Johne Murphy's late try denies gritty Gloucester Rugby in Munster
MUNSTER 26 GLOUCESTER 10
A SNAPSHOT try from Johne Murphy unravelled dogged Gloucester’s chances of victory in Limerick.
Charlie Sharples’ smart finish after a Dan Robson snipe handed the gritty visitors hope at Thomond Park.
But BJ Botha hit back with a lineout drive score, to keep Munster ahead 16-10 at the break.
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The third quarter was all blood and guts as both stubborn sides refused to yield.
Keith Earls, Johne Murphy and Conor Murray produced the move of the match in pulling Gloucester apart on the hour.
But a try-saving tackle from Robson forced a knock-on from Murray.
Just when Gloucester hoped for one final assault in the last 10 minutes though, Munster swept home decisively.
Cook failed to get anywhere near a high ball, but was upended in the air, landing heavily.
Gloucester were furious, claiming he was impeded.
Nevertheless, Munster continued unabated.
Murray tapped a penalty and cut through the middle, and when the ball came back Keatley chipped out to Murphy in acres of space.
The former Leicester man collected and raced home.
And that was that.
Nigel Davies’ men did themselves proud with their industry and intensity, but were just never able to match the home might.
Davies was not the only one to hail Gloucester’s growing strength in depth after this clash.
Rumblings of discontent among Cherry and Whites fans revolved around rugby director Davies almost entirely mixing up selection from the squad that edged out Perpignan 27-22 a week earlier.
Initially that strategy brought surprise and a modicum of annoyance from Munster too.
But after Gloucester’s ‘resolute and robust’ effort, home head coach Rob Penney was just as impressed with the Kingsholm men’s squad depth as Davies.
Penney explained: “They kept getting into our faces in defence and they were extremely tough to break down.
“They can be pleased with and excited about their strength in their squad after that for sure.”
Pleased to let someone else do the talking when it comes to his plan for the last fortnight, Davies admitted his men were not quite accurate enough to warrant victory.
Davies said: “I am extremely proud of my players for that, they gave it everything and really squeezed Munster in many respects.
“Defensively we were excellent, but we ought to have showed more in attack.
“Our scrum was strong and we battled hard.
“But in the end just that extra degree of control in attack was missing.”
MUNSTER: Tries: Botha (34), J Murphy (68) Cons: Keatley 2 (34, 68) Pens: Keatley 4 (4, 9, 13, 66)
GLOUCESTER: Tries: Sharples (16) Cons: Bentley (16) Pens: Bentley (39)
MUNSTER: F Jones (D Hurley, 78), K Earls, C Laulala, J Downey (C Sheridan, 78), J Murphy, I Keatley, C Murray, D Kilcoyne (J Cronin, 67), D Varley (M Sherry, 73), BJ Botha (S Archer, 76), D O’Callaghan (J Coughlan, 67), P O’Connell, D Ryan (CJ Stander, 70), S Dougall, P O’Mahony (capt). Unused: JJ Hanrahan.
GLOUCESTER: M Thomas (R Cook, 7), C Sharples, M Tindall, R Mills, J May, J Bentley (F Burns, 49), D Robson (T Knoyle, 61), D Murphy (Y Thomas, 76), D Dawidiuk, R Harden, L Lokotui (J Hudson, 49), W James (capt) (l Lokotui, blood 59-66), M Cox (G Evans, 41), A Qera, B Morgan. Unused: T Heard, J Gibbons.
REFEREE: J Garces (FRA).