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Rugby | Pro14

Conor Murray © Getty Images

Murray's kick sinks Cheetahs



British and Irish Lions star Conor Murray sank a 50 metre penalty to give his side a tense 19-17 win over the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Friday night.

In the process Munster secured their home playoff spot and completed their South African tour with two wins out of two, and gave South African coach Johan van Graan a great return to his home country.

Murray made a massive difference when he came on in the 37th minute, scoring a try within 30 seconds of getting onto the field and bringing the Munster team almost immediately back into the game after they went 14-0 down after some excellent Cheetahs attacks early on.

His dart from the scrum five metres out was pure brilliance in seeing the gap and taking it, and was a big turning point in the game where neither side were able to truly take the game away from the other.

But the result also now means that the Cheetahs have to beat the Kings to ensure they qualify for the playoffs, and have left the door slightly open for the Cardiff Blues to sneak into the playoffs.

The Cheetahs started so well, with a lineout move put Reniel Hugo close to the line, and the recycled ball found Clayton Blommetjies in space, with the fullback making no mistake for the opening try.

The second came from an excellent turnover from Uzair Cassiem and a blindside run by Blommetjies that put Tian Meyer away for the try.

But Munster are not that easily beaten, and started to exert some pressure when they got their hands on the ball. Jack O’Donoghue went over but the try was disallowed from an earlier knock-on and they were denied.

Then Murray made his appearance and things changed. The Cheetahs may have gone into the halftime break 17-7 up, but there was a significant shift in the momentum of the game.

The Cheetahs extended their lead through a Johan Goosen penalty, with the returnee providing some excellent touches in his first game back in 18 months.

But then the Munster defence became tighter and their forwards started getting on top. And JJ Hanrahan simply started chipping away at the scoreline with a string of penalties.

Three consecutive penalties made it a one-point game for Munster before Murray stepped up for the long range kick.

And while the Cheetahs attacked hard as the time ticked down, they were unable to find penetration as the Munster defence held firm.

In the end, it ended with a penalty, ironically in the final minute by Scottish referee Mike Adamson – the same referee who gave them a win over Cardiff by a penalty try last weekend.

But this time the penalty went Munster’s way to end the chance of a Cheetahs comeback and the celebrations began.

SCORERS

Toyota Cheetahs – tries: Clayton Blommetjies, Tian Meyer. Conversions: Johan Goosen (2). Penalties: Johan Goosen

Munster – tries: Conor Murray. Conversions: JJ Hanrahan. Penalties: JJ Hanrahan (3), Conor Murray (1)



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