Keith Earls is the hero as Munster lord it over Edinburgh
An electric eight-minute hat-trick from Keith Earls helped Munster on their way to a thumping 44-14 Guinness PRO14 win over Edinburgh at Irish Independent Park in Cork.
Returning from international duty, Ireland winger Earls crossed after 29, 33 and 37 minutes as Munster cruised to a 34-7 interval lead, their six-try haul dwarfing South African winger Duhan Van Der Merwe’s effort midway through the first half.
A full house of 8,008 watched Tyler Bleyendaal and Chris Farrell sandwich Van der Merwe’s second try in the 68th minute, as the pair added to Earls’ trio of scores and earlier touchdowns from Farrell and Andrew Conway (2).
It was Munster’s third successive bonus-point victory, putting them within three points of Glasgow Warriors at the top of Conference A.
While Edinburgh’s selection was curtailed by injuries and internationals being rested, Munster welcomed back captain Peter O’Mahony and fit-again duo Conor Murray and Farrell made their first starts of the season.
Big centre Farrell showed his strength to muscle over for a fourth-minute try, after Billy Holland had almost scored from a superb Murray pass.
Six days on from his hat-trick for Ireland against the USA, Conway used JJ Hanrahan’s inside pass to dart through midfield and touch down from 40 metres out.
Hanrahan converted and Conway completed his brace in the 18th minute, with Chris Cloete joining Tadhg Beirne in securing turnover ball in the build-up.
However, powerful winger Van Der Merwe had a quick-fire response with a cracking try from distance – his third of the campaign. Jaco Van Der Walt landed the conversion for a 19-7 scoreline.
Munster’s forwards soon laid the platform for Earls’ first try of the night, with the Irishman collecting the scoring pass off the back of a lineout maul.
With the bonus point in the bag, the hosts’ back-line did the damage for the next score as Farrell’s brilliant offload set up fizzing full-back Mike Haley, who released Earls to cross again.
Conway’s clever work on a kick return then sent Haley haring over halfway and, with Edinburgh struggling to reset, nice hands out to the left put Earls dashing over from the 22-metre line to put 27 points between the teams.
The visitors were the better side in the third quarter, benefiting from their improved ball retention and a scrum that now included Italy international cap Pietro Ceccarelli.
But Gavin Coombes and Earls soon had Munster back on the prowl, with both held up over the line, before replacement Duncan Williams used the five-metre scrum to send Bleyendaal over in the corner.
Those five points were cancelled out when Van Der Merwe once more showed his finishing skills out wide in the 68th minute.
Jason Baggott added the extras but fittingly it was man-of-the-match Farrell who had the final say in the 77th minute, claiming Munster’s eighth try and swatting away Juan Pablo Socino in the process.