dragons’ recent away form suggested they would be in for a tough evening in Cork, where they have never won.
Only once did they enjoy success on their travels in the league last season– when they sneaked a late victory at winless Zebre – and they earned just two losing bonus points.
Added to that was a woeful record in Ireland.
The Dragons suffered whitewashes at the hands of the four provinces in 2011/12 and 2012/13 while their last victory was against Ulster at Ravenhill in September 2008.
The visitors would have been pretty pleased with the efforts after half an hour with the scores locked at 6-6, fly-halves JJ Hanrahan and Kris Burton trading penalties.
Munster had the slight edge but the Dragons frustrated their hosts by showing the same determination and commitment in defence that they had displayed in the first three games of the season.
However, the set piece was wobbling and proved to be their downfall approaching half-time.
Hugh Gustafson missed his man at the lineout and Munster pounced, applying pressure before loosehead prop James Cronin barged over.
Hanrahan added the extras and the hosts led 13-6 at the break.
Burton reduced the gap with a superb penalty in tricky kicking conditions but then the spell down to 13 killed the Dragons.
With Coombs and Groves in the sin bin Munster flanker Peter O’Mahony stretched over for a try that Hanrahan improved.
The Dragons probably would have taken a seven-point loss while down two men, especially when Munster brought on Lions and Ireland talisman Paul O’Connell, but another Hanrahan penalty on the hour meant hopes of a losing bonus point were fading at 23-9.
But, with Richie Rees adding some verve off the bench, the visitors rallied late on.
They spent the last 10 minutes in the Munster half and the last five in the Munster 22. Alas, the hosts held firm and the Dragons were left with nothing to show for their efforts.
Munster scorers: tries - J Cronin, P O'Mahony; conversions - JJ Hanrahan (2); penalties - JJ Hanrahan (3)
Dragons scorers: penalties - K Burton (3)
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