Leicester Tigers were beaten 33-10 by Munster in Pool 4 of the European Champions Cup at Thomond Park on Saturday evening.
Munster took over at the top of Pool 4 with a four-try show in front of a 23,000-strong crowd.
They were 10 points to the good after 20 minutes with a try from hooker Rhys Marshall and doubled the lead with Simon Zeb adding their second try to present Tigers with a major uphill task.
It took the visitors more than half an hour to get off the mark with a George Ford penalty and they went in 23-3 down at the half-time break.
The lead reached 28-3 before replacement Harry Thacker grabbed a score for Tigers, but Munster replied within three minutes to grab their bonus-point touchdown on a tough night for the visitors.
The two sides were meeting for a third successive year in the back-to-back rounds of the Champions Cup, and a ninth time overall in the tournament with Tigers ahead 5-3 on wins going into the game.
After an historic second victory at Thomond Park in 2015/16, Tigers suffered the club’s second-heaviest defeat in Europe last season as Munster won 38-0 at their Limerick home. Just five of the starting line-up from that trip a year ago – Graham Kitchener, Mike Fitzgerald, Ben Youngs, Adam Thompstone and skipper Tom Youngs – retained their places in Matt O’Connor’s team for the return trip on Saturday.
Both clubs welcomed back a number of international players with Jonny May returning to the Tigers line-up after the autumn Tests and Munster recalling an Ireland contingent led by Peter O’Mahony, CJ Stander and Conor Murray.
The teams received a huge reception as they ran out side by side on a bitterly cold December evening and Ford got the game under way to a massive roar from the crowd.
The first five minutes were played between the 10-metre lines, with each scrum-half box-kicking for field position and each defence standing up to the test, before Munster made a breakthrough with a penalty.
It started with Tigers scenting a potential opening near halfway but when the hosts read a grubber-kick from Telusa Veainu, they built dangerously near the opposition line before Ian Keatley opened the scoring with the kick as Tigers were penalised in front of the posts.
Every tackle from the men in red brought a huge roar from the stands and, with the wind in their sails, they kept out a first threat from Tigers after Ford punted a penalty down the right touchline.
When Tigers regained possession, ferocious breakdown work from Munster pushed them backwards before Zebo was able to kick clear.
Ford eyed an opportunity on halfway as Adam Thompstone shadowed his run but when the wing was brought down, Tigers were penalised and quickly found themselves under their posts as Marshall capitalised on a strong run by front-row colleague Dave Kilcoyne to score. Keatley’s conversion made it 10-0 with 20 minutes gone.
Conor Murray sensed an opening when Munster won turnover possession on halfway and kept the pressure on with a kick in behind Veainu before Tigers were able to clear when Tino Mapapalangi secured lineout ball.
Referee Jerome Garces spoke to Lions colleagues Murray and Dan Cole after an incident on the Tigers 10-metre line which brought another penalty which Keatley struck to stretch the advantage to 13 points.
A second try came on the half-hour, with Zebo latching on to a chip over the defence from Keatley who continued to stamp his mark on the game and the fly-half added the conversion to make it 20-0.
Tigers grabbed an immediate opportunity to get off the mark with a Ford penalty after impressive work by the forwards had marched their rivals back from a lineout drive.
Keatley, though, replied in kind when Tom Youngs was penalised as he cleared Rory Scannell at a breakdown just 25 metres out and the skipper was in the referee’s sights again just moments later. Referee Garces took time to consult the TMO about the hooker’s work at the back of a maul and spoke to Youngs before awarding the penalty. This time Munster played down the right but were closed out in the final action of the half 23-3 ahead.
Munster almost broke through Tigers resistance again in the opening minutes of the second half, finding extra bodies on the right, but when Jean Kleyn reached out one-handed with defenders wrapped around him, he spilled ball and Ben Youngs kicked clear.
There was a break in play after a horrible collision between Veainu, who was catching a clearing kick on the edge of his own 22, and Andrew Conway who stayed down on the turf and needed medical treatment before being led off. Nick Malouf replaced Veainu with Tigers moving Jonny May to full-back.
Munster threatened again after a scrum on the Tigers 22 before Thompstone stepped in to knock possession loose, but Tigers just couldn’t establish a foothold in enemy territory and needed a big hit from skipper Youngs to stop Kilcoyne on another dangerous run 10 metres out.
Dom Barrow and Logo Mulipola joined the action on 50 minutes as a penalty finally got up to halfway. But just as play opened up, Kalamafoni spilled ball in the backline and Munster were able to re-set with their supporters in good voice.
From the scrum, though, Tigers won turnover ball and Mapapalangi broke clear, with Kalamafoni on his right shoulder, before the defence closed in 35 metres out. The reward for the hosts was put-in at another scrum after holding up the Tigers drive.
Despite Tigers’ efforts to stay in the fight, they suffered another blow on 56 minutes when Peter O’Mahony claimed the third Munster try after a turnover on the Tigers 22 presented them with spare men on the right flank and Zebo’s run created the space for the international flanker to score.
A penalty down the right gave Tigers renewed hope but, despite a perfect drive from the forwards over the tryline, Munster somehow escaped as ball was spilled.
Respite was only momentary however as a repeat brought a score for Harry Thacker, just a minute after entering he action, from the back of the maul. Ford added the kick as Tigers cut the deficit to 28-10 with 15 minutes remaining on the clock.
The restart, though, brought another chance for the Munstermen when Tigers were penalised after conceding possession and when they got the9r own drive going at the lineout, the result was a bonus-point score in the corner with the whole pack pushing to the line. Although Keatley was unable to add the extras, his side led 33-10.
There was another glimmer of hope for Tigers entering the final minutes when George Ford chipped in behind the Munster line but the ball just evaded older brother Joe.
The referee was playing advantage, though, and another lineout drive almost took Tigers to the tryline before the whistle blew again. This time, play restarted with a scrum and Tigers remained just short of the line as the clock ticked past 80 minutes. Another penalty brought more pressure on the Munster line but there was no way through.
THANKS FOR JOINING US AT THOMOND PARK
We hope you enjoyed tonight's Matchday LIVE action from here at Thomond Park, despite the result, and in warmer conditions than we faced on your behalf.
We will be back again next week from Welford Road, delivering you all the action direct to your mobile device or online via the Tigers website. See you then!
IT'S ON AGAIN NEXT WEEK AT WELFORD ROAD
We are back on again next Sunday afternoon against Munster in the Round 4 return fixture of Champions Cup action at Welford Road, kicking off at 5.30pm.
TIGERS SECOND-HALF SCORERS
Replacement hooker Harry Thacker was the only Tigers try-scorer in the second half - and match - after coming on for captain Tom Youngs.
George Ford added another two to his first-half three, ending the match with five points.
MUNSTER'S SECOND HALF SCORERS
It was the captain Peter O'Mahony and fellow back-rower Chris Cloete who crossed for the home side in the second half.
Ian Keatley was unable to add any extra points from the boot.
FULL TIME: MUNSTER WIN AT HOME
Full Time is blown at Thomond Park and Munster have walked away with a bonus-point victory over Leicester Tigers, 33-10.
The ball is sent wide to Jonny May on the right wing but, a knock-on occurs and Munster have possession back.
TIGERS MAUL FORWARD AGAIN
The driving maul is on again for the visitors, pressing the Munster line. Can they cross?
TIME IS UP AND TIGERS MARCH ON
The clock is showing 80 minutes over but the Tigers aren't giving up yet on crossing again, working it phase by phase towards the Munster line.
Wait, another penalty awarded now and again Tigers kick for touch. Line out 5 out.
CAN TIGERS CROSS IN THE FINAL MINUTES
Tigers with one final chance here at Thomond Park
TIGERS MAUL IT FORWARD
Leicester bring the ball down at the line-out and maul forward as the referee puts his arm out for a penalty advantage.
They peel off and attempt to go over but, go to ground. No advantage, penalty awarded.
Tigers opt to scrum it down, 5 out from the Munster line.
Nothing came from the first chance but, a penalty comes a few minutes after and this time George Ford finds touch 5 out.
KNOCK ON - MUNSTER
The home side work their way up field well to the halfway line but knock on and are then penalised at the ruck to follow the mistake.
George Ford finds touch inside the home sides 22.
Harrison kicks down field from the base of the ruck after no chances came from their wide moving play.
Munster now on the attack inside their own half.
TIGERS STILL TRYING HARD
The Leicester side are not laying down despite the scoreline as they continue to press the Munster defence, working it wide in attack.
SUBSTITUTION - MUNSTER
Ian Keatley comes from the field and is replaced by JJ Hanrahan at fly-half.
Keatley has added 13 points tonight.
SUBSTITUTION - TIGERS
Joe Ford is in to the action as he replaces Mat Tait.
The commentators curse kicks in and Munster knock-on on the Tigers 22, handing the visitors a scrum to attack from inside their own third.
MUNSTER MARCH ON
The home side working it well and strongly towards the Tigers line, phase by phase.
SUBSTITUTIONS - MUNSTER
Munster make two changes, with the captain Peter OMahony replaced by Jack O'Donoghue and Conor Murray coming from the field for Duncan Williams.
TIGERS ATTACK ENDED
Tigers look to move it wide quickly from a scrum on halfway and an unfortunate offside position from Jonny May, who latched on to a George Ford knock-on while looping in behind Tait gives Munster a kick for the line and in to the Tigers 22.
SUBSTITUTION - MUNSTER
Rhys Marshall comes from the field and is replaced by Kevin O'Byrne.
SUBSTITUTIONS - TIGERS
Two changes for the #tigersfamily as Dan Cole and Ben Youngs come from the field, replaced by Chris Baumann and Sam Harrison.
TRY-SCORER WAS .... ???
Try-scorer is undetermined here at Thomond Par but it appears it was Chris Cloete is themas who got it down.
TRY - MUNSTER
The home side hit back almost immediately and in almost exactly the same way, scoring from a driving maul off the back of a 5m line-out.
A Munster maul is driving its way towards the Tigers line and it goes down over, in the in-goal, but we're going upstairs to check it.
PENALTY AWARDED MUNSTER'S WAY
The home side receive a penalty just two phases after the kick-off, after turning it over at the first, and find touch 5 out.
CONVERSION - TIGERS
George Ford adds another two and closes the gap to 18 points, 28-10, with 15 minutes remaining.
TRY - TIGERS
Harry Thacker is over for the first Tigers try of the night, finding himself at the back of a dominant maul forcing its way over the Munster pack.
NO TRY - TIGERS
A chance goes begging for the visitors, who push a maul from the line-out in to the Munster in-goal but lose possession.
Anotherchance on as they get another 5 out.
SUBSTITUTION - TIGERS
Two more changes from Matt O'Connor as Valentino Mapapalangi and Tom Youngs and given early showers, replaced by Mike Williams and Harry Thacker respectively.
A knock-on at the line-out from the home side hands the Tigers a scrum 10 inside the Munster side of halfway.
A big push follows and a penalty is blown against Munster at the scrum, for George Ford to fin touch on the Munster 22.
MALOUF IN TO TOUCH
Tigers re-gain possession as George Ford fills in at fullback and takes a clearance kick well but, his support player Nick Malouf looks for space down the right wing and is ultimately dragged in to touch.
Line-out to Munster.
TIGERS KNOCK-ON OUT WIDE
The visitors look to go wide again and show some promise before a knock-on ends the attack inside the Munster side of halfway.
No luck this time for Keatley off the tee and he doesn't add the extra two points, leaving the score at 28-3 Munster's way at Thomond Park with nearly an hour gone.
SCRATCH THAT - OMAHONY
It was in fact Munster captain who scored. Our apologies!!
TRY - MUNSTER
The ball is moved very quickly to the left and even quicker back to the right for Zebo to create down the wing with a 2-on-1 and ending up with Billy Holland crossing in the corner.
TIGERS TURNOVER IN 22
Two phases from the scrum and the home side have the ball back, forcing a turnover on Mapapalangi.
SUBSTITUTION - MUNSTER
Brian Scott replaces Dave Kilcoyne in the front-row for Munster.
The home side can't find any momentum off the line-out and their driving maul is munched by Tigers, who forced them backwards and hold it in.
Scrum down inside the Tigers 22 to the visiting side.
MUNSTER GET AWAY WITH ONE
A Murray box kick isn't as nice as his others this evening and travels 50m - in the air - and about 2m forward.
However, Ben Youngs ends up with it after a Kalamafoni tap down knocks it in to the offside scrum-half.
The home side find touch inside the Tigers 22.
VALENTINO IS AWAY
Mapapalangi ends up with the ball following an error at the back of their own scrum from Munster and raves 20m down field.
He's tackled and taken to ground but, the phase following sees Tigers ruled to have been held up in the maul. Scrum down just outside the Munster 22 to the home side.
DROPPED OUT WIDE
The Tigers fire it wide, quickly and sharply from the line-out but as nice as the move is they can't control with Kalamafoni knocking on.
Scrum to Munster on halfway.
REPLACEMENTS - TIGERS
Dom Barrow is in to the game for Mike Fitzgerland and so is Logovi'i Mulipola, who replaces Kyle Traynor.
TWO PENALTIES IN SUCCESSION
Another penalty helps piggy back the Tigers up field from the line-out off the first. Ford finds touch inside the Munster half.
MUNSTER'S ATTACK ENDS WITH MAY
Jonny May - filling in at fullback - ends a Munster attack after the home side broke the Tigers line down the left flank.
A penalty follows after the referee rules the home side were off their feet in attack at the ruck.
"Phewww" say the Tigers fans in attendance.
THOMMO WITH A MASSIVE HIT
Adam Thompstone forces a knock-on from Munster with a beautifully timed tackle out of the line. Youngs clears from the phase following.
INSIDE INSIDE BALL
A bullet of an inside ball off the scrum for Sweetnam and Munster nearly trick the Tigers defence. They hold strong though, for now and continue to defend their line.
SCRUM-HALVES GO ONE-FOR-ONE
Box kicks are traded by the two number nines here at Thomond Park with Murray dropping the last one in to touch inside the Tigers 22.
From the line-out, Leicester can't release it and it's a scrum to the hosts on the tigers 22.
Telusa Veainu has been replaced by Nick Malouf, following the head-clash and is up the tunnel for a Head Injury Assessment.
Likewise, Conway has left the field replaced by Darren Sweetnam.
OUCH .. THAT'S GOTTA HURT
Time has been stopped here as Andrew Conway receives attention after chasing through a Murray box-kick and clashing heads with Tigers fullback Telus Veainu.
The Tongan fullback took well but a clash in this cold has got to hurt.
SCUM TO TIGERS ON THEIR 10
The visitors feed the scrum inside their own half and play wide to Jonny May's left wing from the set piece.
The phase following the clear deep but, in to Zebo's hands and Munster will march forward from their own 10.
BATTLE OF THE FANS
The #tigersfamily and Munster faithful are willing their team on here at Thomond ... or just trying to stay warm by singing, chanting and cheering.
P.S. it's cold !!
MUNSTER NEARLY OVER
The home side nearly cross the try-line in just two minutes but, lose control in an attempt to score and Ben Youngs is on hand to clear from inside the Tigers in-goal.
Both sides clearly keen to play in the others half after a handful of tactical, territory-seeking kicks in the first minute of the second half.
MATCH ACTION FROM MUNSTER
SECOND HALF IS UNDERWAY
Ian Keatley gets the second half underway at Thomond Park.
STAND UP AND FIGHT UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN
... next week at Welford Road. Have you got your tickets?
TIGERS FIRST HALF SCORERS
It's only George Ford with any points as yet for the #tigersfamily tonight, adding a penalty goal in the 35th minute.
Otherwise, it hasn't been a half full of opportunities for the visitors to score as the home side defend strongly.
MUNSTER FIRST HALF SCORERS
The home side have the lead in front of their home crowd tonight here in Limerick after two first-half tries and three penalty goals.
Tries: Rhys Marshall, Simon Zebo
Conversions: Ian Keatley [2/2]
Penalty Goals: Ian Keatley [3/3]
HALF TIME: MUNSTER LEAD BY 20
It's a 20-point difference at the break here at Thomond Park.
TIME OFF ... AGAIN
The referee again is conversing with the TMO for an incident off the ball, it appears involving Tigers captain Tom Youngs.
It doesn't seem to be anything that would warrant a card to be shown, much to the disappointment of the Thomond Park crowd. But, a penalty goes the way of Munster and they find touch 25 out from the Tigers line.
MURRAY SHOWING HIS EXPERIENCE
The British Lions scrum-half is showing his class tonight, controlling the attack of the Irish side here at Thomond Park.
PENALTY - MUNSTER
Keatley again adds the points from the boot and re-gains a 20-point lead for Munster at Thomond after 37 minutes.
TIME OFF AT THOMOND
The referee has called time off as he and the TMO chat regarding a Tom Youngs clear out.
It looks more WWE than ABC club and the Munster side are awarded a penalty 25 out, in front of the posts.
PENALTY - TIGERS
George Ford adds the first points of the night for the Tigers, closing the Munster lead to seventeen after 35 minutes.
NO ADVANTAGE PLAYED
Tigers are awarded a penalty in front of the posts.
TIGERS ROLL IT FORWARD
A maul from the line-out marches the away side towards the Munster line and the #tigersfamily in the Thomond Park crowd are in full voice.
TIIIIIIIGERS!! TIIIIIIIGERS!! TIIIIIIIGERS!! TIIIIIIIGERS!!
PRESSURE RELEASED FOR TIGERS
A penalty is awarded the Tigers way inside the Munster half after successive advantage weren't played and George Ford fins touch just 10 out from their line.
CONVERSION - MUNSTER
Another two points to Keatley as he adds the conversion, stretching the Munster lead to 20-0 after half an hour at Thomond Park.
TRY - MUNSTER
After a slow and steady approach from the home side, fly-half Keatley spots a gap in behind the Tigers line and chips beautifully for a flying Zebo to catch on the first bounce and score.
Munster lead 18-0 after 30 minutes, despite a moment of nerves as they checked his running line was on-side.
TIGERS TURN IT OVER
The visitors lose possession at the ruck, blown off the ball by their hosts.
Munster clear two phases later, finding Telusa Veainu at the back who returns serve with a boot down field and in touch just inside his own side of halfway.
MAY IN TO SPACE
Some small space opens up for Jonny May, who grubbers ahead but finds Zebo in behind. The Munster fullback kicks back from the play and hands Tigers a new attacking phase inside the Irish clubs half.
AERIAL PING PONG
A battle of the boots ends with Zebo marking inside the Munster 22 and finding touch from the free-kick to follow 10 inside the halfway line on his own side for a Tigers line-out.
PENALTY - MUNSTER
Keatley has another three points and extends the Munster lead to 13-0 after 26 minutes here at Thomond Park.
A penalty is awarded the way of the home side 40 out. British Lions team-mates Murray and Cole clash following a ruck but, they shake hands and agree to play nice.
Keatley will shoot for the three points.
ATMOSPHERE IS ELECTRIC
The Thomond Park crowd are enjoying this one so far, as their team leads by 10 in to the second quarter of the match.
Songs have been coming as thick and fast as box kicks in this one.
KEATLEY CALM AND COLLECTED
The Munster flyhallf sees space behind the Tigers line and drops it on the boot to roll in touch inside the visitors 22.
The Tigers clear from the ensuing line-out and Munster will throw in to their own 10 inside the Leicester half.
TIGERS ATTACK STARTS FROM LINE-OUT
Another clearance from Murray hands Tigers a line-out on half way but, the visitors lose possession a few phases following and Munster begin their attack inside the Leicester half.
CONVERSION - MUNSTER
Fly-half Ian Keatley adds the extras and extends the lead to 10-0 after 21 minutes.
TRY - MUNSTER
The home side cross for their first try of the night through hooker Rhys Marshall who juggles a beautiful pop pass from scrum-half Murray and dives over in the 19th minute.
The Thomond Park crowd get behind the team in voice off the line-out as they maul it forward.
TIGERS TURN IT OVER
A slick back-line moves proves too costly as Adam Thompstone is isolated and Munster are awarded a penalty for the Tigers wing not releasing.
The home side find touch just inside the visitors 22.
SCRUM TO TIGERS
Munster's attack ends with a knock on just inside the Tigers half.
ERROR FORCED BY MUNSTER
The home side force a drop ball and send it deep down field, rolling in to touch inside the Tigers 22 and again, the Leicester side go quick from the line-out.
They send it deep down field now themselves through Ford and Munster come back hard with the ball in the hands of Zebo.
MONSTERED BY MUNSTER
Tigers struggling to find holes or metres at Thomond Park so far tonight, with the home side up quickly in defence and racing errors.
BACK IN ATTACK
Going back in attack but holding on to the ball, the Tigers force a penalty again at the ruck and Ford this time finds touch with ease 10 out from the home side's try-line.
FORD GOES QUICK
By George!! The fly-half is showing a will to attack tonight and fires a quick line-out in to start the Tigers attack on halfway.
TIGERS END ATTACK AND CLEAR
The Tigers wall holds strong and they force Munster in to another kick attempt at their line but, again to no avail. Tigers find touch on halfway.
The ruck following sees them turn it over for a penalty BUT WAIT, Ford hasn't found touch and Munster return serve with a boot in to touch on halfway.
FORD TAKING ON THE CHALLENGE
A clear tactic for the Irish side tonight seems to be run anyone and everyone at Tigers fly-half George Ford.
So far, the England No.10 has been up to the challenge with his shoulders.
A successful succession of box kicks from Murray see the home side force a scrum-feed their way after the scrum-half delivers near perfect territory finders.
Scrum Munster 40 out from the Tigers line.
PENALTY - MUNSTER
The home side strike first in this match with a penalty to Ian Keatley making it 3-0 after 7 minutes at Thomond Park.
Munster look to throw caution to the win with a cross-field kick from Keatley while an advantage is played.
Jonny May takes in goal. No advantage, they will kick for three from in front of the posts.
The home side with a break down the right through Conway but, he's dragged down 20 out. Munster now inside the Tigers 22 for the first time tonight, pressing away ruck-by-ruck.
BUSY MIDDLE THIRD
The middle third of the Thomond Park pitch is seeing all the action in the opening minutes as both sides look to exploit holes in the defence but to no avail as yet.
Scrum-halves are involved early with plenty of traffic running off both.
Another Murray box kick from the base of the ruck is sent to the sky and this time Sione Kalamafoni is the recipient, before being met by the Munster chase.
TURNOVER DOWN THE RIGHT
The ball goes wide to the right hand side of the field for the Tigers and is turned over.
Munster swing it back to they right and it's also turned over, after the home side grubber ahead but don't retrieve the ball.
HALFWAY TO HALFWAY
We are back at the halfway line as Murray sends a box kick in to touch from the first phase off the kick off and the Tigers start their first attack from a set piece.
Round 3 of the Champions Cup is underway for the #tigersfamily, as George Ford gets us going.
TEAMS TAKE TO THE TURF
Here come the sides!! The crowd is already in this one. WOW.
No changes have been made to the sides named yesterday.
WELCOME TO THOMOND PARK
Welcome to the home of Munster Rugby, the famous Thomond Park for tonight's Champions Cup blockbuster.