Seemingly cruising towards a comfortable bonus point win at the break, the hosts struggled in the second half, while Johann van Graan’s young and inexperienced Munster side, missing a number of Irish internationals, fought back bravely to almost snatch an unlikely victory.

It wasn’t to be however, as the Vodacom Bulls – playing with 14 men for the last 10 minutes of the game after Bismarck du Plessis was red carded – defended bravely to ensure they take the points on offer, with Chris Smith’s flawless kicking display the big difference.

The Vodacom Bulls made way too many unforced errors, such as kicks going directly into touch, not clearly winning restarts and forced passes going to ground, which not only cost them continuity, but also allowed Munster some breathing space at crucial stages of the game.

The clash was off to a canter, with the teams trading penalty goals and the hosts taking a 6-3 lead by the 10th minute, after which Munster captain Jack O’Donoghue (flanker) was driven over for what looked like a great maul try, but the match officials spotted an infringement, and the Vodacom Bulls breathed a sigh of relief.

Five minutes later, the men in blue put together an effective attacking play and although there was a bit of luck involved when the ball was stripped from Marcell Coetzee (flanker), it landed in Madosh Tambwe’s hands, with the speedster – who was named the Player of the Match – racing out of a few tackles to score the first try of the match.

Smith (flyhalf) added his third successful kick at goal to push the hosts ahead by 13-3, and the Vodacom Bulls flyhalf then slotted two more penalty goals to extend his team’s lead to 19-3 as they capitalised on some ill discipline by the visitors, who lost their No 8, Alex Kendellen, to the sin bin for a no-arms tackle.

With an extra man on the field, the Vodacom Bulls took only four minutes to score their second try, this time with Walt Steenkamp (lock) crashing over after a few sniping runs by his outside backs. Smith’s conversion pushed the hosts into a 26-3 lead, which is how it stayed until the break.

The Vodacom Bulls failed to build on this momentum in second half and allowed Munster to claw their way back with three tries, by Kendellen in the 54th minute, and Springbok centre Damian de Allende 10 minutes later, to narrow the gap to 29-17.

The visitors’ second try was perhaps a bit fortuitous after the hosts disrupted an attacking lineout by Munster, but the bounce of the ball beat the Vodacom Bulls’ defending players for the Bok midfielder to pounce.

When Du Plessis, the Vodacom Bulls’ replacement hooker, was sent off for foul play with 10 minutes to go, Munster pounced almost immediately, with O’Donoghue going over after some relentless attacking play by the visitors, but they failed to land the knock-out punch and the relieved hosts took the four log points.


Vodacom Bulls 29 (26) – Tries: Madosh Tambwe, Walt Steenkamp. Conversions: Chris Smith (2). Penalty goals: Smith (5).

Munster 24 (3) – Tries: Alex Kendellen, Damian de Allende, Jack O’Donoghue. Conversions: Ben Healy (3). Penalty goal: Healy.