Munster overpower Toulouse to reach Champions Cup semis
Munster marched into the European Champions Cup semi-finals, overpowering Toulouse with a 41-16 win at Thomond Park.
The hosts came into the contest boasting seven wins in eight home European quarter-finals and made a rapid start, aided by a foolish yellow card for Francois Cros, with a fifth-minute try from John Ryan.
Toulouse have endured a miserable Top 14 campaign and they were second best here also, Thierry Dusautoir ultimately playing what is expected to be his final European game.
After Toulouse clung on in the first half, a storming start to the second and a CJ Stander try looked to have put Munster in command, but a controversial Paul Perez score checked any premature celebrations.
Duncan Williams, in place of Conor Murray, and Simon Zebo routinely provided an excellent platform to build upon, with Tyler Bleyendaal keeping Munster's noses in front with accurate work from the tee, and they eventually wore Toulouse down with Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway capping a deserved win.
Munster captain Peter O'Mahony and Stander limped out of the game, and they may need to add a clinical edge with Glasgow Warriors or reigning champions Saracens lined up as semi-final opponents.
The likely return of Murray should aid in that respect. The Ireland scrum-half was ruled out after a late fitness test on his injured shoulder, although his replacement Williams enjoyed a fine outing and was involved right from the off.
Williams was caught by Cros' elbow as he booted clear from a ruck in the first minute, earning the Toulouse number eight a yellow card and throwing them into disarray.
The resulting penalty was sent to the corner and quick ball from Munster left Toulouse chasing shadows before John Ryan barrelled over. Bleyendaal followed up his conversion with a penalty and Munster's set-piece dominance was displayed by two line-out steals from O'Mahony in the opening 15 minutes.
Jean-Marc Doussain and Bleyendaal traded scores from the tee before the Frenchmen were forced to settle for another penalty after Gael Fickou just ran out of space to dot down Doussain's clever kick.
Bleyendaal was denied a try by the TMO - Donnacha Ryan's basketball-style pass in the build-up deserved more - and O'Mahony's knock-on just before the interval allowed Doussain to add a third penalty, which sent the sides in at the break with Munster only ahead 13-9.
With the wind and a raucous crowd behind them, Munster surged away at the start of the second half. Bleyendaal's 50-metre penalty - set up by Zebo and Williams driving up the gut - preceded Stander squirting over after clever maul play.
There was no time for Munster to rest on their laurels, as Yoann Maestri's fine break put Perez away, referee JP Doyle refusing calls from the home crowd to overturn the decision due to a lack of evidence that the lock's pass had gone forwards.
Doussain passed on points from a penalty and Toulouse's subsequent failure to break through cost them as Munster ran away late on.
Bleyendaal's fifth penalty eased the tension and he ended the day having scored eight from nine with the boot after Sweetnam and Conway nipped through tired Toulouse ranks to add gloss to the victory.