Although fielding a squad that contained 14 of the 22 players that played in the Heineken Cup semi-final against Toulouse, London Irish were no match for a Munster side who ran in five tries in a 35-14 victory.
To Emphasise their dominance, both London Irish tries came from mistakes and Munster left a few try scoring opportunities go a-begging but still managed to run in five tries all converted by Paul Warwick (three in the opening half) and Ronan O’Gara.
Munster had to contain early Irish pressure and tempers flared in the 6th minute with Tony Buckley and London Irish number 8 Chris Hala’Ufia ending up in the bin. That little episode however sparked a positive response from Munster and Anthony Horgan fashioned the opening score for Niall Ronan with a searing break from his own half.
A clever kick downfield to the right hand corner by Warwick gave Munster the position to drive Frank Sheahan over, Warwick adding the extra but then a sloppy lineout allowed skipper Bob Casey in for his side’s opening try.
The best team try of the night began deep in Munster territory with Doug Howlett, Barry Murphy and Mick O’Driscoll all involved before Murphy – a 22nd minute replacement for the injured Horgan – sprinted away down the right.
Munster continued to press but a promising move on the the London Irish 22 ended with an intercept by Delon Armitage who left everyone in his wake to score under the posts at the Sunday’s Well end.
When Munster came out for the second half their line-up included O’Gara, Rua Tipoki, Peter Stringer, Marcus Horan, Jerry Flannery, John Hayes, Donncha O’Callaghan, Paul O’Connell and David Wallace and not surprisingly they dominated proceedings from there on.
In the 61st minute they added to their tally when Keith Earls rounded his man, chipped over the cover defence and raced through to gather for a marvellous try.
O’Gara knocked over the touchline conversion and two minutes from time delivered a delightful cross-field kick for Earls to gather for his second try. As is his wont, O’Gara stroked over the touchline hugging conversion to end the scoring.
Munster: D Howlett (P Warwick 77 min); A Horgan (B Murphy 22 min), K Earls, L Mafi (I Dowling 52 min); P Warwick (R O’Gara ht), T O’Leary (P Stringer ht); F Pucciariello (M Horan ht), F Sheahan (J Flannery ht), T Buckley (J Hayes ht); M O’Driscoll (capt) (P O’Connell ht), D Ryan B Holland 72 min); B Holland (D O’Callaghan ht), N Ronan (D Wallace ht), J O’Sullivan (J Melck 65 min).
London Irish: P Hewat; T Ojo, D Armitage, S Mapusua, S Tagicakibau; M Catt, P Hodgson; A Corbiriero, D Paice, F Rautenbach; N Kennedy, B Casey (capt); J Fisher, R Thorpe, C Hala’Ufia. Replacements used: J Buckland, S Geraghty, C Gower, J Hudson, G Johnson, D Murphy, T Parker, P Richards, D Shabbo, R Skuse and A Thompstone.
Referee – Alan Lewis (IRFU)