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Munster 38-17 Dragons

Munster (18) 38
Tries: Howlett 2, O'Driscoll, Murphy, Quinlan Cons: Warwick 2 Pens: Warwick 3
Dragons (9) 17
Try: S Jones Pens: Tovey 4

Musgrave Park action
Ashley Smith attempts to halt the progress of Paul Warwick

Munster consolidated their commanding position at the top of the Magners League with a bonus-point win.

Doug Howlett scored two tries in the first half, with Paul Warwick kicking two penalties and a conversion to give the Irish side an 18-9 half-time lead.

Jason Tovey kicked three penalties in the first half and another in the second while Steve Jones scored a try.

Mick O'Driscoll, Johne Murphy and Alan Quinlan all touched down while Warwick added a penalty and a conversion.

The visitors had to realign their backs division before kick-off - an injury to Will Harries saw Pat Leach move to full-back with Ashley Smith brought into midfield.

Both sides showed an eagerness to attack but early penalties prevented any momentum being built up as Warwick and Tovey traded blows.

Warwick nudged Munster ahead before Tovey struck an upright with his first penalty.

He made amends in the eighth minute before Warwick kicked Munster back in front.

Tovey then moved the Dragons 9-6 ahead with two well-struck efforts as the likes of Joe Bearman and Toby Faletau made the hard yards.

Smith picked up a knock midway through the first half, bringing Rhodri Gomer-Davies into the fray, and the Dragons' bad luck continued when lock Robert Sidoli fell awkwardly in a tackle and injured his elbow.

Munster were the better team in the second quarter, with Simon Zebo and Lifeimi Mafi starting to pose a threat.

Munster turned down a close-range kick in favour of a scrum in the 28th minute.

After a solid set-piece and and carry from Denis Leamy, James Coughlan's crafty backhanded offload took two Dragons defenders out and sent Howlett in at the right corner.

Warwick converted from the touchline and Munster closed out the half with another try from Howlett, who used Johne Murphy as a foil to nip between two covering players and make the line.

The Dragons made a terrific start to the second half, putting captain Jones over for a try within two minutes.

Faletau and Tom Riley made good incisions before Adam Hughes was sprung through a gap on the right and Jones was up in support to finish off in the corner.

The increasingly influential Warwick landed a penalty to steady Munster at 21-14 and young scrum-half Conor Murray, who impressed on his first start, passed for O'Driscoll to rumble over for the hosts' third try.

A Tovey penalty reduced the Dragons' arrears to nine points entering the final quarter, but Munster had more in the tank.

Full-back Murphy glided inside Hughes and Tovey for a converted try eight minutes from time and an overthrown Dragons' lineout, five metres from their line, allowed Quinlan to close out the scoring.

Munster: Johne Murphy, Doug Howlett, Lifeimi Mafi, Paul Warwick, Simon Zebo, Declan Cusack, Conor Murray, Marcus Horan, Denis Fogarty, Stephen Archer, Ian Nagle, Mick O'Driscoll capt; Donnacha Ryan, James Coughlan, Denis Leamy.

Replacements: Damien Varley for Fogarty (52), Wian du Preez for Horan (52), Tony Buckley for Archer (53), Alan Quinlan for Nagle (60), Tommy O'Donnell for Coughlan (67), Peter Stringer for Murray (57), Danny Barnes for Zebo (64).

Not used: Sam Tuitupou

Dragons: Pat Leach; Adam Hughes, Tom Riley, Ashley Smith, Matthew Pewtner; Jason Tovey, Wayne Evans; Hugh Gustafson, Steve Jones (capt), Ben Castle, Scott Morgan, Rob Sidoli, Andrew Coombs, Toby Faletau, Joe Bearman.

Replacements: Lloyd Burns for S Jones (53), Phil Price for Gustafson (52), Adam Jones for Sidoli (25), Lewis Evans for Morgan (46), Rhodri Gomer-Davies for Smith (20), Jon Evans for W Evans (46), Matthew Jones for Riley (52).

Not used: Pat Palmer

Referee: Peter Allan (Scotland)

Attendance: 6,200

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