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Keatley keeps calm to help Munster continue winning streak

Guinness PRO12 Editor 29 Nov 2013

Ian Keatley was the shining light for Munster after kicking all 18 points as the Irish region lay down the gauntlet to the rest of the RaboDirect PRO12 with an 18-14 victory over Newport Gwent Dragons.

The Dragons led at half-time thanks to two penalties from Jason Tovey and they extended that early in the second-half thanks to a try from Matthew Pewtner.

But poor discipline allowed Keatley the chance to kick his side back into the game, eventually sealing the victory with five second-half penalties to extend Munster’s lead at the top of the RaboDirect PRO12.

League-leaders Munster had won their last five league fixtures, not losing since a surprise defeat to Benetton Treviso back in Round 3, but struggled during an uneventful first 40 minutes.

Tovey was offered the chance to give the Dragons an early lead on 11 minutes with a penalty which he duly converted but he was unsuccessful with another attempt six minutes later.

That was how it stayed during a tense opening 20 minutes and after Munster were awarded a penalty in front of the posts the returning Keatley made no mistake to level things up at 3-3.

The fly-half then saw a drop-goal attempt – following a sustained period of play in the Dragons 22 – sail just wide of the posts before Tovey scored another penalty right on half-time to hand the hosts a 6-3 lead at the break.

That extra bit of momentum taken into half-time seemed to help the Dragons as they grabbed the game’s first try on 43 minutes through Pewtner – although Tovey couldn’t add the extras.

The fly-half’s inconsistent kicking display continued on 48 minutes when he saw another penalty go wide of the target and he was soon made to pay.

Keatley scored Munster’s first points on the second-half on 52 minutes with a penalty after the Dragons were guilty of not rolling away.

However the visitors were reduced to 14 men on 56 minutes when Keith Earls, another returning to the starting XV, was sent to the sin bin for a high tackle.

The Dragons couldn’t capitalise though and it was Munster who bagged three more points through Keatley on the hour before they were both a man down with Cory Hill joining Earls in the bin.

Keatley missed the resulting penalty but didn’t make the same mistake when given another chance on 67 minutes, with the Dragons guilty of holding on, to take his side into the lead for the first time in the game.

The Welsh side responded with a drop goal from Tovey as the lead was handed back to the Dragons who had lost just one of their last seven contests at Rodney Parade.

But two penalties from Keatley in the final ten minutes, including a monster effort from inside his own half, saw Munster take a hard-fought victory.

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